October 16, 2017

Pope Francis leveled an oblique criticism at President Trump while speaking Monday at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization offices in Rome. The pope addressed the Paris Agreement, the 2016 climate accord from which Trump withdrew the United States in June.

"We see consequences of climate change every day," the pope said, and "thanks to scientific knowledge, we know how we have to confront the problem and the international community has also worked out the legal methods, such as the Paris accord, which sadly, some have abandoned."

"We can't be satisfied by saying 'someone else will do it,'" Francis added, condemning the "negligence toward the delicate equilibria of ecosystems, the presumption of manipulating and controlling the limited resources of the planet, and the greed for profit" of those who reject policy measures, like the Paris deal, to address man-made climate change.

The withdrawal process Trump initiated is scheduled to be completed one day after the 2020 election. Bonnie Kristian

October 14, 2017

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) continued his critique of President Trump in a Washington Post interview published Friday evening, this time targeting the president's tweets undermining Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in his diplomatic efforts pertaining to North Korea:

[A]s Corker sees it, the biggest problem is that Trump is neutering his own chief diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and thereby inviting "binary" situations in which the United States will have to choose between war and a North Korea or Iran capable of threatening the United States with nuclear weapons.

"You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice," Corker told me in a phone interview Friday. "The tweets — yes, you raise tension in the region [and] it's very irresponsible. But it's the first part" — the "castration" of Tillerson — "that I am most exercised about." [The Washington Post]

Corker praised Trump during the 2016 election and sought a position within his administration. Since Trump took office, however, he has grown reproachful of the president, calling him childish, incompetent, and dangerous. The castration comments mark the latest escalation in the Trump-Corker war of words since since the president attacked the senator on Twitter last weekend.

Read The Week's Matthew Walther, Pascal-Emmanual Gobry, and Ryan Cooper on the value — or lack thereof — in Corker's latecomer protest. Bonnie Kristian

October 11, 2017
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A worrying Vanity Fair report claims President Trump is increasingly "unstable" and "unraveling," with even his closest advisers expressing concern that the president might not make it a full term. In addition to Trump's unrestrained tweet storms and his alleged feuds with his own Cabinet, Trump reportedly vented to his security chief Keith Schiller: "I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!"

Stephen Bannon, Trump's onetime campaign adviser and recently ousted top aide, has reportedly expressed his own doubts about Trump being allowed to continue in the White House much longer: "According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term," Vanity Fair writes.

Chief of Staff John Kelly is additionally scrambling to contain Trump, Vanity Fair reports, and "outside calls to the White House switchboard aren't put through to the Oval Office." While there is not much anyone can do to wrest Trump's phone away from him to keep him off Twitter, insiders are allegedly relieved that the president is staying off air.

The White House offered a different version of the story: "The president's mood is good and his outlook on the agenda is very positive," an official reassured. Read the full report at Vanity Fair. Jeva Lange

October 10, 2017
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NFL Hall of Famer and former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka dismissed athletes' protests during the national anthem by claiming, "I don't see all the social injustice that some of these people see," during a cringe-worthy interview with Westwood One's Jim Gray on Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

"There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of," Ditka, 77, went on. "Now maybe I'm not watching it as carefully as other people."

Controversy has surrounded players' decisions to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality since the NFL season began, drawing in even President Trump. Ditka, though, seemed particularly unsympathetic, apparently writing off the entire civil rights movement in his comments Monday.

"I don't know what social injustices [there] have been," Ditka said. "Muhammad Ali rose to the top. Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. Is everything based on color? I don't see it that way."

He added that if he was still a coach today, he would bench players who knelt during the anthem. "You have an obligation to the game … I don't see a lot of respect for the game. I see respect for their own, individual opinions. Opinions are like noses, we all have one."

But "if you don't respect our country, then you shouldn't be in this country playing football," Ditka concluded. "Go to another country and play football." Listen to the interview below. Jeva Lange

October 10, 2017
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Senate Republicans were flabbergasted on Monday that President Trump would pick a fight with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a crucial vote on tax cuts and other Trump priorities, while the White House argued that Corker forced Trump's Sunday morning Twitter attack by suggesting that Trump's chief of staff, secretary of state, and defense secretary were the only thing standing between the U.S. and "chaos." Later Sunday, Corker explicitly said that Trump needs managing so he doesn't start "World War III."

