The putz in America’s room

July 15, 2017

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appears at a campaign roundtable event in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., October 28, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

The words belong to Howard Fineman, the “Intergalactic Editor” of the HuffPost, as he is called on the Washington-based podcast done by Tony Kornheiser of ESPN fame. Fineman was talking about the meeting between US president Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin and the other two people in the room, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavirov, have known each other for years. Trump was the only person who “was an outsider.” He was, as Fineman put it, “the putz in the room.”

What a perfectly appropriate description of Donald Trump at this moment in time. Personally, I prefer the urban dictionary definition of this wonderful word: “a stupid, ignorant person; someone who doesn’t pay attention to anything going on; one who makes stupid remarks.”

Talk about hitting the nail on the head.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Trump has been president of the United States for only six months. Some days it feels like six years or even six decades. As the Russia scandal continues to swirl around him, his family, and the campaign team that helped elect him, one can see the situation becoming increasingly like a Tolstoy novel with new revelations of meetings with Russian operatives that spring to light with each passing day.

The news this week that Donald Trump Jr. held a meeting with a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin to discuss “dirt” on former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has blown the situation in Washington DC wide open. No one talks of anything else.

Media coverage of the much-ballyhooed health care bill, which arrived in the Senate a dead letter and looks like it will leave as one as well, seems strained and foreign. Big papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post, and cable outlets like CNN and MSNBC, are tracking the fate of the bill in the Senate but only out of a sense of duty. The real story is the Trumps, whose ludicrous bumblings and travails have become America’s favorite TV novella.

The reports of Trump hunkered down in the Oval Office, seething at “unfriendly” media reports, raging at his staff, watching endless tapes of “Fox and Friends” to keep his spirits up, circulate everywhere. Although this image of Trump is denied by numerous talking head flunkies on endless cable TV shows, no one believes them. Why bother? No sooner is the denial out of their mouth when Donald Trump is tweeting out the exact opposite nugget, brazenly confirming what his minions have tried so hard to deny.

Don’t be fooled, however, by the dysfunction on display. Things are happening in the Trump administration. After years of numerous presidents creating regulations and agencies without the approval of Congress, Trump and his surrogates are engaged in the destruction of the regulatory system in Washington DC. Whether it’s clean air, clean water, better schools, consumer protections – any regulation that exists to protect the American public but hinders American business in any way, the Trump administration is trying to get rid of it. Their success rate is worrisome.

It’s important not to sleep on the Trump administration. Granted, that seems a difficult task. How could you worry about an administration that makes the Keystone Cops looked like the A-Team? It just seems too surreal to contemplate. Yet one cannot totally rule out the idea that this all part of some master plan by Trump to “make America great again”… In his image of course. Heaven knows he’s pulled a fast one on us before. He is in the White House after all.

No, that seems a bridge too far. It must be that these successes for the Trump administration are happening despite the events in the White House. After all, what have we learned about Donald Trump in the past six months?

That he is thin-skinned to a fault. That he is a misogynist pig. That he has the diplomatic skills of a sponge. That he has the attention span of a potato. That he can’t keep his mouth shut or his hands off his smart phone when he should. That he is malicious, holds grudges and has the temperament of a five-year-old child. That he lies not occasionally but habitually.

Americans don’t seem to understand how dangerous it is to have a man like this in the White House. At this moment he has a team of Republican operatives doing opposition research on members of the media. He intends to get even with anyone who has slighted him. This means that no media organization – other than the obsequious Fox News – is safe from his demented desire for revenge. It’s not about protecting America’s interests, it’s always about looking after The Donald.

He is the putz in the room. And the joke is on America. Only we’re not laughing.

Copyright Tom Regan 2017

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Tom Regan Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

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