Yule-tide of woe
Some words of Christmas resonate forever. From the Bible: "Peace on earth, good will toward men." From Charles Dickens' Tiny Tim: "God bless us, every one!"
And now, on Christmas morning 2018, from the Oval Office of the White House, a seasonal greeting from President Donald Trump for the ages: “It’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country. But other than that, I wish everybody a very merry Christmas.”
And so Trump upheld what has become a holiday-season tradition for him: the unwrapping of grievances. (Though in that way, just about every day of the Trump presidency is like Christmas.)
The objects of Trump's Yuletide ire included Democrats who won't fund his border wall and are targeting him for "presidential harassment," special counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation ("There's been no collusion — two years"), former FBI Director James Comey ("Everybody hated Comey" until he fired him), and the Federal Reserve Board for "raising interest rates too fast." (Click here for video.)
Trump's remarks came in response to questions from reporters invited into the Oval Office to hear Trump speak with U.S. troops deployed around the world in a video conference call. He thanked them, saying, "I know it's a great sacrifice for you to be away from your families, but I want you to know that every American family is eternally grateful to you, and we're holding you close in our hearts." He also made a partisan pitch: "We have a little bit of a shutdown because we believe in walls and we believe in borders and we believe in barriers."
After the call, addressing the reporters, Trump said: “I can’t tell you when the government’s going to be open. I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall or fence, whatever they’d like to call it.”
Other than that, merry Christmas everybody.
As Trump vowed to keep the government shutdown until he gets the wall, he also said he's already getting the wall — at least part of it. He elaborated, slightly, in a Monday tweet that 115 miles of wall were set to be constructed in Texas, and said that he would visit the border at the end of January for a groundbreaking ceremony.
He said his administration gave out contracts "at a great price," but no other details were provided. Trump's "whatever they'd like to call it" line is in keeping with his increasing vagueness as of late about just what kind of barriers he wants — "artistically designed steel slats" is one concept.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), likely the next House speaker, told USA Today that after touting a concrete wall that Mexico would pay for, "He's down to, I think, a beaded curtain or something, I'm not sure where he is."
Pelosi accused Trump of fearmongering to push his plan. "He talked about terrorists coming in over that particular border, which wasn't so. He talked about people bringing in diseases and all the rest of that, which wasn't so," she said. "He's using scare tactics that are not evidence-based, and it's wrong," she said.
No pay, no problem?
Trump asserted, without evidence, that the estimated 800,000 federal employees who have been furloughed or are working without pay are willing to do without their paychecks around the holiday season because they support his stand.
“Many of those workers have said to me, communicated, ‘stay out until you get the funding for the wall,’ ” Trump said. “These federal workers want the wall.” Trump also said he's sharing their pain by staying in Washington.
"I thought it would be wrong for me to be with my family; my family is in Florida, Palm Beach, and I just didn't want to go down and be there when other people are hurting."
The Washington Post interviewed workers who live paycheck to paycheck and are fearful they will be unable to pay their bills. Lila Johnson, 71, who cleans bathrooms at the Agriculture Department, said, “Trump is throwing a temper tantrum for a wall ... He just wants to say, ‘I delivered my promise.’ But he’s messing with people’s lives.”
Trump's stock tip: Buy
A year ago, when the stock market was going gangbusters, Trump tested out a new campaign slogan: “How’s your 401(k) doing?”
That's not a good question for him now, not with Wall Street on track for its worst month since the 2008 financial crisis. But Trump on Tuesday offered investment advice: "I have great confidence in our companies. They're doing very well," he said. "I think it's a tremendous opportunity to buy. Really a great opportunity to buy."
Given Trump's track record on economic predictions, it wouldn't hurt to get a second opinion.
Trump said Tuesday he remains confident in Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, whose attempt to calm the markets on Sunday shook them instead. "Very talented, very smart person," the president said. As for the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jerome Powell: "Well, we’ll see. They’re raising interest rates too fast. That’s my opinion. But I certainly have confidence."
On Monday, Trump bashed Brett McGurk, who quit as special presidential envoy to the coalition fighting ISIS to protest the president's decision to pull out U.S. troops from Syria.
Trump also sent a self-celebratory tweet on Monday that "Saudi Arabia has now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the United States."
The kid's all right
Social media lit up like a Christmas tree, except in horror, when Trump on Monday night asked a 7-year-old who called NORAD's Santa Tracker: "Are you still a believer in Santa? Because at 7, it's marginal, right?"
No worries. The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, tracked down young Collman Lloyd, who lives in Lexington and said she didn't know what "marginal" means. She just replied to Trump: "Yes, sir." (Video clip here.)
Collman still believes Santa is real. Also, if she had another chance to talk to Trump, "I would like to ask if he has any kids. I’ve honestly never heard of them or seen any of them so I was wondering.”
While indelicate, The New York Times reported Trump wasn't wrong because studies show most children stop believing in Santa somewhere between 5 and 8 years old.
On the other hand, remember Virginia O'Hanlon, whose 1897 letter to The New York Sun asking for the truth about St. Nicholas inspired the famous reply from an editorial writer there: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Virginia was 8.
What else is happening:
- An 8-year-old boy from Guatemala died in government custody in New Mexico early Tuesday, U.S. immigration authorities said, marking the second death of a migrant child in detention this month.
- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is going, but don't expect him to fade away, his brother Tom, a fellow ex-Marine, told The Seattle Times. “No one should assume that his service to his country will end ... Jim will always give his best advice and speak truth to power — regardless of the consequences,” Tom Mattis said.
- Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders remains a Trump favorite because she can effortlessly conjure up alternate realities, Politico writes. A former Trump administration official said the president believes "she’s got a great way about her" because "when she says something, it’s totally sincere. It can be crazy, but it’s totally sincere.” Another talent: She can deaden a room.
- First lady Melania Trump's Christmas tweet: "Wishing you all a day filled with peace, love and joy. Merry Christmas from @WhiteHouse."
- Trump's Twitter was quieter than usual on Christmas Day, but he sent this after dark: "I hope everyone, even the Fake News Media, is having a great Christmas! Our Country is doing very well. We are securing our Borders, making great new Trade Deals, and bringing our Troops Back Home. We are finally putting America First. MERRY CHRISTMAS! #MAGA"
- The shutdown and Trump's Santa Claus call have prompted a surge in web headlines and memes likening him to The Grinch. Among the reasons that the comparison doesn't hold up: The Grinch is green. Also, unlike Trump, The Grinch has a dog.