Editor's Note: Every Friday in 2017, Tom Keane offered up assorted observations, conundra and miscellanea about the week that was. Here's his look back at the year.
It was the year of the Donald – and Russia, shootings and sexual harassment.
Liar, Liar, pants on fire. The largest-ever crowds to attend any event ever in Washington, D.C. watched as Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20. That statement marked the first of hundreds of falsehoods, prevarications, tall tales, inaccuracies and fibs from the president and his spokespeople. George Washington Trump’s not.
Year one and counting. Was Trump’s first year a success? It began with a breathtaking series of executive orders that seemed radical to some, but were actually exactly what he promised. Trump fell in and out of love with the GOP, White House hires came and went, approval ratings dropped and legislation languished amid such distractions as presidential succor for white supremacists. Constant tweeting weakened Trump’s effectiveness, even as it kept him central to the political conversation. Still, Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court and regulations reviled by business and the Right were gutted. Trump signed tax reform legislation just before Christmas — a law that also effectively undermined Obamacare. And his base stuck with him through it all. By December, Trump seemed to have found some sort of footing. Best of all for the new president: Despite his missteps, the economy boomed. Good jobs and high wages earn politicians a lot of forgiveness.
Putin’s long reach. The Russia-related investigations were a national preoccupation for all of 2017. The House and Senate got involved first. Then, after Trump fired FBI head James Comey, the Justice Department was in the mix too, appointing Robert Mueller to head an independent inquiry. All made for tantalizing headlines, yet it all seems to be coming to nothing. A few have been caught in the net -- Gen. Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort most notably -- but the big fish remains elusive. Those hoping the Trump saga ends with impeachment may be disappointed.
Vote for me! Democrats seemed to have a perfect foil in President Trump. Yet, Republicans won key special elections in Kansas, Georgia and South Carolina. In addition, the Dems seemed unable to come up with a coherent message — except to oppose anything from the White House. November, at last, brought a big win, as Alabama voters refused to elect alleged pedophile Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate. Democrats took that as a sign the tide had turned and started predicting they’d win back Congress in the 2018 mid-terms. Maybe. Moore’s loss wasn’t because Alabamians suddenly turned progressive. Rather, Moore is awful. Republicans -- and even Steve Bannon -- have probably learned their lesson.
Disasters aplenty. A seemingly endless series of hurricanes hammered the country. Meanwhile, California battled record-breaking fires. To many, the two seemed linked to changing weather patterns brought about by climate change. Not the White House, though, which pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, commanded the EPA to reverse rules that identify CO2 as a pollutant, and generally treated the natural disasters as business-as-usual. Except for Puerto Rico. There, the Trump administration’s attitude seemed to be that the U.S. territory got what it deserved.
Nothing to see here. A series of shootings, some large and some small, shook the country. At a baseball practice in June, a gunman opened fire on members of Congress. In October, a gunman killed 58 and injured 515 at a music festival in Las Vegas. Yet another shooting in November killed 26 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. In fact, there were more than 340 mass shootings in 2017. And the response from Congress and the president? Tax reform.
Provocateurs. North Korea solidified its position as the world’s enfant terrible. The hermit kingdom assassinated the half-brother of dictator Kim Jong Un in February, threatened to nuke Guam and tested a series of missiles designed to reach the U.S. mainland. Trump and Kim engaged in an escalating war of words, sounding like grade schoolers screeching at each other in the playground. So far, neither has said, “And so’s your mother.” That’s for 2018.
28-3. The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in an improbable comeback, making for a thrilling game. Otherwise, things in the NFL didn’t go so well: Players started taking knees, attendance and viewership declined and more evidence emerged about the risks of concussions. The end of football may well be nigh – but not, one hopes, until after Super Bowl LII.
Sinecure. When Boston city councilor Tito Jackson announced in January that he was running against incumbent mayor Marty Walsh, political insiders dismissed his chances. Turned out they were right. Jackson suffered a crushing defeat and Walsh, to his delight, discovered the job is likely his as long as he wants it.
Weinstein effect. If Trump was the man of the year, sexual harassment was the theme of the year. It began slowly, with a series of departures at Fox News that led progressives to think harassment was a conservative problem. Then, in October, the Harvey Weinstein story broke. Suddenly a spate of liberal stalwarts were shown the door, including Sen Al Franken, Congressman John Conyers, Louis CK and journalist Charlie Rose. Turns out piggishness is not partisan.
Dearly departed. Of all the notable exits from the White House – Michael Flynn, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, Tom Price and Omarosa Manigault – the one I regret most is communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Profane and outrageous, the Mooch offered tons of entertainment value. Kind of like his boss. Which, it turned out, was the problem. In the White House, there’s only room for one.