Even as the Trump Administration is doing great damage to this country, entirely too much attention is being paid to events that are irrelevant or trivial. Is there any significance to the President having had dinner at the White House with three ignorant redneck blowhards? Was anyone surprised that he catered to the fringes of his base with that invitation or that Sarah Palin, Ted Nugget and Kid Rock acted like immature adolescents while they were there?
Those kind of stunts don’t matter. Similarly, it really should be of no concern to anyone how many members of the New England Patriots showed up for a photo-op with Trump. Why is that a story that gets some people on the Internet all excited?
The list of these kinds of distractions is a long one. Trump constantly boasts about having the largest crowds, the greatest first 100 days, the smartest cabinet. The fact that none of those claims are true should now be seen as old hat, not worth comment.
Similarly, pointing out that Trump lies constantly and that he is a total hypocrite is not a revelation. While we shouldn’t accept that behavior as normal or reasonable, acting startled at the most recent example is a waste of time and energy.
Trump and his appointees are doing so many things that warrant outrage, resistance and comment. As Richard Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell said in a very different context, watch what he does, not what he says. It’s going to take a lot of committed and sustained effort by those who worry about the threat to our democracy, our civil rights and the fabric of our community to resist and fight back. There’s no room for wasting time and energy on distractions.
In fact, it’s becoming increasing clear that in many respects Trump himself is merely a sideshow. He signs Executive Orders that will only matter if his administration figures out how to implement them. He revels in photo ops which mostly underscore the white, male composition of his administration. He blusters about what Congress must do and then either suffers a humiliating defeat, as with the Health Care bill, or backs down, as he did this week about funding the Wall for which he insisted as a candidate Mexico was going to pay.
Jeff Sessions, on the other hand, is right in the middle of some of the worst things being done in Trump’s name. He is making every effort to undercut the Justice Department’s historical role as defender of the poor and disadvantaged. The threat Sessions poses to voting rights, criminal justice reform and our confidence in the fairness of law enforcement is truly frightening.
Yet, again, a lot of ink and airtime was devoted to his ignorant comments about a federal judge on an island in the middle of the Pacific. That comments reinforces an image of Sessions as a narrow-minded ideologue, but it is not central to the damaging policies he is pursuing.
The anti-head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, may be doing the most long-term damage of anyone in the Trump Administration. He is pulling back regulations that were intended to keep air breathable and water drinkable. He is signaling directly to corporate polluters that he has little or no interest in enforcing environment standards. It won’t be long before this Administration formally withdraws from the international climate accords that were championed by Barack Obama.
Pruitt is a rabid anti-environmentalist. The best shot at minimizing the damage he is intent on will come as the result of law suits filed by environmental groups. That effort is worthy of our attention, not the carnival acts produced by this Administration to distract us from what’s really going on.
Another area in which the interplay between words and actions is not entirely clear is foreign affairs. Trump blusters an awful lot. He tells us it’s time to start winning wars ago. He’s taken a couple of largely symbolic actions with the Tomahawk missile attack in Syria and the dropping of a BIG bomb in Afghanistan. Neither of those steps constituted a policy; what may follow is anyone’s guess.
Trump has threatened unilateral action North Korea. You have to hope “his” generals–widely regarded as the only adults in the room–will insist on a more measured approach. He has reversed himself on so many positions that he took while a candidate that you are once again forced to conclude that his words are largely meaningless.
Activist citizens have generally done a good job of focusing on the important issues, such as preserving the Affordable Care Act and fighting for a sensible approach to climate change and respect for science. While the media’s coverage of Trump has gotten more skeptical and more critical since the campaign, they still find the chasing of shiny objects to be irresistible at times.
Fawning over the notion that Trump had become “presidential” by ordering a missile strike in Syria was utter nonsense. Falling for the narrative that dropping the “Mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan was a significant step in that war was irresponsible. Getting obsessed about so-called power struggles within the West Wing and being breathless about the alleged moderating influence of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, despite no supporting evidence, take the focus off the important issues.
Trump is abnormal, but that fact was established a long time ago. We need to avoid treating him as entertainment and focus on what he is doing to our country. That enterprise is more than enough to keep concerned citizens busy for the next four years.