Presidency of Donald Trump
American presidential administration beginning in 2016
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- Follow the money: This administration is all about enriching slash-and-burn-style businesses at the expense of low-income workers and consumers. This is the same administration, after all, that has gone out of its way to turn the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau into a vehicle to protect payday lenders and that has waged war on the student loan forgiveness program. The NLRB’s extraordinary anti-union efforts are more of the same. They are about making workers more vulnerable and more insecure, as are the administration’s relentless efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion—because the more insecure that people at the bottom of the economy are, the easier they are to bully and exploit.
- In the wake of teachers’ strikes in a number of states, recent polling shows public support for unions at 64 percent—the highest, except for a few blips, in half a century. These are important developments. Labor is finally stirring. And Americans are on to the fact that Trump’s faux populism is actually all about rigging the game in favor of the wealthy.
- For all President Trump's talk these days about Democrats trying to make America socialist, the reality is that he is the king of big government. The federal bureaucracy is just as large, centralized, careless with spending, and intrusive under Donald Trump as it was when Barack Obama was in office. In many cases, it's bigger. This is an uncomfortable truth for Trump supporters. Rather than hew to traditional conservative beliefs about a limited federal role, Trump has allowed government to balloon. He's especially vexed when we inform him the government will never be large enough or powerful enough to execute his spontaneous propositions. The US federal budget deficit was actually declining under the Obama administration, from $1.4 trillion in 2009 when Obama took office to $587 billion in 2016, just before he left. Credit for the remarkable downward trend goes to congressional Republicans, who forced a standoff with the White House in 2011. They demanded a budget deal that would bring the deficit under control. This was the Budget Control Act, a law that slashed federal spending, put strict annual limits on future expenditures, and placed a cap on the government's "credit card." It was considered the conservative "Tea Party" movement's crowning achievement.
- Anonymous, A Warning (2019), p. 99-100
- Donald Trump was not interested in penny-pinching. He may try to project the image of a man working to save taxpayer dollars, and it's true that he can be talked out of stupid ideas if they cost too much. But that's not because he's trying to save money so it can go back to the American people. He still wants to spend the money, just on things in which he's personally interested, such as bombs or border security. Trump recoils at people who are "cheap." Today he is sparing no expense on the management of the executive branch, spending so freely it makes the money-burning days of the Trump Organization look like the five-dollar tables at a Vegas casino. As a result, the budget deficit has increased every single year since Donald Trump took office, returning to dangerous levels. The president is on track to spend a trillion dollars above what the government takes in annually. Just look at 2019. The president proposed a record-breaking $4.7 trillion budget. That's how much he suggested the federal government spend in a singe year. Since Trump took office, the US debt- much of which we owe to other countries that we borrow from- has grown by the trillions, to another all-time high of $22 trillion total. To pay off our debts today, according to one estimate, each taxpayer in the United States would need to fork over an average of $400,000. This should set off fiscal tornado sirens across America. We cannot keep borrowing money we can't pay back, otherwise our children will pay a steep and terrible price.
- Anonymous, A Warning (2019), p. 100
- Willful ignorance is the fairest way to describe the president's attitude toward our enemies. He sees what he wants to see. If Trump likes a foreign leader, he refuses to accept the danger they might pose or ulterior motives they bring to the table. That's what makes it so easy for him to offhandedly dismiss detailed US threat assessments about nation-states or urgent alerts from our closest allies.
- Anonymous, A Warning (2019), p. 167-168
- Our enemies and adversaries recognize the president is a simplistic pushover. They are unmoved by his bellicose Twitter threats because they know he can be played. President Trump is easily swayed by their rhetoric. We can all see it. He is visibly moved by flattery. He folds in negotiations, and he is willing to give up the farm for something that merely looks like a good deal, whether it is or not. They believe he is weak, and they take advantage of him. When they cannot, they simply ignore him.
- Anonymous, A Warning (2019), p. 173
- Donald Trump's words do more than drive his team crazy. They are dividing Americans. He may start fights on Twitter and at the microphones, but we are continuing them at home. Studies show that Republicans are becoming more partisan, unwilling to veer from the party line, and Democrats are doing the same. The one thing the two sides can agree on is that the phenomenon is real. A Pew Research Center survey released in 2019 found that a whopping 85 percent of US adults said that "political debate in the country has become more negative and less respectful," and two-thirds said that it is less focused on the issues. Where do they pin the blame? A majority believed President Trump "has changed the tone and nature of political debate for the worse." The verbal acrimony has real-world consequences. Our divisions make us less likely to engage with one another, less likely to trust our government, and less optimistic about our country's future. When asked to look forward to the year 2050, Americans were deeply pessimistic, according to another survey. A majority of respondents predicted that the United States would be in decline, burdened by economic disparity and more politically polarized. Nearly the same percentage of Democrats and Republicans agreed on the last point. In the nation's capital, the president's bull-in-a-china-shop language is inhibiting his own agenda. He can't get consensus on Capital Hill, even on previously uncontroversial issues. Democrats aren't exactly trying to restore bipartisanship, but there might be hope if the figurehead of the Republican Party were not treating them as mortal enemies rather than political opponents. Instead, every big idea becomes radioactive upon release. Every line of the budget is a trench on the political battlefield. We constantly struggle to sell the president's priorities because he is his own worst enemy.
- Anonymous, A Warning (2019), p. 191-192
- It took me about a month after my arrival at the Trump White House to have any chance to assess systematically how things worked inside. Dysfunctionality arose in many ways, often unfolding through specific policy issues... During the last months of 2018 and early 2019, as Trump's second year in office came to an end- roughly eight to nine months after my arrival- several seemingly disparate issues and individuals converged to push the Administration even deeper into uncharted territory. In early June 2018, for example, Kelly tried a new tactic on Trump's schedule, beginning each day in the Oval, at eleven a.m., with "Chief of Staff" time, hoping to minimize the rambling lectures he delivered during his twice-weekly intelligence briefings. Of course, what most people found striking was that Trump's "official" day didn't start until almost lunchtime. Trump was not loafing during the morning. Instead, he spent considerable time working the phones in the Residence. He talked to all manner of people, sometimes US government officials (I spoke with him by phone before he arrived in the Oval nearly every day due to the press of events he needed to know about or I needed direction on), but he also spoke at length to people outside the government. It was an anomaly among contemporary Presidents by any definition.
- John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (2020), p. 223
- As it was, Trump generally had only two intelligence briefings per week, and in most of those, he spoke at greater length than the briefers, often on matters completely unrelated to the subjects at hand. Trump's schedule was the easiest anomaly to deal with. One of the hardest was his vindictiveness, as demonstrated by the constant eruptions against John McCain, even after McCain died and could do Trump no more harm. Another example of his vindictiveness was Trump's August 15 decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance. Now, Brennan was no prize, and during his tenure the CIA became more politicized than at any other time in its history. He denied any improper behavior, but Trump was convinced Brennan was deeply implicated in abusing the FISA surveillance process to spy on his 2016 campaign, all of which was exacerbated by his constant presence in the media criticizing Trump after he took office.
- John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (2020), p. 224
- Perhaps uniquely in presidential history, Trump engendered controversy over attendance at funerals, starting with Barbara Bush's in April 2018, which Trump did not attend (although four former Presidents and the First Lady did), and then at John McCain's in late August. Kelly opened the weekly White House staff meeting on August 27 by saying, "I'm in a bad place today," because of ongoing disagreements with Trump over whether to fly US government flags at half-mast and who would attend which services. McCain's family didn't want Trump at the services either, so the feeling was mutual. The final decision was that Pence would lead the Administration's representation at both the Capitol Rotunda ceremony and the funeral service at Washington National Cathedral. The service was extremely well-attended, with all the socializing that routinely accompanies even moments of passing. Among others I greeted were Bush 43 and Mrs. Bush, with Bush asking cheerily, "Still got a job, Bolton?" "For now," I answered, and we all laughed. When George H.W. Bush later died during the Buenos Aires G20, Trump declared a national day of mourning, issued a fitting presidential statement, and spoke cordially with both George W. and Jeb Bush during the meeting. He and the First Lady attended the National Cathedral service on December 5 without incident. It wasn't so hard to do after all.
- John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (2020), p. 226
- The scale of the plague is surprising, indeed shocking, but not its appearance. Nor the fact that the U.S. has the worst record in responding to the crisis. [...] There will be recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, at severe and possibly horrendous cost, particularly for the poor and more vulnerable. But there will be no recovery from the melting of the polar ice sheets and the other devastating consequences of global warming. [...] The current administration had ample warning about a likely pandemic. In fact, a high-level simulation was run as recently as last October. Trump has reacted during his years in office in the manner to which we have become accustomed: by defunding and dismantling every relevant part of government and assiduously implementing the instructions of his corporate masters to eliminate the regulations that impede profits while saving lives — and leading the race to the abyss of environmental catastrophe, by far his greatest crime — in fact, the greatest crime in history when we consider the consequences.
- Noam Chomsky, in an interview with C.J. Polychroniou, Chomsky: Ventilator Shortage Exposes the Cruelty of Neoliberal Capitalism (April 1, 2020), Truthout
- Competing power centers are a motif of this administration, and its approach to the pandemic is no exception. [...] Nor does his operation appear to be internally coherent.
- If not in life, certainly in this administration.
- Programs that reduce child poverty help even in years when poor or near-poor parents gain and, of course, are critical in bad times, since sooner or later booming job markets also bust. [...] The Trump administration has, for good measure, rewritten the eligibility rules for such programs in order to lower the number of people who qualify. The supposed goal: to cut costs by reducing dependence on government. (Never mind the subsidies and tax loopholes Trump’s crew has created for corporations and the super wealthy, which add up to many billions of dollars in spending and lost revenue.)
- Even before Donald Trump’s election, only one-sixth of eligible families with kids received assistance for childcare and a paltry one-fifth got housing subsidies. Yet his administration arrived prepared to put programs that helped some of them pay for housing and childcare on the chopping block. No point in such families looking to him for a hand in the future. He won’t be building any Trump Towers for them. Whatever “Make America Great Again” may mean, it certainly doesn’t involve helping America’s poor kids. As long as Donald Trump oversees their race into life, they’ll find themselves ever farther from the starting line.
- This is a presidency whose defining feature isn’t ideology, much less policy. It’s neurosis.
- Bret Stephens, "Trump Gives Conservatives Their Just Comeuppance" (15 September 2017), The New York Times
- The atmosphere of division my grandfather created in the Trump family is the water in which Donald has always swum, and division continues to benefit him at the expense of everybody else. It's weakening our ability to be kind or believe in forgiveness, concepts that have never had any meaning for him. His administration and his party have become subsumed by his politics of grievance and entitlement. Worse, Donald, who understands nothing about history, constitutional principles, diplomacy (or anything else, really) and was never pressed to demonstrate such knowledge, has evaluated all of this country's alliances, and all of our social programs, solely through the prism of money, just as his father taught him to do. The costs and benefits of governing are considered in purely financial terms, as if the US Treasury were his personal piggy bank. To him, every dollar going out was his loss, while every dollar saved was his gain.
- Mary L. Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man (2020), p. 15-16
- Although my my aunts and uncles will think otherwise, I'm not writing this book to cash in or out of a desire for revenge. If either of those had been my intention, I would have written a book about our family years ago, when there was no way to anticipate that Donald would trade on his reputation as a serially bankrupt businessman and irrelevant reality show host to ascend to the White House; when it would have been safer because my uncle wasn't in a position to threaten and endanger whistleblowers and critics. The events of the last three years, however, have forced my hand, and I can no longer remain silent. By the time this book is published, hundreds of thousands of American lives will have been sacrificed on the alter of Donald's hubris and willful ignorance. If he is afforded a second term, it would be the end of American democracy.
- Mary L. Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man (2020), p. 16-17
- It's easy to sound coherent and somewhat knowledgeable when you control the narrative and are never pressed to elaborate on your premise or demonstrate that you actually understand the underlying facts. It is an indictment (among many) of the media that none of that changed during the campaign, when exposing Donald's lies and outrageous claims might actually have saved us from his presidency. On the few occasions he was asked about his positions and policies (which for all intents and purposes don't really exist) he still wasn't expected or required to make sense or demonstrate any depth of understanding. Since the election, he's figured out how to avoid such questions completely; White House press briefings and formal news conferences have been replaced with "chopper talk" during which he can pretend he can't hear any unwelcome questions over the noise of the helicopter blades. In 2020, his pandemic "press briefings" quickly devolved into mini-campaign rallies filled with self-congratulation, demagoguery, and ring kissing. In them he has denied the unconscionable failures that have already killed thousands, lied about the progress that's being made, and scapegoated the very people who are risking their lives to save us despite being denied adequate protection and equipment by his administration. Even as hundreds of thousands of Americans are sick and dying, he spins it as a victory, as proof of his stunning leadership. And in the event that anybody thinks he's capable of being serious or somber, he'll throw in a joke about bedding models or lie about the size of his Facebook following for good measure. Still the news networks refuse to pull away. The few journalists who do challenge him, and even those who simply ask Donald for words of comfort for a terrified nation, are derided and dismissed as "nasty." The through line from Donald's early, destructive behavior that Fred actively encouraged to the media's unwillingness to challenge him and the Republican Party's willingness to turn a blind eye to the daily corruption he has committed since January 20, 2017, have led to the impending collapse of this once great nations' economy, democracy, and health.
- Mary L. Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created The World's Most Dangerous Man (2020), p. 203
- Having failed in efforts to control or curtail the president's tweeting, Priebus searched for a way to have practical impact. Since the tweets were often triggered by the president's obsessive TV watching, he looked for ways to shut off the television. But television was Trump's default activity. Sunday nights were often the worst. Trump would come back to the White House from the weekend at one of his golf resorts just in time to catch political talk on his enemy networks, MSNBC and CNN. The president and the first lady had separate bedrooms in the residence. Trump had a giant TV going much of the time, alone in his bedroom with the clicker, the TiVo and his Twitter account. Priebus called the presidential bedroom "the devil's workshop" and the early mornings and dangerous Sunday nights "the witching hour." There was not much he could do about the mornings, but he had some control over the weekend schedule. He started scheduling Trump's Sunday returns to the White House later in the afternoon. Trump would get to the White House just before 9 p.m. when MSNBC and CNN generally turned to softer programming that did not focus on the immediate political controversies and Trump's inevitable role in them.
- Bob Woodward, Fear: Trump in the White House (2018), p. 195
- Trump seemed to love the adulation but said to Graham, "You're a middle-of-the-road guy. I want you to be 100 percent for Trump." This resembled the loyalty pledge that then FBI director James Comey said that Trump had asked of him. According to Comey, Trump had said, "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty," during their now famous one-on-one Green Room dinner in the White House during the first week of the Trump presidency. "Okay, what's the issue?" Graham asked, "and I'll tell you whether I'm 100 percent for you or not." "You're like 82 percent," Trump said. "Well, some days I'm 100 percent. Some days I may be zero." "I want you to be a 100 percent guy." "Why would you want me to tell you you're right when I think you're wrong? What good does that do for you or me?" Graham asked. "Presidents need people that can tell them the truth as they see it. It's up to you to see if I'm full of shit."
- Bob Woodward, Fear: Trump in the White House (2018), p. 317
- But in the man and his presidency Dowd had seen the tragic flaw. In the political back-and-forth, the evasions, the denials, the tweeting, the obscuring, crying "Fake News," the indignation, Trump had one overriding problem that Dowd knew but could not bring himself to say to the president: "You're a fucking liar."
- Bob Woodward, Fear: Trump in the White House (2018), p. 357
- For nearly 50 years, I have written about nine presidents from Nixon to Trump- 20 percent of the 45 U.S. presidents. A president must be willing to share the worst with the people, the bad news with the good. All presidents have a large obligation to inform, warn, protect, to define goals and the true national interest. Trump has, instead, enshrined personal impulse as a governing principle of his presidency. When his performance as president is taken in its entirety, I can only reach one conclusion: Trump is the wrong man for the job.
- Bob Woodward, Rage (2020), p. 391-392
- Most leaders lack the discipline to do routine risk-based horizon scanning, and fewer still develop the requisite contingency plans. Even rarer is the leader who has the foresight to correctly identify the top threat far enough in advance to develop and implement those plans. Suffice it to say, the Trump administration has cumulatively failed, both in taking seriously the specific, repeated intelligence community warnings about a coronavirus outbreak and in vigorously pursuing the nationwide response initiatives commensurate with the predicted threat. The federal government alone has the resources and authorities to lead the relevant public and private stakeholders to confront the foreseeable harms posed by the virus. Unfortunately, Trump officials made a series of judgments (minimizing the hazards of Covid-19) and decisions (refusing to act with the urgency required) that have needlessly made Americans far less safe. In short, the Trump administration forced a catastrophic strategic surprise onto the American people. But unlike past strategic surprises – Pearl Harbor, the Iranian revolution of 1979, or especially 9/11 – the current one was brought about by unprecedented indifference, even willful negligence. Whereas, for example, the 9/11 Commission Report assigned blame for the al-Qaida attacks on the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan through George W Bush, the unfolding coronavirus crisis is overwhelmingly the sole responsibility of the current White House. [...] The White House detachment and nonchalance during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak will be among the most costly decisions of any modern presidency. These officials were presented with a clear progression of warnings and crucial decision points far enough in advance that the country could have been far better prepared. But the way that they squandered the gifts of foresight and time should never be forgotten, nor should the reason they were squandered: Trump was initially wrong, so his inner circle promoted that wrongness rhetorically and with inadequate policies for far too long, and even today. Americans will now pay the price for decades.