Here was President Donald Trump at the Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland greeting three Americans freed from captivity in North Korea — an excellent moment for any statesman.
Trump could have simply welcomed them. The credit would have automatically flowed to him. And it still will.
But he had to jabber and strut. First, he did it well (within his range of articulation), calling the release “a big thing, very important to me, and I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful.”
Then the president added his special lummox-like touch.
“We want to thank Kim Jong Un, who really was excellent to these three incredible people.”
Of course, the dictator formerly known as “Rocket Man” was so excellent to them that his government arrested them in 2016 and 2017, charged them with spying, and forced them into hard labor before politics made it convenient to free them.
Just to give the occasion an imprint of vanity, Trump said: “It’s very early in the morning. I think you probably broke the all-time, in history, television rating for three o’clock in the morning — that I would say.”
But Trump isn’t alone on blunder duty at the White House. He has help.
Special assistant Kelly Sadler was in a closed-door meeting with more than 20 staffers Thursday when Sen. John McCain’s opposition to Gina Haspel as CIA director came up.
“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” Sadler said, sources told various news organizations. She reportedly called Meghan McCain, the terminally-ill senator’s daughter, and apologized.
Then there’s the Department of Homeland Security.
Although border crossings are down, and Trump’s travel ban is likely to be upheld by the Supreme Court, he reportedly railed at Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that she wasn’t doing enough to secure the borders.
Negative stories spread that she was close to quitting, which were later denied. Was this skirmish productive? Could it have been avoided?
Late last week, newly released records showed that while in Rome last year, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt dined with Cardinal George Pell, a climate skeptic who faces trial on charges of child sex-abuse, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Also last week, first lady Melania Trump introduced a campaign against cyberbullying with the awkward name “Be Best.” The target could well have been her spouse’s Twitter habits.
Nobody would argue with the worthiness of her cause. But it was widely noted that a booklet published as part of the program copied a document published by the Federal Trade Commission during the Obama administration.
That too wouldn’t be a bad thing — if the White House did not give such priority to removing all Obama influences.