Vice President Mike Pence issued a statement Monday decrying the "empty rhetoric and baseless attacks" against Trump, while Kellyanne Conway told Fox News that Corker's tweeted counter-punches were "incredibly irresponsible." But inside the White House, Trump's "flashes of fury" have left his aides "scrambling to manage his outbursts," which have "torched bridges all around him," The Washington Post reports, citing "18 White House officials, outside advisers, and other Trump associates."

Trump's tweet-attack on Corker caught staffers by surprise, but the president has reportedly been fuming about Corker's comments and reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a "moron," hurt that he hasn't gotten enough credit for handling three major hurricanes, and frustrated with his Cabinet, the Post reports. He is also isolated and feeling penned in by the stricter Oval Office access controls enforced by Chief of Staff John Kelly:

One Trump confidant likened the president to a whistling teapot, saying that when he does not blow off steam, he can turn into a pressure cooker and explode. "I think we are in pressure cooker territory," said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly. [The Washington Post]

Given Trump's cryptic comment last week about the "calm before the storm," that's hardly a reassuring metaphor. Peter Weber

October 9, 2017
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is profiled in this week's New Yorker, and reporter Dexter Filkins paints a largely sympathetic portrait of the Texas oilman appointed as America's top diplomat through his Boy Scouts connections just months before a golden retirement from ExxonMobil. Tillerson isn't portrayed as being effective — the Trump administration's biggest foreign policy successes were engineered by the military or U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Filkins notes. ("Rex hates her," a senior administration official said of Haley. "He f---ing hates her.") But Tillerson's insularity, held over from his management style as Exxon's CEO, is blamed less than the handicap of having President Trump as his boss.

In his reporting, which included an interview with the embattled Tillerson, Filkins came upon this anecdote:

In February, a few weeks after Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate, he visited the Oval Office to introduce the president to a potential deputy, but Trump had something else on his mind. He began fulminating about federal laws that prohibit American businesses from bribing officials overseas; the businesses, he said, were being unfairly penalized. Tillerson disagreed. ... "Tillerson told Trump that America didn't need to pay bribes — that we could bring the world up to our own standards," a source with knowledge of the exchange told me. [The New Yorker]

Tillerson "confronts an unstable world and an unstable president, who undermines his best efforts to solve problems with diplomacy," Filkins writes. "At Exxon, Tillerson was less a visionary than a manager of an institution built long before he took over. With Trump, he appears content to manage the decline of the State Department and of America's influence abroad, in the hope of keeping his boss' tendency toward entropy and conflict from producing catastrophic results." Read more about Tillerson and America's draining diplomatic pool at The New Yorker. Peter Weber

October 8, 2017

President Trump seemed to suggest he deserves credit for the creation of the word "fake," or perhaps the phrase "fake news," while speaking with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on the launch episode of Huckabee's TBN show Saturday night.

"The media is — really, the word, I think one of the greatest of all terms I've come up with is 'fake,'" Trump said. "I guess other people have used it, perhaps, over the years, but I've never noticed it." If Trump is indeed claiming the word or phrase is primarily of his origination, this would not be the first time he has been incorrect in that regard: In May, the president claimed to have coined the phrase "priming the pump," which was popularized as an economic term in the 1930s.

Trump also defended his decision to throw paper towels to survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, claiming he threw the towels at the crowd's request. "They had these beautiful, soft towels. Very good towels, and I came in and there was a crowd of a lot of people, and they were screaming, and they were loving everything," he said. "I was having fun; they were having fun. They said, 'Throw 'em to me! Throw 'em to me, Mr. President!' So next day [critics] said, ‘Oh it was so disrespectful to the people.' It was just a made-up thing. And also when I walked in, the cheering was incredible." Trump accused the news media of deceptively lowering the volume of the cheers.

Watch the entirety of Trump's interview here. The towel remarks are around the 8-minute mark, and "fake" comes up about a minute later. Bonnie Kristian

October 8, 2017

President Trump issued a new volley in his war of words with North Korea with a cryptic pair of tweets posted Saturday afternoon:

Trump did not specify what "one thing" he meant, though as with past tweeted threats, many observers have assumed it to be war. In late September, the White House clarified Trump did not declare war on North Korea after a similarly threatening post.

The president reiterated the 25-year point in an interview with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on the debut episode of Huckabee's new show on TBN Saturday night. "This should have been handled 25 years ago," Trump said. "This should have been handled 10 years ago. It should have been handled during the Obama administration. The truth is, Mike, I was handed a mess."

Watch the full interview below, with the North Korea remarks beginning around the 12:30-mark, when Huckabee asks Trump's thoughts on Dennis Rodman as "secret ambassador" to Pyongyang. Bonnie Kristian

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