A presidential weekend
Day One: Journalists and Spies
The new White House press secretary Sean Spicer accused photo-journalists of conspiring against the President, to make it seem like Trump was a polarising figure with limited popular support. He accused much of the press corps of “deliberate false reporting” by photographing the inauguration, and then finished the press conference taking no questions. One day in the job and most of the press has been wound up. A flying start.
President Trump meanwhile managed to make Mr. Spicer look an utter amateur. He went to the CIA to heal the wounds the election campaign had wrought. He stood in front of the CIA’s memorial wall, commemorating their honoured dead, and gave a stand-up comedy routine. He cracked jokes and making jibes, rattled off figures of how many people he spoke to on the campaign, and called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth”. With the audience obediently laughing along, he has, spectacularly, managed to annoy a huge chunk of his intelligence apparatus. I’ve never seen such efficient work before.
The President, presumably wanting to dispel some of the confusion over what exactly the press was making up, brought in some hard stats at the CIA speech, stating “we had 250,000 people literally around in the little bowl that we constructed”. Now this is impressive given that this is the area he is referring to, supposedly containing a quarter of a million people…
And this, is the Azteca stadium in Mexico City, at capacity, holding 87,000 people…
Damn Mexicans! Of course they can’t just settle for migrating, they also have to give us perspective on crowd sizes.
Trump also gave hints of the foreign policy disasters to come, arguing that, although he thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea, they might as well have plundered the nation’s natural resources while they were in the neighbourhood. He also suggested “If they’d kept the oil we’d have no ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place”. It has been standard that US Politian’s have been blind to the impact of American influence in the region and the general history and state of Sunni-Shia relations, but this is a whole new level of ignorance.
Day Two: Where did all my friends go?
Right, now they’ve pissed off people at home, time to alienate allies abroad. Mr. Spicer took to the stage on day two, declaring the decision to move the embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was not an elaborate prank after all. They actually intend to do it. This is going to make relations with their main Arab allies, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, rather strained. It will force them to either condemn the US, and potentially lose a powerful sponsor, or, do nothing, which will fuel domestic discontent.
Trump is due to meet his first foreign leader later in the week, and its PM Teresa May. Now May has legitimately been very clever, she’s trying to soothe over ties before it becomes political suicide to have pictures taken with him. But at this rate, Friday might be too late for that.
(Cover image courtesy of Scott Oslen)