Donald Trump spent Thanksgiving week leaking the names of his potential cabinet picks, making Mitt Romney grovel, and turning down security briefings. He also made time to sit down with the New York Times to flatter and lie to them, which seems to have inexplicably fooled the paper of record into saying, Look, he's not that bad. The next day, the Times ran a piece about how Trump was “diversifying” his cabinet appointments because he gave Nikki Haley a job for which he has no respect and she has no qualifications, U.N. representative. His appointments ping-ponged between know-nothings, right-wing ideologues the likes of which would make Dick Cheney blush, and gazillionaires who have gutted the very working class Trump once claimed to champion.
Here are some of the most deeply disturbing things we learned this week about the pussy-grabbing birther-in-chief.
1. He loves the poorly educated so much he wants to expand their numbers.
You may remember one of the more bizarre campaign statements Donald Trump made when talking about his love for the “poorly educated” after winning the Nevada primary. It was a true headscratcher for the slightly better educated who thought, who the hell says something like that? Trump took steps to expand this demographic when he named Amway heiress and anti-public school zealot Betsy DeVos as his pick for Secretary of Education. “As one of the architects of Detroit’s charter school program, she is partly responsible for what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country,” is how an op-ed in the Times put it. Horrible on so many levels, DeVos is notably bad on education.
As an extra added bonus, DeVos is also active in anti-LGBTQ causes including giving some of her gazillions to fund thoroughly debunked, deeply inhumane, definitely not educational gay conversion therapy.
2. He literally does not mean a single thing he says.
It’s going to be impossible to count Trump’s lies, given that he talks just about every day, rarely sleeps, and nothing he says seems to bear the remotest resemblance to shared reality. This is why he has apparently ushered in the “post-truth” world that the rest of us somehow have to figure out how to negotiate. Still, in the sea of lies, there were some notable and disturbing disconnects this week.
A little background: Trump got a lot of mileage on the campaign trail when he ridiculed rival Ben Carson for his autobiographical story about having stabbed a friend in his youth due to some uncontrolled fury he later managed to pray away.
“He has a pathological disease,” Trump said before launching into a comparison between Carson’s pathology and that of a child molester. “Can’t be cured,” Trump shrugged. “It’s pathological.”
Carson's pathology turned out not to be a hindrance to, say, holding a high cabinet position in the Trump administration. Carson announced this week that he had been tapped to head up the Housing and Urban Development Administration, an area in which arguably a big city real estate developer might know some truly knowledgeable people. Carson’s qualifications: “I grew up in the inner city and have spent a lot of time there, and have dealt with a lot of patients from that area and recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities,” he told Fox News. Oh, okay.
This development comes amidst the weirdness of Carson’s own post-truth world, as just one week ago, in regards to another potential appointment, he said he was not qualified to run a government bureaucracy.
Trump’s utter mendacity was hardly left behind on the campaign trail. Sitting down with the New York Times, an institution he has reamed for over a year on Twitter, calling it the “failing New York Times,” Trump fell over himself to flatter the paper this week. He called it a "great, great American jewel" and talked about the "tremendous respect" he has for it. “The slime factor was overwhelming,” Charles Blow wrote of the meeting. We may never be able to shower it all off.
Trump also told the editors he had an “open mind” about climate change, and admitted that there may be “some linkage” between human activity and a catastrophically warming planet. This directly contradicts every statement he made on the campaign trail about climate change being a hoax, perhaps perpetrated by the Chinese. He also directly contradicted the "open mind" statement the next day when he proposed cutting NASA funding for climate change research and called it “politicized science," which is terrifying in its own right.
Why be bound by the truth when you can just say whatever gets you through that particular moment?
3. He views the presidency as an opportunity to expand his wealth and brand.
Trump made it abundantly clear this week that he in no way sees the presidency as any bar to his business activities. He met with some Indian business partners, boasted that his win has made his brand “hotter” overnight, and told the New York Times that he will continue to invite business partners to the White House for photo ops.
On that silly old campaign trail where there are no records of any of his promises, Trump said that if he were to win the presidency, he would cease his business activities in order to fully devote himself to running the country. But President-elect Trump did a full 180 on that. “The law’s totally on my side” he told the Times. “The president can’t have a conflict of interest.”
This is not correct, as numerous lawyers, including Bush's ethics lawyer, have since stated, but to Trump it is true, facts be damned. Anyway, it would be really hard to sell off all his real estate, and he does not want to do it. Nor would he trust anyone besides his kids to run his empire and he still needs to talk to them and also include them in high-level matters of state. Apparently, he is also exempt from federal anti-nepotism laws. He just is.
Just to “cap” off the brand-building exercise, the Trump campaign put a version of those “Make America Great Again” red hats on sale for the low, low price of $150 as Christmas tree ornaments. Now that's class.
4. He is unencumbered by facts, knowledge or the desire to gain either.
Being incurious frees up lots of time, thus Trump skipped several national security briefings traditionally attended with interest by presidents-elect. But he did accidentally learn something that surprised him: waterboarding might not work.
Tough-talking candidate Trump bragged about how he would reinstate waterboarding and “a lot worse” during interrogations with terror suspects if he became president. This week we learned it is quite possible that Trump never actually had a conversation with anyone before in his life about waterboarding and whether it works to extract valuable information. He told the New York Times that during his conversation with retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, a leading candidate to be secretary of defense, he was “surprised” to learn that Mattis had never found waterboarding “to be useful.” In fact the general suggested a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers are better truth serums. Huh! Trump said. Imagine that! Torture doesn’t work. (Of course, reams of studies have been published stating this clearly.)
The normalizing, wishful-thinking Times hailed this as a major step forward, a sign that Trump might not allow torture after all and might not be the worst president ever. But alas, they were deceiving themselves. Trump promised to be unencumbered by this new (to him) intelligence, saying, “I’m not saying it changed my mind about torture.”
5. He’s fine with other people and taxpayers footing his bills.
Melania Trump announced that she and son Barron would not be moving to the White House come January, and will maintain their residence at Trump Tower while Barron finishes the school year at his Upper West Side private school. This, it has been estimated, will cost New York City taxpayers about a million dollars a day, something Trump-loving New Yorkers were oh-so-delighted to hear. (Trump got a measly 18 percent of the vote citywide, and just 10 percent in Manhattan. He was also booed when he went to cast his own vote.)
But Trump is not just costing hard-working New Yorkers money— his company will also get some federal money. The Secret Service is reportedly in talks with the Trump Organization about paying rent for two floors in Trump Tower to protect his family. Pretty good deal for a wealthy guy who has avoided paying federal income taxes for years and years.
It was also revealed that Trump is really good at getting people to pay for walls he built to screw them over. He did this in Scotland near his golf course, where he built a wall blocking the neighbors’ view of the sea. He did this to punish the homeowners for refusing to sell their property to him, according to the Times. Then he sent them the bill for the wall he built, but most are refusing to pay.