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Columnist Jay Fleitman: What ever is in the news this week?

  • In this Aug. 27, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump listens during a phone call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto about a trade agreement between the United States and Mexico, in the Oval Office of the White House. Trump is making trade policy the connective tissue that ties together his “America First” foreign policy and his political strategy for the 2020 presidential election. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci



For the Gazette
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The news of late seems to be more of a carnival than usual, and as I try to grapple with recent events, I find my mind wandering to the beautiful bottle of dark brown rum I bought at a small out-of-the-way distillery in New Orleans.

There are just too many crazy things happening, but as I have been tasked in this column to represent conservative views to a very liberal community, I’m going to take a tossed-salad approach to what’s been happening. So here it goes:

An anonymous editorial penned by a “senior White House official” (whatever that means) recently appeared in The New York Times and described how this self-identified member of the “resistance” has been striving to subvert those actions of President Trump that he or she has decided are poorly considered or wrong. There have been many reactions to this column among the talking heads of the cable TV news world ranging from 1. reassurance that people with good judgment are controlling President Trump’s bad impulses; to 2. the opinion that this White House official is a coward and should identify herself or himself and resign; to 3. a position I share, which is that Trump was the one elected President and not this self-important employee who has taken it upon herself or himself to supplant the elected President’s decision-making.

I have a secret hidden suspicion about the author of this column, which is that maybe this person isn’t even in the government at all. This editorial could be a dirty political trick. It isn’t so far-fetched: In recent years, several news anchors on major networks have been found to have made up stories, so why not this? It serves an excellent political function for those seeking to undermine this particular President, which is to act as confirmation for Bob Woodward’s recent book that skewers the Trump White House.

This segues nicely into the release of Bob Woodward’s newest book, “Fear.” This book reportedly portrays Donald Trump’s White House as being disorganized and fractious with members of the White House staff working to shape and control poor presidential decision making. I have not read this book, so it is hard for me to comment directly, but I did read a review that characterizes what Woodward reports as describing a White House run by a President who is a political amateur. Certainly this is true: Trump is a political amateur. And so was Barack Obama. He also had a book exposé written about two years into his presidency, inventively entitled “The Amateur” by Edward Klein. This book described a disorganized and fractious White House with poor presidential decision-making. Maybe we should expect one of these books every eight years.

A president staffs his cabinet and White House with people who hopefully have great expertise in order to shape and correct his decisions. This is the proper function of an executive. If Donald Trump has a poor temperament for the presidency, and if the White House is disorganized, I’ll still take the results. The economy is booming. African-American unemployment is the lowest it has been since 1972. This administration is trying to renegotiate NAFTA and our relationship with NATO to better protect American workers and the American taxpayer. Though of no comfort to those on the left, he is appointing intellectual and respected conservative judges to the Supreme Court, which is how our system works when a conservative is elected to the Presidency. Whatever craziness is or is not going on in the White House, they are finally taking on the economic sabotage and abuses of China, trying to negotiate away the nuclear risk of North Korea, and this White House has returned the country to a position of support to our friend and ally Israel. This is why conservatives try to elect conservative presidents.

Nike, the purveyor of sneakers, recently unveiled an advertising campaign using the controversial ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick as its newest sports hero. At first glance, it seems to be a remarkably stupid marketing decision by Nike that likely alienates the large segment of American consumers who objected to Kaeperkick’s kneeling during the national anthem and his anti-police rhetoric. Nike management has tried to spin this as a brilliant marketing coup that reestablishes their edginess to the younger portion of the buying public that accounts for more sneaker sales. Maybe they’re right, or maybe that argument is a cover-up for some rather dumb decision-making. If I were the board of directors at Nike Corporation, I would be firing everyone involved in this decision.

Colin Kaepernick has the right as an American to protest anything he wants, though not at his place of employment if his employer does not allow it. I have the right to turn off the television and not watch football. This is not really the problem with the Nike decision to have him as part of their ad campaign. There are numerous open wounds in the American political landscape, and there is a need to turn down this inflammation. It seems that Nike has cynically chosen to aggravate our politics in order to sell more sneakers.

And then the midterms are coming. I can’t really identify any issues that the Democrats are representing. Some Democrats are spouting socialism, some seek to abolish ICE, but neither of these is a winning issue. I have heard Democrat Congressional candidates speak of growing the economy for all, but if that is their intent, they should stand aside and let the current administration continue its work. The polls do seem to indicate that there is a reasonable chance that Democrats can retake the House of Representatives despite having little to say.

To my thinking, if Democrats are successful, it will be thanks to President Trump. This administration actually has many accomplishments that should merit political support, but the problem with Trump is that he simply makes too much drama. He seems to fight with everyone, and it is no longer amusing to voters. Americans appreciate success, but the public doesn’t want the angst.

​​​​​​Jay Fleitman, M.D., of Northampton writes a monthly column. He can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.