How was your weekend? Did you spend it stewing in resentment and anger at your rivals and haters and occasionally make cryptic passive-aggressive comments on social media? If so, you have something in common with US president Donald Trump who, in between playing golf and talking about meeting Russian president Vladimir Putin, found the time to do some tweeting.
Since these tweets carry the weight of official White House statements, they represent not just the fleeting whims of a 71-year-old with impulse control problems, but the public stances of the US government. So let's explore them, together:
This is presumably a reference to a blockbuster Washington Post story that detailed the struggle faced by Barack Obama after receiving reports last summer about Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. Obama and his advisers had reports from the intelligence community that the Kremlin was working to hurt Hillary Clinton and get Trump elected, yet they didn't announce it publicly.
As it happens, Trump's "WHY?" is answered by the Post story. For one thing, Obama wasn't convinced Russian efforts would affect the election and didn't want to escalate a cyberwar. "Far more worrisome to the Obama team was the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day," reported the Post. "They also worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign. By August, Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged. Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia's efforts to discredit the outcome and potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph."
Additionally, Republicans in Congress briefed on the Russian hacking weren't convinced the Russians were trying to help Trump and didn't want to make public statements to that effect.
By Saturday morning, Trump had apparently decided to get back on standard Republican messaging: Deductibles under the Affordable Care Act are too high, therefore it needs to be replaced. It's true that deductibles are rising for some people, but the Republican healthcare reforms would cause them to increase even more.
Oops, back to Russia. I guess Trump is trying to say that Obama was in league with the Russians to… smear Clinton, thus getting him elected?
Or is the idea that Obama refused to publicly say the CIA thought Putin wanted Trump to win and was ordering hacking operations to that end because… that announcement would… hurt Clinton?
Pivoting once again to healthcare, this is a not-so-veiled attack on Republicans like Nevada's Dean Heller, who's playing Hamlet on the healthcare bill at the moment by publicly saying he's worried about how deeply it would cut Medicaid. Since those Medicaid cuts—which would deprive poor people of insurance—are the bill's main feature, implying the bill alleviates suffering is kind of rich.
Sometimes you want to tweet because you think you have important thoughts or a funny joke. Other times you just have a vague sense of anxiety that people have forgotten about you and want to see your interactions light up.
And sometimes, you just wake up with the perfect tweet in your head. Here Trump is 1. Calling Bernie Sanders "crazy" 2. Complaining that he was mistreated in the Democratic primaries (an old complaint that's still a sore spot for some of his supporters) 3. Implying that there's an equivalence between that intra-Democrat "collusion" and the charges that Trump's campaign colluded with Russia—charges Trump has always proclaimed to be utterly false.
There's so much contradiction and falsehood in one place that it seems foolish to analyze it. Instead let's stand back and appreciate it as you would a Picasso or a car crash.
The minority party in the US system these days is forced to play an obstructionist role, especially when the majority party works to pass legislation without soliciting any input from the minority, as the Republicans have done on healthcare. (Republicans, of course, obstructed like crazy when Obama was in office.) Here Trump is pointing to a mundane aspect of politics and decrying it as a scandal. That's a move he employs quite regularly.
(Incidentally, given how popular Obamacare is right now, Democrats are probably more than happy to "own" it.)
Man, I don't even know what's going on here. Obama colluded with… Russia? And is Trump implicitly acknowledging that Russia was involved in the hacking attacks, a point that he's gone back and forth on? And what is Trump doing about this now that he's president?
Sorry I said at the top that this would be a translation of Trump's tweets, but what "tapes" means and who Trump wants an apology from (his own Justice Department? Obama?) is a mystery. And does Trump think that there couldn't be obstruction if there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia? If so, he might want to talk to a lawyer.
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