It’s the final week of Trump’s “first 100 days” as President, and the White House has been aflutter, trying to rustle up some big accomplishments for Trump to point to. So there’s been a whole lot of “activity” this week without much actually getting done. The news has been filled with reports of a possible vote on a revised GOP health care plan (there will be no vote), a giant Trump tax “plan” (which was really just a single sheet of paper with some bullet points), a Trump demand for border wall funding (there will be no funding), a full Senate briefing on North Korea with no apparent purpose, and talk of the U.S. pulling out of NAFTA and then a last minute reprieve as Trump was convinced to remain in NAFTA (for now).
Alongside all of that fluff coming out of the White House, the other big story this week was news that the Department of Defense Inspector General is looking into General Michael Flynn’s payments from foreign governments (e.g. Russia & Turkey) and the fact that he appears he did not get the proper permissions. But what else happened this week that you might have missed?
1. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll has some depressing numbers for anyone who was hoping Trump voters might be starting to see him in a different light. The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent helpfully summarized the poll’s key findings on the subject of Trump’s honesty. Specifically he focused on questions that looked at how much Trump voters trust President Trump compared to how much they trust the media:
80 percent of Trump voters think it’s a bigger problem that news organizations produce false stories, while only 3 percent of them think it’s a bigger problem that the Trump administration makes false claims. (Among Republicans overall, this is 69-14.)
Only 17 percent of Trump voters think the Trump administration regularly makes false claims, while 76 percent of Trump voters think it doesn’t. (Among Republicans overall, this is 31-65.)
By contrast, 78 percent of Trump voters think that news organizations regularly produce false stories, while only 19 percent of them think otherwise. (Among Republicans overall, this is 70-27.)
Meanwhile, 84 percent of Trump voters think he’s keeping most of his major campaign promises, while only 4 percent think he isn’t, and 89 percent of them think he’s honest and trustworthy.
These numbers are really disheartening for those of us who oppose Trump, because they seem to show that there’s no way to detach these voters from him. Attempting to show them that he’s being dishonest or failing to live up to his promises (no matter how well it’s documented) just falls on deaf ears. If anything, this likely makes them more loyal to him because they view it as unfair attacks by a biased media. It’s a vicious cycle that I can’t see a way out of, and it’s exactly why Trump spent at least as much energy during his campaign attacking & discrediting the media as he did doing anything else.
2. Here’s another interesting poll finding, from a survey of a handful of swing states that went for Trump (Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania). This poll shows that a majority of Republicans (not specifically Trump voters) actually do think Trump lies, but . . . they don’t care. Their reasoning is that all politicians lie and Trump is no worse than the rest of them.
3. However, a new Fox News poll finds that only 36% of those surveyed would vote for Trump is the next Presidential election were held today. 55% would for someone else. Take this with a bit of a grain of salt, because a generic candidate (“someone else”) generally tends to do better than a specific named candidate. After all, a generic candidate can be any fantasy candidate you want, while a specific named candidate has actual real life pros & cons. But, for comparison, at this point in his first term, 52% said they’d vote for Obama if the next election were today while 31% said they’d vote for someone else.
4. In better news for Trump, the Washington Post-ABC News poll mentioned above shows that if the 2016 election were re-held today, Trump would beat Clinton in the popular vote, 43-40. 15% of Clinton voters say they would not vote for her again. However, it’s not entirely uncommon for people who vote for the losing candidate to feel regret or even to claim later on to have voted for the winning candidate. So again, I’d take these results with a grain of salt.
It is dispiriting however to see reinforcement of the idea that Trump voters have no regrets for their vote. Only 4% say they would have voted differently if they could redo it today, and only 2% say they regret supporting Trump (two separate questions).
5. And here’s an interesting article from Yahoo News about “the Contrarians” – people who didn’t vote for Trump but would now. Pay attention to this: “Notably, most of those who shifted did so not because they came to look more favorably upon Trump but because they now look less favorably upon his opposition.”
6. Remember Trump’s address to Congress in February when he announced he was going to open an office that victims of crimes by “illegal immigrants” could call? This was a transparent attempt to rev up anger and get public opinion behind Trump’s harsh immigration policies by portraying immigrants overwhelmingly as criminals. Anyway, the VOICE office opened this past Wednesday, and things didn’t go exactly as planned. Buzzfeed reports that loads of people called into the hotline to report that they were the victims of crimes by space aliens:
Alexander McCoy, a Marine Corps veteran, told BuzzFeed News he called the hotline Wednesday afternoon to report that he had been abducted by a UFO. He said he was on hold for about 20 minutes before speaking with someone, who asked him if he “was calling to report a crime committed by an illegal alien.”
McCoy, a member of the activist group Common Defense, said he came up with the idea to troll VOICE because he noticed #AlienDay was trending on Twitter and thought it might “be a catchy way to fight back against the Trump administration’s use of bigoted language and racist stereotypes of criminality.”
7. And this is almost too perfect to be true. Judge Roy Moore is running to fill the Senate seat left vacant in Alabama when Jeff Session became Trump’s Attorney General. Roy Moore is the judge who became (in)famous last year when he defied the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergfell v. Hodges which legalized gay marriage nationwide. Moore, who was the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, instructed Alabama probate judges to defy the Court ruling and not grant marriage licenses for gay marriages. He was removed from the bench and suspended for the rest of his term, which was supposed to last until 2019. Because of age limits, he cannot run for that particular office again.
For those who follow politics and/or law closely, Roy Moore had already been well known, because this was not the first time he was suspended from the bench. Back in 2003, he was suspended for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument on the state Supreme Court building. He was later re-elected to the position.
8. Earlier this week, the State Department and at least 2 embassies featured blog posts on their websites that were essentially advertisements for Trump’s private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. After reporters caught on to this and tweeted it out, the complaints started rolling in, and the State Department took down the post.
Two watchdog groups have now filed complaints with the State Department and with the Office of Government Ethics claiming it was an abuse of taxpayer dollars to promote a public official’s private business. We’ll see if anything comes of it.
9. Also on the topic of ethics/conflicts issues: shortly before taking office, Trump had promised that he would donate any profits made from foreign officials at his hotels in order to avoid any appearance of conflict. The House Oversight Committee has now asked the Trump Organization to provide details on how and when these donations will be made.
10. Here’s a “beautiful” article from the AP in which a bunch of linguists attempt to dissect Trump’s speaking style. I know, I know, a bunch of “experts” picking apart the way Trump talks is the kind of “elitist” garbage that got him elected. But it’s still fascinating:
Trump’s trademark talk is full of rambling, aside-filled bursts of simple but definitive words, laden with self-congratulatory bravado and claims that have fact-checkers working overtime, all dispatched from mind to lips in such record time it seemingly bypasses any internal filter.
It has been a source of curiosity for language scholars and laymen alike, sparked anew by a recent Associated Press interview with Trump that has brought newfound opportunity for parsing a brand of presidential oratory not previously recorded.
“This kind of pushes the limits of linguistic analysis,” said historian Kristen Kobes Du Mez.
11. There’s a site dedicated to keeping track of the ways in which Trump has failed to drain the swamp: http://draintheswamp.gop/
12. And finally, some of my favorite signs from last weekend’s March for Science: