Trump-a-day

President Trump on Friday touted himself as the “most tweeted about” world leader at the United Nations General Assembly, retweeting a graphic that put him at the top of the list, although not because he said anything clever.

The Trump Speech at the U.N.: bombastic noise that drowned the frail signals of common sense.


While North Korea’s nuclear program is at the forefront of concern all around the world, the US President could have made his point about Kim Jong Un’s regime in a measured way to prevent escalating tensions and misinterpretation by North Korea (which is exactly what happened). Instead, Trump went with words as “rocket man” to satisfy his base, which feeds on his tweets and slogans. As Jane Harman of the Wilson Center put it “Tuesday was a missed opportunity. Trump may have won the street, but he lost the hall.”


In his speech to the U.N. in San Francisco in 1948, Harry Truman warned the founders that “we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please.” This is something Trump will never learn.

When you peel away the inflammatory language of the General Assembly speech, here’s what the president really said: 

– The world should reject threats to sovereignty (think: Ukraine); 

– condemn and counter humanitarian abuses by North Korea in addition to its nuclear program; 

– Iran should cease its bad behaviour across the Middle East (even US Congress has gone on record to address this);

– a political solution is needed to end the crisis in Syria. 

Most would consider these positions fairly mainstream. But then Trump spiced things up with “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Kim responded to Trump’s comments in a statement on Thursday, calling the U.S. president “mentally deranged” and warning that he would “pay dearly” for his threats against Pyongyang. Kim referred to Trump as a “gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician” in the statement filled with colourful insults, which was reported by North Korea’s state news agency KCNA.

“The mentally deranged behaviour of the U.S. president openly expressing on the U.N. arena the unethical will to ‘totally destroy’ a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system, makes even those with normal thinking think about discretion and composure,” Kim said. “A frightened dog barks louder. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire,” he said.

Pyongyang’s provocation came the same day that Trump announced new sanctions on the isolated country.

Despite crushing sanctions, Pyongyang has continued its weapons testing, launching ballistic missiles over Japan and, earlier this month, detonating what North Korean officials claim was a hydrogen bomb.

President Trump fired back at North Korean leader on Friday.


Also today, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that North Korean leader will be “tested” by the new sanctions. “Our diplomatic efforts continue unabated. We have put in place the strongest economic sanctions ever to have been assembled against Kim Jong Un, so he is being tested with these sanctions,” Tillerson said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Voices from every corner of the world are calling on him to cease his program, come to the table and let’s talk about the future of North Korea and the North Korean people,” he added.

As if the name calling football was not enough, a former foreign policy adviser to President Obama is warning there could be trouble if Kim chides President Trump over the fact that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

God save us if Kim Jong Un makes a comment about Hillary’s popular vote victory https://t.co/mW2SJtmIrF

— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) September 22, 2017

Trump and Kim have been locked for months in a war of words and threats that has prompted concerns among foreign leaders who fear Washington and Pyongyang may be hurtling toward a confrontation. Donald Trump’s proximity to the USA’s arsenal of some 6,800 nuclear warheads could hardly comfort anyone at the best of times.

In the meantime, Google suggested that I might be interested in the following:

  

No, you can’t survive a nuclear attack by sitting in a fridge. Do not believe everything Hollywood shows you. 

Trump-a-day

U.K. foreign secretary Boris Johnson finally caught up on the trans-Atlantic news, specifically, Donald Trump’s response to the Charlottesville, Virginia, riots. Johnson told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “I thought he [Donald Trump] got it totally wrong and I thought it was a great shame that he failed to make a clear and fast distinction, which we all are able to make, between fascists and anti-fascists, between Nazis and anti-Nazis.” The state visit was more likely to happen next year than this, he added.


In case you missed it, earlier this year, Johnson praised praises Trump’s tweets for ‘engaging people.’ In a July interview with Today programme, the foreign secretary intimated he was envious of the freedom with which Trump expressed his views on Twitter, despite the intense criticism the president has faced over his use of the network.

