The 2019 Trump moment retrospective concludes, pulling together the last six months of a tumultuous year. How much more of this can we afford?
In Part 1 of this Trump Moment retrospective last week, we looked at the first six months of President Trump’s shenanigans in 2019. Buckle up, because the second half of the year got even crazier!
On Independence Day, the President gave a Salute to America speech in Washington D.C. Trump, who has previously flamed other Presidents for reading from teleprompters, blamed his own teleprompter for his assertion that the Continental Army of 1775 “took over the airports.” Perhaps his device was less to blame for this Trump moment than his reading proficiency, as hypothesized in this analysis of the speech by a teacher who works with struggling readers. Poor reading skill can’t be blamed for the outright lies in a speech he gave a few days later, bragging that his Administration, which has actively shredded environmental protections, works “maybe harder than all previous administrations” at defending it.
Later in July, Trump told four minority Democratic Congresswomen to “go back [to the] places from which they came,” which for three of them would be the United States (and the fourth has been a naturalized citizen longer than Melania Trump). A literal interpretation was not the point, though, and his base understands that: it’s about reminding us who is a “real American” and who, in their worldview, is not. Also this month, the Trump campaign released an ad praising the wholesomeness of American small business while showing stock footage of a storefront in Japan, and emphasized his disdain of the environment that he protects better than everyone else by selling Trump-imprinted plastic straws for $1.50 each. Trump rounded out July by asserting that the Constitution gives him the right to do anything he wants.
August was a hot month for Team Trump. He wanted to buy Greenland. Then he issued orders demanding that American companies immediately exit China. He threatened to punish France and Germany by releasing ISIS fighters in Europe, considered changing the Constitution by executive order, and, in a typically Trump moment during a speech to actual veterans in Kentucky, talked about awarding himself the Medal of Honor. Trump suggested dropping nuclear bombs on hurricanes. He made it clear that he would pardon those who illegally seized land or broke environmental laws to build his vanity wall. As the President tweeted a pro-himself video that featured a white nationalist logo, the Trump campaign reminded supporters that “this is our country, not theirs.” He skipped the G7 climate meeting, but pushed to hold the 2020 G7 meeting at his own resort.
The President opened the month of September by warning Alabama residents to take cover from Hurricane Dorian, which wasn’t headed to Alabama. When the National Weather Service set the record straight, Trump defended himself by showing a map of the hurricane’s projected path that had been obviously (and poorly) doctored with a Sharpie. Just before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he apparently made, and then canceled, a clandestine meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David. Revelations also became public in September of a July Trump moment when the President had sought to pressure a foreign power into producing information he could use to harm a political opponent. Trump responded by threatening a civil war if he were removed from office, accusing a member of Congress of treason, and opening up another investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
In October, President Trump, whose proposed 2020 budget cuts Medicare by $845 billion over ten years, promised senior citizens in Florida that he wouldn’t let anyone ever take Medicare away. In the same speech, he proposed starting a state-run media network to get a “real voice” out there (drawing cheers from a party that traditionally distrusts government-run outlets). Incidentally, the law prohibits the U.S. government from engaging in covert propaganda against Americans, because it amounts to a national security threat, yet this is exactly what the Ukraine whistleblower stopped. Also in October, President Trump abandoned our Kurdish allies to their Turkish attackers, wrote a letter that Turkish President Erdoğan tossed in the trash, declared his intent to pillage Syrian oil, and rewarded anti-impeachment Republican senators with sweet, sweet fundraising cash. One final Trump moment: the revelation of tax filings that look an awful lot like fraud.
November’s headlines were dominated by the impeachment hearings, but that’s not all. At a Trump rally in Mississippi, the President lied to his supporters about yet more easily verifiable facts, this time a light on a camera going off (that had never been on), and how it meant he must have been pulled off the air (during an event that wasn’t being broadcast live). Getty photographer Mark Wilson captured a strange Trump moment, a sharpie-scrawled notes-to-self that began, “I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NO QUID PRO QUO…” And more tax documents surfaced, showing that the Trump Organization’s fraud-like figuring had extended to Trump Tower itself.
The defining Trump Moment for December was, naturally, his impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. However, that didn’t stop the little things from piling up. Like the time the President pressured the Pentagon to award a $400 million contract to a firm whose bid didn’t pass muster, but their CEO appeared as a guest on FOX. President Trump continued to use his private phone for government business, despite the danger of foreign surveillance (but her emails!). His signature tariffs cost American jobs. Trump is making it harder for poor people to simply exist, through criminalizing homelessness and cutting food assistance. In 2019, the President spent one out of every five days at a Trump golf course, despite multiple claims during the 2016 campaign that he would never have the time or inclination to golf at all.
Despite all of this and more, the donations continue to roll in, with his campaign raising $46 million in the fourth quarter of 2019 alone. As we settle into 2020, with Trump’s Iran war looming ahead of us, let us remember that elections have consequences. How much more of this can we afford?