Britain’s Guardian writes:
Sgt Michael Verardo, who lost an arm and a leg while serving with the US army in Afghanistan in 2010, says he was failed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He had to wait 57 days to get his prosthetic leg fixed and three and a half years for adaptations to his home. But then came Donald Trump.
“Thank you, President Trump and [Veterans Affairs] Secretary [David] Shulkin for ensuring that we are not forgotten and that we will receive the care we need and deserve,” Verardo said at the White House recently.
Trump, signing an act to protect VA whistleblowers, revelled in the moment, using his fingers to mime a gun and mouthing his catchphrase “You’re fired!” at Shulkin. Then he smiled: “We will never use those words on you, that’s for sure.”
The audience in the East Room laughed dutifully. This is the parallel universe that Trump occupies whenever he can, a universe of achievements, applause and adoration, a safe space where he is monarch of all he surveys and his punchlines land. In his version of Washington, he is the Henry V-style man of action to Barack Obama’s indecisive, cripplingly intellectual Hamlet.
Trump’s self-belief appears to get a shot in the arm from every victory, real or imagined. This may go some way to explaining why, even as his approval ratings fall off a cliff and some call for his impeachment, he sees no reason to course-correct, as he and a noisy caucus around him seem to become ever more self-righteous.
Trump is “much more resilient” than his opponents allow, said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, before pivoting to a plug for his new book, Understanding Trump.
The past two weeks illustrate how, when on the ropes, Trump can still throw some punches that at least get him to the bell. And he makes sure his 33 million Twitter followers know about it. When Republican Karen Handel beat Democrat Jon Ossoff in a Georgia race much-hyped as a referendum on his presidency, Trump tweeted: “Thank you @FoxNews ‘Huge win for President Trump and GOP in Georgia Congressional Special Election.’”
Then the president headed to Iowa to bask in the adulation of his supporters in the forum he likes best, a campaign-style rally. When he ranted against the “dishonest media” and floated the idea of solar panels on his border wall, the crowd lapped it up. Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, commented: “You know what was really impressive to see last night? How Trump supporters are so onboard with their dude he can say anything and they’ll come along for the ride.”
Then came the veterans event at the White House where, under the gaze of portraits of George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt, Trump projected himself as a man who gets things done.
“We’ve announced that the VA will finally solve a problem that has plagued our government for decades,” he said, referring to the transfer of veterans’ medical records from the Department of Defense to the VA – a seemingly simple process that has earned comparisons to the incompatibility of the Xbox and PlayStation.
Meanwhile, Trump finally caught a break on the worst crisis facing his presidency, the multiple investigations into his election campaign’s links to Russia. First, David Brooks, a Trump critic and New York Times columnist, suggested that the scandal may be overblown.
“There may be a giant revelation still to come,” Brooks wrote. “But as the Trump-Russia story has evolved, it is striking how little evidence there is that any underlying crime occurred – that there was any actual collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russians. Everything seems to be leaking out of this administration, but so far the leaks about actual collusion are meagre.”
Then, the Washington Post published a major investigation that raised questions over whether Obama could have done more to stop Moscow’s interference in last year’s poll, quoting one former administration official as saying: “I feel like we sort of choked.”
That gave Trump the opening he needed, to deflect and disrupt the prevailing narrative.
“The real story is that President Obama did NOTHING after being informed in August about Russian meddling,” he tweeted. “With 4 months looking at Russia… under a magnifying glass, they have zero ‘tapes’ of T people colluding. There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given apology!”
He was handed another gift when CNN was forced to retract a report, citing a single anonymous source, that Congress was investigating a “Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials”. It changed nothing about the Russia-related cloud over Trump but it did feed into his narrative that untrustworthy media organisations are conspiring against him.
The president gloated: “So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”
Politico reported that Trump and his allies “believe he’s gained a tactical advantage in his war with the media” – which intensified over the weekend – adding that many White House staff members were “elated” by the CNN blunder, reckoning it will prove to sceptical voters that the mainstream media has a “vendetta” against the administration. The president’s supporters seized on the incident to plant seeds of confusion and false equivalency: if that Russia story was wrong, perhaps all of them are wrong?
Yet another lifeline was thrown to Trump from an unexpected quarter. The supreme court partially restored his executive order imposing a travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries and said it would hear arguments in the autumn. After setbacks in lower courts, the president was quick to crow about a “clear victory”.
Trump’s parallel universe also consists of speeches, bill signings, Oval Office photo ops and meetings with foreign leaders with whom he has, of late, stopped taking questions from the media, preferring to be lavished with praise that often jars with the national conversation. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, for example, thanked Trump for “having spent so much time with me, for having spoken such kind words about me and my country … In this journey of India-America relations, I think I would like to thank you for providing great leadership.”
None of these examples comes without caveats. Handel’s victory in Georgia was in a seat that Republicans have held since 1979. Democrats say Trump’s proposed budget will make it harder for veterans to receive care. The Russia investigations are likely to drag on for years and could find that Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI director James Comey. The supreme court did not fully reinstate his travel ban, granting exemption to people with a “bona fide relationship” with someone in the US. And his campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare remains in limbo on Capitol Hill, while the president has been condemned by both parties for a crude attack on TV host Mika Brzezinski.
