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The Week That Was: Bannon Booted, Lies And Libel And Distraught With Dunkin’

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Washington.  (Evan Vucci/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

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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 Jan. 12, 2018.


It was the week when we all decided we’d prefer as president one television personality with no political experience over another television personality with no political experience.

Wicked Smaht. Amid questions about Trump’s cognitive abilities, the president tweeted that he was “a very stable genius.” Y’know, if you have to tell people you’re a genius, you probably aren’t. Kind of like the folks who join Mensa — what they’re really proving to us is that they’re insecure. Still, my guess is that Friday’s physical exam of Trump at Walter Reed — his first since taking office — will conclude he’s in good shape. Trump’s goofy behavior, inattention and flights of fancy aren’t markers of some sort of decline. They’re just part and parcel of who he is.

Congress in charge. The president responded to “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s book about Trump’s chaotic first year, by doing something truly unexpected: Acting presidential. On Tuesday he met with members of Congress and talked immigration reform, winning praise for appearing calm, engaged and focused. Good show! Except people at the meeting walked away with no better sense of what the White House wanted. Indeed, it’s not clear Trump wants anything. “When this group comes back with an agreement … I’m signing it,” he said. “I will be signing it. I’m not gonna say, ‘Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.’ I’ll be signing it.” Apparently, what really excites him about the job is getting to write his name.

Believe me. The president told a Cabinet meeting that the nation’s libel laws were “a sham and a disgrace.” Hmm. This is an old Trump complaint — throughout his career he has many times sued his enemies for libel (and has lost all of them). Not only that, but Trump gives as good as he gets. Remember, “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process” — itself an obvious libel. So yeah, perhaps the libel laws are weak. But instead of being outraged, maybe Trump should be grateful.

Exit, Evil. Steve Bannon completed the final steps of his public disgrace. It began in August when he was fired from the White House, deepened when his support of Alabama’s Roy Moore handed a sure-red Senate seat to the Democrats and ended with his ouster this week from Breitbart News. So, is Bannon done — off the national stage forever? Not likely. His mistake was in trying to become an insider, something for which he’s completely constitutionally unsuited. Bannon is the ultimate outsider, an apocalyptic (and sometimes apoplectic) firebrand who stokes controversy and galvanizes crowds. Don’t expect a chastened Bannon to don a coat-and-tie, shave and comb his hair. The Mercers may no longer back him, but others will. And ultimately, maybe even Trump himself. After all, Bannon’s supporters are Trump’s supporters.

A salesperson takes money to ring up a copy of the book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (Matt Rourke/AP)
A salesperson takes money to ring up a copy of the book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Good cop, bad cop. For the first time in a long time, North and South Korea are talking. The North has agreed to participate in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. And it’s very possible that further discussions could lead to some sort of military stand-down or de-nuclearization. Why is this all happening now? Perhaps Trump’s irrational and provocative behavior towards the North is driving it into the arms of its more conciliatory neighbor. Was this all part of his master plan?

Watching you. A highly classified spy satellite was lost when the SpaceX rocket it was on failed. The bad news is the feds lost billions of dollars. The good news is that we all have another year or two of relative privacy before the satellite’s successor finally makes orbit.

Charlie 2020. A new WBUR poll found that Governor Charlie Baker continues to enjoy sky-high approval ratings from Massachusetts voters: 74 percent. Trump, not surprisingly, fares far worse, at 29 percent. Assuming Baker wins re-election later this year — and his numbers suggest he will, soundly — his popularity raises the obvious question: What’s next? Could he somehow win back the Republican party that Trumpism captured in 2016?

The world turned upside down. And finally, it’s hard to believe this is even a news story. Dunkin’ Donuts announced it is changing its menu, dropping a number of long-time items in favor of a simpler lineup so stores can provide “faster, more accurate service.” Big deal. North Korea is brandishing nukes and we’re worried about … wait, what? You say the Big N’ Toasted is gone?

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Tom Keane Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Tom Keane is a Boston-based writer.

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