Editor's Note: Every Friday, Tom Keane offers up assorted observations, conundra and miscellanea about the week that was. Here's his round-up for the week ending February 3, 2017.
It was the week leading up to the Superbowl, when all eyes and ears should have been on the happenings in Houston – after all, what else could possibly be going on late-January and early-February? Oh, yeah.
- Whew. Everyone thought that Donald Trump’s first week as president was the most amazing, head-spinning seven days of any newly inaugurated president ever – that is, until the second week’s events. Those included the immigration ban, a Supreme Court nomination, the two-gone for every one-new mandate on regulations, firing acting attorney general Sally Yates, putting Steve Bannon on the National Security Council and crabby conversations with world leaders. The question on everyone’s mind: What happens in week three?
- Gang that couldn’t shoot straight. The President and his team completely bungled the roll-out of the immigration ban, a hastily-drawn, poorly-vetted and badly-written policy that brought thousands of protesters to the streets (and, for that matter, to airports), caused dismay worldwide and smacked of pure incompetence. If this week’s White House were an episode of “The Apprentice,” Trump would have had to fire himself.
- The poison hits home. With a 72 percent approval rating, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is the most popular governor in the country. It would seem, therefore, that a challenge against him would be a fool’s errand, with the promised candidacies of former Deval Patrick appointee Jay Gonzalez and Newton mayor Setti Warren doomed to failure. But maybe not. Baker is a Republican. And even though Baker has made clear he’s no fan of Trump, the current occupant of the White House threatens to make toxic the Republican brand itself – at least for the Bay State. In 2018, either Gonzalez or Warren could ride that toxicity all the way to the State House.
- Give me a break today. On Tuesday, throngs lined up at the Kenmore Square McDonald’s to try the chain’s latest innovation – a Big Mac dispenser. Here’s how the machine works: burgers are grilled by McDonald’s workers, who then toast the buns, add condiments, put the sandwich together, package it in the appropriate box and then load it in the newfangled “customized digital Big Mac ATM.” In essence, the difference is that instead of a human being handing you your burger, the human being now hands it to the machine which then gives it to you. Really? Are we so anthrophobic that we would rather press buttons on a vending machine than say “thank you” to a counter clerk presenting us lunch?
- Fortune teller. Yesterday was Groundhog Day. In some parts of the U.S., the groundhog saw its shadow, meaning there will be six more weeks of winter, more or less. In other areas, the groundhog didn’t see its shadow, meaning there will be… six more weeks of winter, more or less. Despite the zero-predictive ability of the rodent, television stations everywhere breathlessly covered the day’s festivities.
- Crumbling. Two Republican senators – Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – say they won’t support Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. One wonders if these cracks in GOP unity are just a one-off or if they mark a more permanent skepticism by some members of the Party over the man so few of them really wanted in the first place.
- Scalia, Jr. In 2006, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch was unanimously approved by the Senate for the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. This time around, it won’t be so easy. Partly, that’s because the Supreme Court job is higher profile and more impactful. But more importantly, Democrats are furious over the fate of Obama pick Merrick Garland and the spate of confrontational moves from the still-nascent Trump administration. Still, Gorsuch is widely admired, meaning there shouldn’t be any Republican defectors, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Democrats allow an up-or down vote. Yes, he’s a conservative. But even in the eyes of liberals, he’s a smart and talented jurist.
- Redux? It’s not too early to start thinking about Trump’s second term, and demonstrations and DeVos notwithstanding, his prospects look reasonable. Here’s what makes for re-election: incumbency (check); a strong economy (a likely check, especially if Trump pushes through his promised trillion-dollar infrastructure plan); assiduous attention to one’s base (check, given his first two weeks); and, most critically, a tired and weak opposition. Consider the Democratic names being bandied about. Some are yesterday’s news: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and – gulp – Hillary Clinton. Others are just — who knew? New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. None excite. Personally, I like Michelle Obama, but it’s fair to note that’s a show – presidential spouse runs for president – we’ve seen before. As I recall, it didn’t turn out well.
his column was first published by Cognoscenti on February 3, 2017.