OPINION: For Trump, Clemson visit a distraction from real issues

headshot_Alex Cala

Alex Cala

At this stage in the Trump presidency, it would be more difficult to figure out what outrageous and bizarre acts haven’t been committed by the commander in chief than which have.

Case in point: With most of the White House kitchen staff furloughed due to the government shutdown, the president decided to feed the Clemson Tigers football team a feast of McDonalds, Wendy’s and Domino’s Pizza during its visit to the White House Jan. 14.

Now, this isn’t odd when you consider Trump’s reported love for fast food and the blue-collar, outsider image he attempts to cultivate with his base.

However, this felt more and more like a publicity stunt considering it stole news coverage and attention from the longest government shutdown history. One that may cause quantifiable damage to the economy and, until recently, offered no promise of back pay to government employees working during the shutdown.

The idea that Trump’s antics are just a distraction from the more nefarious and embarrassing situations his administration is involved in has been floated before, but I truly believe this was the case with this dinner; not only is the shutdown ongoing, but a number of other alarming developments have occurred, placing even more pressure on the Trump administration.

William Barr, Trump’s pick for attorney general, had his first confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Jan. 15 and expressed reluctance to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, a troubling development that should have many in Washington worried.

Not only does this reluctance present a major ethical dilemma considering the man who appointed Barr is a subject in the investigation, but it also kickstarts yet another controversial nomination process for a Trump pick, which is never a good sign for a government that is already caught in a vicious, partisan shutdown.

A report released Jan. 17 by the Department of Health and Human Services alleges the separation of thousands more children from their parents than was previously claimed, a humanitarian scandal that this administration simply cannot put away.

More than 800,000 furloughed government workers will miss their second paycheck if the shutdown lasts until Friday, a likely development if the significant gap remains between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate regarding funding for the border wall.

In spite of these issues, ask the average American what they heard about Trump this month and they will likely mention the Clemson visit alongside these stories and scandals, which is exactly what the President wants.

By increasing the petty, headline-grabbing behavior and Twitter tirades he’s famous for, Trump can preemptively minimize the seriousness of the problems that engulf his administration on a daily basis, particularly the fact that a president who extols himself on representing the common man has dealt him another blow with the government shutdown.

With this in mind, it is necessary that the American people remain vigilant and demand that not only the government reopen, but reopen on terms that both the parties and Trump can agree upon, not just the president himself.

If not, we may be facing a shutdown that extends its record-breaking run into February, putting the safety, sanctity, and basic functions of our government at risk over an asinine, bigoted campaign promise. 

 Alex Cala is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].