“Donald Trump’s approach to politics has been something that has gripped the imagination of people around the world. He has engaged people in politics in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time, with his tweets and all the rest of it. I certainly wouldn’t be allowed to tweet in the way that he does, much as I might like to. I’m seeing my Foreign Office minders looking extremely apprehensive here,” Johnson said. Well, Boris, Trump should not be allowed either, because his “foot in mouth” disease is how “the rest of it” became normal. Trump is doing ten things a day that, in normal times, even just one would be a proper scandal.

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“What do we want?”

“The wall!”

Alec Baldwin reprised his President Trump portrayal on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Summer Edition.” 

Baldwin mocked Trump’s raucous rally earlier this week and jabbed Trump for attacking the media over coverage of his response to the violence in Charlottesville that was roundly criticized.

“As we all know, there was a tragic victim that came out of Charlottesville – me,” Baldwin’s Trump said. “Folks, the media has treated me so unfairly by reporting my entire remarks, even the bad ones.”

Baldwin’s Trump addressed holding a campaign rally three years before the next presidential election, saying “it’s never too early to campaign for 2020. Mike Pence is already doing it.”

His Trump character also played up his primetime speech to the nation on Afghanistan earlier this week, saying he had “solved” the problem with a U.S. strategy in the country. “I sat down with our military, we looked at the map and I asked the hard questions, like which one is Afghanistan?” Baldwin’s Trump said.


Baldwin has played Trump on “Saturday Night Live” for the last year and re-appeared on the special summer episode of the show after confirming in June that he would return to the show this fall to portray the president. Thanks, Alec, it would have been a shame not to!

Trump-a-day

President Trump on Wednesday called for the nation to come together in “shared humanity” and “citizenship,” one day after giving a speech which resembled a “greatest hits” package from his presidential campaign (including pledges to boost the economy; crack down on illegal immigration, in part by building the border wall; and drain the Washington swamp).

“It is time to heal the wounds that divide us and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us,” Trump told a crowd of veterans at an American Legion conference in Reno, Nevada.

Sticking largely to his prepared remarks, the president pointed to the military as a positive example for all Americans when it comes to patriotism, hard work and common purpose, saying “we are one people, with one home and one flag.” (Minus, the transgender military ban, of course.)

“We are not defined by the colour of our skin, the figure on our pay check or the party of our politics,” Trump said. “We are defined by our shared humanity, our citizenship in this magnificent nation and by the love that fills our hearts. We are people who love. We are people with heart. We are people who adore. We are people who are great — there is no country like the United States of America. We have no division too deep for us to heal,” the president said, concluding his remarks. We are people who adore? Was his speechwriter previously employed as a junior screenwriter for Hollywood’s summer rom-coms?!

Many Republicans wish Trump would move on from Charlottesville, an incident that resulted in one of the worst stretches of his presidency (clearly testing his “no division too deep for us to heal” theory). Trump seems to believe it’s an issue that animates his core supporters. That says a lot about the true colour of his adoration. Remember Michelle Obama’s quote “being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.”

For all the rhetorical fireworks, it is difficult to see how this week’s speeches changed anyone’s opinion of him — for better or for worse.

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The chances of a government shutdown in the fall are growing. Congress returns to Washington next month facing a full plate of radioactive, must-pass legislation and a shutdown threat that looks more serious after President Trump suggested he would not support a spending package that omits new funds for a southern border wall.

Speaker Paul Ryan in his unique self-doubting speaking style pushed back at Trump’s suggestion that border wall funding is worth a shutdown. “I don’t think a government shutdown is necessary, and I don’t think most people want to see a government shutdown, ourselves included,” Ryan said during a visit to an Intel facility in Oregon. He also explained that the president is merely “employing a strategy that he thinks is effective for him.” 

Good luck to GOP leaders in their quest to find a legislative sweet-spot that satisfies the president’s border-wall demand without alienating the Democrats, whose votes will be essential to keep the government running. “Democrats have made clear we will not support funding for President Trump’s misguided, ineffective border wall,” Joseph Crowley, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said this week.

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The White House Self-Appointed Warrior Princess, aka aide Kellyanne Conway, went after Hillary Clinton for “making excuses.” “She failed to make history and she succeeds at making excuses. And that is emblematic of a Democratic Party now that is so bereft of ideas and issues that they have to then play armchair psychiatrists.” 


