Deprived of rallies, US President Donald Trump came up with the mind-numbing idea to hold not one but two news conferences at his exclusive country club at the weekend. The audience was nearly all rich white men (able to pay several hundred thousand dollars for club membership and fees) who hooted at the press and applauded Trump as a pandemic raged outside.
Consider the psychology of a person who needs to stage such events - and who convinces himself they are a reflection of his true popularity. Trump is perpetually searching for ways to convince himself that he is not a disastrous president about to lose his seat.
Consider also the image of a super-rich president with super-rich friends at an exclusive club while Americans lose eviction protections, while the $600 (€509) federal unemployment subsidy legally expires, and while Republicans complain that such a tiny sum (not the double-digit unemployment) encourages laziness. It would be hard to create a more damning portrait of clueless, greedy and self-satisfied elites if you tried.
Instead of addressing the problems the pandemic still poses, Trump puts on a show by signing executive orders - or "unconstitutional slop" as Republican senator Ben Sasse put it. (I trust that Sasse will join in any legal action and/or vote to disable this hooey.) For starters, the notion of an executive order to replace expired spending bills passed by Congress is nonsensical. Congress had to pass a law to achieve items such as enhanced unemployment insurance; Congress has to pass a law to continue them. Otherwise, Trump could have waved his wand months ago to accomplish whatever he thinks he is accomplishing.
Trump is first attempting to delay payroll tax collection - something that does not help the unemployed, does not eliminate the tax and does not acknowledge Congress's prime role in tax legislation.
Moreover, by this action and his stated determination to cut payroll taxes permanently, Trump has fallen into the most obvious of political traps: he's essentially attacking funding for Social Security and Medicare.
Second, Trump says he is extending an unemployment insurance subsidy of $400 (€340). This is a cynical ploy. "He calls for $44bn (€37bn) of funding from the Department of Homeland Security's Disaster Relief Fund that is normally used for hurricanes, tornadoes and massive fires to be shifted over to unemployment," the Washington Post reports. Having snatched money from the military for his wall, he now robs disaster relief without authorisation to pay for something entirely unrelated. Moreover, even on its own terms, it would pay for just a few more weeks of unemployment insurance.
Third, he wants to "consider" whether an eviction ban is needed. I'll save him the trouble: yes. Meanwhile, millions of Americans face eviction while Trump studies the obvious. Landlords do not take considerations in lieu of rent checks.
Finally, Trump is deferring student loan payments - which is nice for college graduates, but does nothing to feed a single mom, give a family without income $600 to get by, help prepare K-12 schools to operate in a pandemic or keep police, firefighters, nurses and teachers from being laid off because state coffers are dry.
Former vice president Joe Biden responded to the phony executive emails: "This is no art of the deal. This is not presidential leadership." He went on: "These orders are not real solutions. They are just another cynical ploy designed to deflect responsibility. Some measures do far more harm than good."
Trump is delusional if he thinks shows at his country club will alleviate his political problem. (© Washington Post)