Washington Watch: Trump's sex scandals aren't the problem

Morally corrupt, ethically deprived and fundamentally inept, Trump has a well-earned reputation as a pathological liar.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Latvia's President, Estonia's President and Lithuania's President at the White House, April 3, 2018. (photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Latvia's President, Estonia's President and Lithuania's President at the White House, April 3, 2018.
(photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)
Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn about Donald Trump’s sordid sex life. That’s between him and his wives, his girlfriends and their lawyers.
What bothers me is that what he was doing to all those women is what he and his administration are doing to the country.
Illicit and unprotected sex may be a distraction for Trump, but it shouldn’t distract the rest of us from everything else his intensely ethically challenged government is doing.
It is often difficult to tell whether he is pitifully uninformed on important issues or just lying.
He seems unable to comprehend that Congress is not there to do his bidding but is a separate and equal branch of government, as is the judiciary.
A seemingly endless succession of scandals and corruption led his hometown magazine, New York, to depict him on the cover as a pig with the message that “Corruption, not Russia, is Trump’s greatest political liability.”
Morally corrupt, ethically deprived and fundamentally inept, Trump has a well-earned reputation as a pathological liar, even to the point that his lawyers are afraid to let him testify under oath before the special counsel because they don’t trust him not to perjure himself.
The latest scandal involved a Trump favorite, Environmental Protection Administration chief Scott Pruitt. He’s been hoping Trump would finally fire Jeff Sessions and make him attorney general, but it looks like he may be the next to get the boot. He is digging out from an avalanche of exposes, including revelations of diverted funds from the Safe Water Act to give raises to favored aides and living at $50 a night in a home co-owned by lobbyists for EPA-regulated industries. He won’t be able to lease that $100,000-a-month private jet he wanted so he wouldn’t have to rub elbows with the hoi polloi on commercial flights.
Corruption is not the most important part of Pruitt’s story. It is his whoring for the industries he is supposed to regulate. He wants to roll back Obama-era auto fuel efficiency standards, and repeal a host of other environmental regulations. He has replaced staff experts and scientists with climate change deniers and industry shills.
The damage Pruitt is doing will live long after he gets his farewell tweet and will affect the health and well being of generations to come.
Another assault on America’s heritage is getting crowded out of headlines by Trump’s sex scandals but will also do lasting damage. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has cozied up with industry officials, giving them a prominent role in setting policy on public lands, including oil, gas and mineral exploration, mining, timber, hunting, manufacturing, exploitation and operating recreation and tourism sites on public lands.
He is proposing the largest ever sale of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico and rolling back offshore drilling safety measures established in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Mother Jones magazine reported.
After months of taking credit for a rising stock market that began in the Obama administration, the president is suddenly silent about the Trump Slump that sent stocks plunging in the wake of his tariffs, trade wars and assaults on domestic corporations he dislikes.
Trump may think “Trade wars are good, and easy to win,” as he tweeted last month, but try telling that to consumers who will see prices going up while taking business and jobs away from American firms – particularly farms – that depend on exports.
Trump’s top officials are apparently inspired by his lavish, gilded lifestyle. In addition to Pruitt’s $1.2 million-a-year chartered jet he spent $43,000 on a soundproof booth in his office. Then there’s Zinke’s $139,000 office door.
Housing Secretary Ben Carson ordered a $31,000 dining table for his office (which he blamed on his wife). Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin took his trophy wife by government jet to Kentucky to see the eclipse, and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price spent an estimated $900,000 for private and military jets so he wouldn’t run into people whose health coverage he was slashing.
Following the Parkland, Florida school shooting Trump called for arming teachers and promised some tiny reforms in gun laws, but beat a hasty retreat when NRA big shots came to see him.
Trump, who boasted, “I know more than the generals,” likes to talk up his support for the military – his latest: send the army to patrol the Mexican border – and brag about having generals working for him and “yes, sir-ing” him, but he keeps firing them if they don’t tell the old draft dodger what he wants to hear.
One of the most troubling issues is immigration. A majority of Republicans and Democrats support solving the problem Trump created when he revoked the Obamaera policy of protecting from deportation children who were brought to this country involuntarily before the age of 16 (DACA).
The Democrats even agreed to pay for his cockamamie wall in exchange for a DACA agreement but Trump backed out at the last minute and tried to blame them for his perfidy.
His anti-immigration bigotry and xenophobia play well with an extreme segment of his base. Easter Sunday tweet attacks on DACA children also showed his fundamental ignorance of the issues and the law.
The big puzzle, as with so many things, is whether he doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he is simply lying.
Not that they are mutually exclusive.
Trump may relish insulting and humiliating his attorney general, but Jeff Sessions remains loyal and hangs on. The xenophobic former Alabama senator is a strident hardliner on immigration, race and civil liberties.
He is hostile to many fundamental civil rights issue, including voting rights, police department reform, legal representation for poor defendants, enforcing hate crime laws and LGBT rights. He has ordered federal prosecutors to seek the most serious possible charges and sentencing in every case.
Other Trump luminaries in a cabinet stocked with the inept, unqualified and inexperienced include Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a wealthy foe of public education.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon with no experience on the issues before his agency, could be a short-termer.
Rick Perry heads the energy department, which he wanted to close down as a presidential candidate. When he was picked for this job he thought he’d be promoting oil and gas interests and was clueless that he would be responsible for the nation’s nuclear weapons program as well as civilian use of nuclear energy.
No one – except possibly his daughter Ivanka and Russian President Vladimir Putin – are immune from Trump’s barbs, tweets and insults. He even zinged his wife at the Gridiron Club Dinner last month when, speaking of the extremely high turnover rate at the White House – “I like chaos” – he said Melania Trump might be “then next one to leave.”
He may have been kidding about Melania, but not about the chaos or the exodus from this chaotic, corrupt and incompetent administration. A fish rots from the head down.