President Donald Trump came to Long Island Friday ready to feed his supporters just what they love.
There were the promises to add 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and to start the southern border wall. Trump celebrated economic gains, citing GDP growth for the second quarter. He said the Second Amendment was safe during his tenure, and reassured the audience that Obamacare would implode on its own. He boasted that illegal crossings from Mexico are down 78 percent and he pledged to continue the crackdown on MS-13 gang members.
But his commitment to law and order veered into the unacceptable as he encouraged local officers to injure suspects as they put them in “paddy wagons.” The applause that line generated from the uniformed officers that made up the audience was wrong, forcing the Suffolk County Police Department to issue a statement saying there are strict rules about how suspects are handled and that any violations are treated seriously.
And some of the speech was a little bizarre, like his description of our entire region morphing from “peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into blood-stained killing fields.”
And that Friday appearance was the best moment he had all week. The speech, warts and all, was Trump’s most presidential episode in a disastrous run.
Delivering on promises
The juxtaposition of the president’s crowd-pleasing appearance in Brentwood and his flailing in Washington should make his supporters understand the stakes. If he is to have any chance to deliver on his election promises, and deal with looming threats like North Korea, he has to get his White House under control and restore some decorum to the office.
Trump cannot deliver if he is not an effective president, and he cannot be an effective president if he turns Washington into an apocalyptic circus of lawlessness, distrust and chaos.
Last week, Trump continued his shaming attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He assaulted military morale and careers on Twitter. He spoke to a Boy Scout Jamboree like it was a combination bachelor party and campaign rally. And the behavior of Trump’s new avatar, incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, made almost as many headlines last week as the president.
Trump wants to punish Sessions for recusing himself from oversight of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and he wants the probe to end. He blames Sessions’ recusal for the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the Trump campaign, and increasingly, Trump and his family. And that chain of events, as even Republicans are saying, could sound the death knell for this administration.
“Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency unless Mueller did something wrong,” warned Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
And Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was just as adamant, saying: “If you’re thinking of making a recess appointment to push out the attorney general, forget about it. The presidency isn’t a bull and this country isn’t a china shop.”
Then there was the abrupt announcement that he’d fire thousands of honorably serving members of our armed forces. In a three-tweet barrage on Wednesday, the president said the United States “will not accept or allow . . . Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
Stunningly, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford issued a direct rebuke to the president when he said, “There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.”
If offending the military wasn’t enough, Trump let down a much younger uniformed unit when he unleashed a rambling and partisan speech at the national Boy Scout Jamboree, leading to this statement from Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh: “I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent.”
Trump’s comment about roughing up suspects? The International Association of Chiefs of Police stated that treating suspects and defendants “with dignity and respect is the bedrock principle behind the concepts of procedural justice and police legitimacy.”
And, apparently believing his problems are all about the messenger, Trump brought on Scaramucci, a financier from Manhasset, to stop damaging White House leaks. Scaramucci then proceeded to call up a journalist to say, “I’ve got digital fingerprints on everything they’ve done through the F.B.I. and the [expletive] Department of Justice.”
Serving the U.S.
Yet, the stock market is up and unemployment is down. If you are a Trump supporter, you are likely hopeful that he will eventually convince Congress to end Obamacare, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, help create jobs by cutting regulation, strengthen the military, and reform our tax code.
But whether you are a Trump supporter or not, you ought to know that this president and an inner circle that can’t run the White House isn’t serving anyone very well.
The independence of criminal investigations by the Justice Department must be honored. Employees and members of the military must be treated with respect. The rule of law must be honored, and the rules of common decency must be adhered to. The president must have better focus and discipline.
If Trump and his circle can’t do all that, they won’t be able to deliver on anything.