But politics, after all, is often a battle of perceptions. Niall Ferguson, a British historian and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, California, said in May: “I think one of the things Guardian readers, and their counterparts on the American coasts, don’t want to think about is the possibility that despite his obvious ineptitude, Trump might actually be successful.
“I said last summer to a bunch of liberal friends: ‘Your worst nightmare is not a Trump presidency; it’s a successful Trump presidency.’ The successful Trump presidency scenario is one in which, despite it all, the economy does better thanks to deregulation and tax cuts, foreign policy delivers some big wins on North Korea, the Middle East.
“It doesn’t take an awful lot for a president to start looking good. If the expectations start really low, which they have done, it may be one win, and I definitely don’t rule out a kind of ‘success in spite of himself’ scenario. And then you begin to wonder if a left-of-Clinton Democrat in 2020 would be blown away. We’ll see. The fun thing about doing history is you really can’t tell at this point which way it will go. It could quite easily go Jimmy Carter and he could be a lame duck.”
The president has not given a solo press conference since 16 February. Since 11 May, he has not given a TV interview to a channel other than the staunchly supportive Fox News. Combined with increasingly terse White House press briefings, often off camera, the pattern suggests that Trump is focused on firing up his base and has all but given up on reaching beyond it.
Michael Barnett, chairman of the Republican party in Palm Beach County, Florida, said: “I haven’t seen Trump lose any bit of support on the ground here. I hear people say he’s not presidential but it looks like he is beginning to redefine what it means to be presidential. He’s not going to take it lying down but he’s going stand up for himself and give it back.”
He added: “We believe, just as President Clinton said, it’s all about the economy. That’s what people care about most, not Russia or climate change, but things that affect them personally like putting food on the table. If Trump focuses on that, he’ll win again in 2020.”
A successful Trump presidency would enrage liberals (if that’s possible beyond current derangement levels) because liberals don’t support what Trump said he wanted to do, in the same way that conservatives (correctly) didn’t support what Barack Obama wanted to do. So far the Trump presidency has been a giant exercise in undoing Obama, which conservatives should support, even if Trump is just a conservative by convenience, similar to how Bill Clinton’s ideology was based on whoever was in office in Congress.
Here are multiple examples of undoing Obama, from Reuters:
President Donald Trump on Thursday promoted a “golden era” of the U.S. energy business by seeking to assert power abroad through a boost in natural gas, coal and petroleum exports.
In what he called a policy of “energy dominance,” Trump re-branded efforts to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to markets in Eastern Europe and Asia that had been set in motion during the previous presidential administration.
The United States also will offer to export coal to Ukraine, where energy consumers often have suffered from cuts in natural gas supply by Russia.
“We are here today to unleash a new American energy policy,” Trump said at an event at the Department of Energy attended by oil and coal executives and union members who build pipelines. “We will export American energy all around the world.”
Trump plans to promote U.S. LNG exports at a meeting next week in Warsaw with a dozen leaders from central and eastern Europe, a region heavily reliant on Russian supplies. Trump then will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Germany, in the first meeting between the two leaders, coming amid rising tensions over interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
After decades of being a major importer of natural gas, the United States is set to become a net exporter of gas later this year or in 2018 thanks to the boom in fracking in states such as Texas and Pennsylvania.
There is currently one operating U.S. LNG exporting facility in Sabine Pass, Louisiana, with four others currently under construction that are expected to become operational between 2018 and 2020. …
While many of Trump’s opponents have said his plan to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate has the potential to harm the country’s relations around the world, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said at the event that energy exports will strengthen ties with allies.
The United States is in a position “to be able to clearly create a hell of a lot more friends by being able to deliver to them energy and not being held hostage by some countries, Russia in particular,” Perry said.
Whether it is sending LNG to Poland or Ukraine, “the entirety of the EU totally get it that if we can lay in American LNG … we can be able to have an alternative to Russia,” for natural gas sales to Europe, Perry said.
Earlier this month, Cheniere Energy Inc (LNG.A) delivered the first U.S. cargoes of LNG to Poland and the Netherlands.
The Energy Department on Thursday approved additional LNG exports from the Lake Charles project in Louisiana, which is under development.
Trump announced plans to offer coal exports to Ukraine, as well as lift restrictions on U.S. lending for coal projects overseas.
“Ukraine already tells us they need millions and millions of metric tons (of coal),” he said. “Right now, there are many other places that need it too and we want to sell it to them and to everyone else all over the globe who need it.”
The Trump administration will launch a review of the ailing nuclear power industry, which has experienced a slew of closures due to stagnant electricity demand and low natural gas prices. Trump’s 2018 budget included $120 million for addressing nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain and other projects, but most of the state’s politicians oppose that project.
In addition, the State Department issued a permit for a NuStar Logistics LP for its New Burgos Pipeline oil product pipeline from the United States to Mexico with a capacity of up to 180,000 barrels per day.