Conway’s comments come after excerpts of Clinton’s new book “What Happened” were released earlier this week, in which she wrote that President Trump’s attempts to intimidate her during the presidential campaign made her “skin crawl.” Hillary said it as it was. “What would you do? Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space?”

As for Kellyanne, what does she even do when she is not on Fox insulting people and passing her judgment as a gospel?

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This week, the White House reveals its new look, including the new wallpaper personally chosen by Trump himself. My gran used to have a similar wallpaper in the living room, in circa 1989.


Earlier this month, Trump denied that he called the White House a “dump.” Trump responded on Twitter to an article on the website golf.com. The story recounts a scene in which Trump was chatting with some club members at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. He reportedly told the members he visits the property so frequently because “that White House is a real dump.” Hopefully now that he was involved in decision making over the wallpaper, he feels more at home there.


For more visuals of the White House interior designs check https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/gallery/2017/aug/23/white-house-renovations-donald-trump

Trump-a-day

President Trump on Monday announced he will not pull out U.S. troops from Afghanistan, as he is committed to a new strategy aimed at winning the nation’s longest war. 

During a prime-time address to the nation, Trump declared a rapid exit from the war-torn nation would leave a major power vacuum that would create a new safe haven for terrorist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The president acknowledged his “original instinct was to pull out,” a reference to his long-held view and campaign promise. Trump admitted that the calculation is different “when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.” Well, he was mentally present during at least one intelligence briefing on the matter, we have to give him that. Although, winning the war and building the peace are two different things, and it is the peace building process that Afghanistan is lacking.

Overall, it was a “very Trump” speech, as he declined to provide specifics or anything resembling a plan; showed he was pro-war, not peace; and blamed previous administrations. “When I became president I was given a bad and very complex hand,” Trump asserted. “No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia, but we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions.” (Oh, I am sure quite a few people would love to go back to 8 November 2016 and make better decisions).

“The American people are weary of war without victory. I share the American people’s frustration,” Trump said, adding that, “in the end, we will fight and we will win.” Good luck! How will that look like, a total eradication of al Qaeda?

While the president is widely expected to send roughly 4,000 additional U.S. troops to the country, a recommendation made by the Pentagon, Trump declined to say how many troops he would send or reveal a firm timeline for how long they would serve there. There are roughly 8,400 American service members currently in Afghanistan. Most troops train and advise the Afghan military, but roughly 2,000 participate in counterterrorism missions. “We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plan for further military activities,” Trump said. “Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy for now on. … I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.” Presidential Speechmaking 101: avoid facts in your promises, as they might stick and be held against you.

Unlike past administrations, the president said he does not seek to encourage Afghanistan to adopt Western-style democracy and institutions — just to ensure it does not become a refuge for extremist groups. No surprise here, coming from someone who mightily dislikes free press, women rights, gay rights, and pretty much approves of Neo-Nazis (think of his assertion that “very fine people” were on both sides of the clashes between white supremacists and protestors in Charlottesville, Va.). Do not get me wrong, I am not advocating for Western-style democracy in countries that have no history of democracy. I am 100% for equality and education everywhere in the world, though. 

Senator John McCain, who has spent months bashing President Trump for delaying a new Afghanistan strategy, commended him for “taking a big step in the right direction with the new strategy for Afghanistan.” Have you noticed that Trump always gets commended by one or two of his numerous critics on those rare occasions when he manages to stick to the prepared speech?

Contrary to McCain, Senator Jack Reed, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services panel, called the plan “very vague” and said it was “short on the details our troops and the American people deserve.”

Some people dared to say that Trump’s presidency is becoming ordinary (clearly, not Twitter users).


 “Trump still has every opportunity to turn around his presidency,” said Alex Conant, a GOP strategist. “Look, a lot of presidents have rough first years and go on to be very successful, and there is no reason Trump can’t do that.” Although even Conant’s optimistic outlook has its limits with regard to the president’s impetuous ways. “Trump will continue to follow his instincts, which will continue to lead him into trouble,” he said. 

