The year of living Don-gerously
Donald Trump let his boasting get ahead of the facts again when he told a group of Florida first responders the other day, “We have signed more legislation than anybody. ... We broke the record of Harry Truman.”
In reality, Politico reports, he has now signed the fewest number of bills into law of any first-year president dating back to Dwight Eisenhower, according to a recent report from the website GovTrack.
Still, 2017 is ending with Trump having profoundly made his mark — in Congress, with the tax bill and confirmation of a conservative Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch; in the executive branch, pushing sweeping government deregulation; and in world affairs, distancing the U.S. from alliances formed from more than 70 years of superpower leadership.
More often lately, Trump is tweeting stats showing strength in the economy (from the same sources he called “totally phony” when Barack Obama was president). The trends were good then, and they still are, except for sluggish wage growth and a trade deficit that’s only gotten bigger.
What hasn’t happened — a trade war that could disrupt the economy. But lawmakers from export-dependent states are worried.
As the staff churns
The Trump administration has had a 34% turnover rate in top jobs during its first year — 21 of the 61 senior officials have resigned, been fired or were reassigned, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reports.
That’s at least double the rate of any administration over the past 40 years, according to the report, which is based on data compiled by Kathryn Dunn-Tenpas of the Brookings Institution.
“Not only is the percentage double, the seniority of people leaving is extraordinarily high,” Dunn-Tenpas said. Given that Trump and other members of his inner circle had no prior government experience, “it’s not surprising that it’s higher than normal, but it’s still surprising it’s this high,” she said.
Pulled punch peeves POTUS
Some things Trump doesn’t think are hard-hitting enough: pro football, because of rules to cut down on head trauma; procedures to load suspects into police cars without injury; and now, a snarky Vanity Fair video about Hillary Clinton.
The magazine apologized Wednesday, saying its humor “missed the mark” after getting complaints that its New Year’s resolutions for Clinton were sexist, mean or just unfunny.
Enter Trump with a taunting tweet: “Vanity Fair, which looks like it is on its last legs, is bending over backwards in apologizing for the minor hit they took at Crooked H. Anna Wintour, who was all set to be Amb to Court of St James’s (ambassador to Britain) & a big fundraiser for CH, is beside herself in grief & begging for forgiveness!”
Wintour is the editor-in-chief of Vogue, not Vanity Fair, and the artistic director for Condé Nast, which publishes both. Trump used to count her as a friend, tweeting in 2012: “I am happy to hear that Pres.Obama is considering giving Anna Wintour @voguemagazine an ambassadorship. She is a winner & really smart!”
The take on giving in 2018
Charity executives and experts predict a drop in giving next year because for people of moderate means, contributions will no longer lower their taxes, The Associated Press reports.
A central feature of the new tax law doubles the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. As result, taxpayers who now itemize deductions — including contributions to charity — will find it’s no longer beneficial for them do so.
China fuels Trump anger
Trump criticized China following reports that Chinese ships transferred oil to North Korean vessels at sea in violation of UN sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
“Caught RED HANDED — very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea,” Trump tweeted. “There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!”
A South Korean newspaper reported Chinese and North Korean vessels had been illicitly linking up at sea.
Now that’s cold
From balmy Palm Beach, Trump sent a tweet of empathy to the frozen Northeast, along with a reminder of his skepticism over climate change, which led him to announce he will pull the United States from of the Paris climate accord.
Said Trump: “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”
What else is happening
- Though his supporters have been trashing Robert Mueller, Trump told The New York Times he believes he will be “treated fairly” by the special counsel. But he said the Russia investigation should end soon because “It makes the country look very bad.”
- Trump will undergo his first physical in office on Jan. 12. The White House physician, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, M.D., will conduct the exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and report the results, said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
- During the campaign, Trump pledged to cut “the skyrocketing cost of tuition” at colleges, but his administration has done little about it, Politico writes. Instead, his administration has largely sent the message that those four-year universities aren’t for everyone. Critics say that threatens access to a path for social mobility.
- Thirty-three U.S. troops died in war zones rose in 2017, the first year of Trump’s presidency, an increase for the first time in six years. The toll last year was 26, BuzzFeed reported, based on casualty statements released by the Pentagon.
- Trump has hailed Iraqi forces’ recapture of territory from ISIS, but the administration has told Baghdad not to expect much U.S. help for its estimated $100 billion cost to rebuild war-ravaged areas. Iraq hopes Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries will step up, along with possibly Iran.
- Is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the same page with Trump? A Tillerson Op-Ed in The New York Times hails progress in seeking “global peace and stability,” but calls relations with Russia “poor.”