The past week was set to be positive for Donald Trump, and yet it’s ended in new problems for the U.S. president, who seems unable to refrain from creating controversy.
Trump’s popularity ratings, which had plummeted after his ambiguous comments following the racial violence in Charlottesville in mid-August, have ever so slightly improved in recent weeks. And he was hoping to make the tax reform plan, presented under the Republican framework earlier this week, the first legislative success of his presidency.
But politics, Mother Nature, and Trump’s penchant for provocative tweets have restored order, and the positive trend has given way to accusations and setbacks.
In eight days, Trump has declared war on American football players for kneeling during the national anthem to denounce racial tensions in the U.S.; his Republican allies have refused to revoke the law on former President Obama’s healthcare law; his health secretary has resigned following revelations about his expensive taste for private jets; and his response to the hurricane crisis in Puerto Rico has been severely criticized.
He also suffered humiliation during the Alabama Senate primary runoff when the Republican candidate he was backing was beaten by an ultra-conservative, right-wing, religious fundamentalist.
On Saturday – for the second weekend running – Trump retreated to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he lashed out at the San Juan mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has been actively calling for increased federal authority aid in Puerto Rico for several days.
Trump denounced Cruz for so-called “poor leadership” and criticized island authorities, saying “they want everything to be done for them.” While Puerto Ricans, overwhelmed by the extent of the damages caused by Hurricane Maria, long for help that is yet to arrive, Trump continues to insist that U.S. federal authorities are “doing a fantastic job.”
Trump’s comments toward Cruz have been shocking. “Puerto Rico needs help, not bullying,” tweeted Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren.
While the response of the federal authorities to the two hurricanes in Texas and Florida won him early praise, in the days following Hurricane Maria, Trump has been obsessed by the wave of protest led by predominantly black American football players.
He accused them of showing a “lack of respect” for the American flag, causing NFL team owners to publicly evoke players’ freedom of speech. The controversy extended to basketball when NBA star LeBron James sent Trump a curt tweet following the president’s decision to withdraw the Golden State Warriors’ White House invitation, as has long been a tradition for the defending champion.
“U bum,” James tweeted. “Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”
Trump’s opponents are speculating that his misbehavior on Twitter is nothing but a ploy to divert attention from the real crisis threatening the president: presumed Russian interference during last year’s presidential campaign. The FBI and Congress are investigating the accusation to determine the existence of a potential collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign team with a view to influencing the election in Trump’s favor.