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During a town hall with CNN in Racine, Wisconsin, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he wishes President Trump would tweet less, noting there are posts on Twitter he would prefer not to see from the commander-in-chief. “Do I wish there would be a little less tweeting? Of course, I do. But I think, I don’t think that that’s going to change.” I think he thinks right, even though he has a very roundabout way of expressing his thoughts. 

Sunday Book Club: “Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?” by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Alyssa Mastromonaco is under the impression that Barack Obama did not like her very much when she interviewed for him in December 2004. Mastromonaco heard about a position in Senator Obama’s team from colleagues who she worked with on John Kerry’s presidential campaign. Lesson number one: your network is your most valuable asset. Getting a job in so many cases is about who you know as much as what you know. We are not talking nepotism, though. A diverse network of contacts is like a safety net. I had a very unpleasant work crisis last year, and it was a colleague and friend from my very first job, who lent me so much of her sanity, I did not even need a shoulder to cry on. Sure, families matter a lot, but if you want someone who just gets it about work and your specific career issues, reach out to people swimming in the same ocean.
Mastromonaco did get a job in the then-senator Obama’s office. In the decade that followed, she served as assistant to the president and director of scheduling and advance at the White House, and then as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for operations at the White House until 2014. She was the youngest woman to hold that position. As part of her job, she coordinated logistics and operations of two presidential campaigns and inaugurations, devised plans for recovery during natural disasters, including floods and hurricanes, oversaw Obama’s foreign travels, including his trips to Afghanistan and Iraq, and so much more. This year, Mastromonaco published a book, reflecting on her experience and lessons learned. Her main goal was to get more women interested in and excited about working in government. As she admits, there never was a woman from the White House who had written such kind of book before. The lessons Mastromonaco shares could be useful to anyone in any industry.

Lesson Two: Be always prepared to defend your choices, whether just to yourself or to your coworkers, friends or family. “The quickest way for people to lose confidence in your ability to ever make a decision is for you to pass the buck, shrug your shoulders, or otherwise wuss out.” 

Mastromonaco gave insight in what it was like having Obama as your boss. The book is generously peppered with most amazing stories. As you might have guessed, Barack Obama is not someone who makes you feel small; there is no external pressure to make you take shortcuts. He assumed his team were adults and learned their own lessons when things did not exactly go as planned. 

Lesson Three: Do as much research as you can and keep your ears open. You will learn a lot about yourself by being open to hearing feedback. 

Lesson Four: The importance of self-awareness – knowing when you are at your best, what you are like on not so good days, and how much sleep you need to function without snapping at people – will allow you to keep your contacts, reputation and sanity throughout your career. Developing self-awareness is a life long process. Just stop and listen to yourself from time to time. In return, your mind and body will give you their optimal performance. 

Lesson Five: Know when it is time to leave. Mastromonaco left the White House when she reached the level of exhaustion, nervousness and insomnia that was beyond coping. We all have different reasons to say “that’s enough.” The point is, do not overstay when you know it is hopeless. I firmly believe that as we only have one life to live, we must make the most of it. Surviving in a place you hate is never a way forward. Remember, self-awareness.

Lesson Six: Know your worth. After leaving the White House, Mastromonaco accepted a job offer from VICE, where she had to negotiate her salary. Her advice: if a potential employer asks how much you want, the best response is “I’m sure there’s a salary band for the position, and my hope would be to come in at the high end of that.” For some of us, money talk will never be easy, but this is a diplomatic way to show that, as far as you are concerned, you deserve the best in your league.

Lesson Seven: Never underestimate the importance of kindness, which extends beyond “please” and “thank you.” Mastromonaco put it brilliantly: “Working in the White House is obviously heady, but it is also humbling – you are around the most brilliant, decorated brains in the country, that do not have to do anything for you, but they often do. If you approach it with grace – and a willingness to accept that many people know much more than you – you can walk away a much better person than you were when you came in.” 

At some point in your career, you will be the youngest, the oldest, the newbie, and, if you stick around long enough, the most experienced person in the room. How exciting is this! Nothing is truer than an old adage: “love what you do, and do what you love.” 

I considered keeping this book in my personal library. However, it is too good not to be shared. Therefore, as most of my books, I will be donating it to Oxfam, so it can inspire someone else.