This week’s White House report card finds President Trump cheering his victories during the Asia trip and still dealing with the Russia probe as sex charges against both parties grab the headlines and take the heat of his administration.
President Trump had what appeared to be a good week, scoring what could be significant gains on his trip to Asia. But despite all the pomp and flattery of the president, no significant progress was made and some, perhaps unintended, damage was caused.
In China, Trump asked President Xi Jinping to release the three UCLA basketball players who had been arrested for shoplifting in a very expensive retail store. The three were released and Trump fired out a “you’re welcome” tweet.
Of possibly far greater significance, Xi also agreed to send a special envoy to North Korea, evidently aiming at diffusing the constant tensions between the U.S. and the Kim regime. It has long been obvious that China could do more to rein in North Korea, which depends on China for everything from fuel to food. (China makes the mobile missile launchers for North Korea’s missiles and sends them to NK in violation of the U.N. arms embargo.) It is still unclear what Xi intends to do and whether his envoy will do more than make a gesture at calming things down.
At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vietnam, Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And Putin apparently ate his lunch. In a joint statement issued after their meeting, Trump appeared to agree to and legitimize Iran’s expansion in Syria. According to translations and analysis by the Middle East Media Research Institute, nothing in the statement mentioned any withdrawal of Iranian troops from Syria even though parts of Syria border Israel and some Iranian positions are very close to the Israeli border. A map appended to the statement (which wasn’t included in the release) reportedly shows places at which Iranian troops will remain.
Meanwhile, back at home, the Republican tax bill passed the House and out of the Senate Finance Committee, to a mixture of yawns and condemnatory comments. Nobody seems happy with it, and there’s still a chance that Congress won’t get it passed. The sexual harassment claims against Republican candidate Roy Moore roiling the Alabama senate race continued to draw demands that he withdraw from many Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but the president remained mum on the matter. Sen. Al Franken, nee Stuart Smalley of Saturday Night Live, came to Moore’s rescue unintendedly when allegations of his sexual abuse of women — supported by the now-famous groping picture -- surfaced.
Somehow, Trump fits very well in this atmosphere.
The GOP has been on automatic pilot for a long time on two issues -- tax cuts and repealing/dismantling Obamacare. The party has managed to not only talk the American people out of accepting their tax reform plan, but pretty much talked its own folks out of it. The House passed its tax reform proposal this week amidst polls showing that only one-in-five voters like it.
Now on to the Senate where special interests have managed to slice it and dice it and turn it into something absolutely no one -- including the House -- likes. At the same time the Senate has added a provision to end the Obamacare individual mandate at a time when a record number of people are signing up for exchanges and Medicaid. I guess we can call this principle without interest.
The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps? .....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2017
But alas, this report card is about the president. During this week Russia investigators are closing in on his son and son-in-law regarding meeting with Wikileaks. Not a good week for the president but better than Roy Moore, Al Franken, and Sylvester Stallone.
Jed Babbin is an Examiner contributor and former deputy undersecretary of defense in administration of former President George H.W. Bush. Follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin
John Zogby is the founder of the Zogby Poll and senior partner at John Zogby Strategies. His latest book is and author of We are Many, We are One: Neo-Tribes and Tribal Analytics in 21st Century America. Follow him on Twitter @TheJohnZogby
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com