President Trump is picking a whole lot of fights in recent days, including one with a dead senator.
Some of these are battles he should be engaging in, despite what much of the media say. And some are the kind he would be better off avoiding.
Take, for instance, Trump’s involvement in the decision to ground the Boeing plane that has been involved in two fatal crashes, the 737 Max 8.
The Washington Post says "it was extraordinary for a president to intervene in matters typically left to the FAA or the Department of Transportation." And the story quotes a former DOT secretary as saying Barack Obama was never involved in such safety decisions.
Rather than simply being briefed by the FAA, the Post reports, "Trump played an active role, participating in phone calls with Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg and other stakeholders, and offering his thoughts about the aviation industry."
I don't know about you, but that's what I would want a president doing — not substituting his judgment for that of the experts but taking a hands-on role in crisis management. Aviation safety is a crucial issue. And if a Max 8 had crashed in the U.S., Trump would have shouldered enormous political blame.
Now there's an argument to be made that the president waited too long to ground the planes, acting after other major industrialized countries. Maybe he was too solicitous toward Boeing. And maybe the FAA should have more tightly regulated the airline giant. Recent reports about Boeing dragging its feet on pilot training for the planes' new software — and a sensor that may have been sending the wrong signals to prevent stalling — suggest that the two crashes may have been avoidable.
But I'd argue Trump's personal involvement is a good thing.
I also have no problem with Trump doing what used to be called jawboning to keep auto jobs in America. But he's taking some flak for blaming the latest plant closure on the United Auto Workers.
After GM shut down a factory in Lordstown, Ohio, Trump tweeted: "Democrat UAW Local 1112 President David Green ought to get his act together and produce. G.M. let our Country down, but other much better car companies are coming into the U.S. in droves. I want action on Lordstown fast. Stop complaining and get the job done! 3.8% Unemployment!"
Trump said he also called GM's CEO, Mary Barra: "I am not happy that it is closed when everything else in our Country is BOOMING. I asked her to sell it or do something quickly. She blamed the UAW Union — I don't care, I just want it open!"
But ultimately this was a business decision (though not final) by the automaker, which is moving away from small sedans like the Chevrolet Cruze, made at that plant, in favor of bigger cars. The Lordstown plant workers agreed more than a decade ago that newly hired workers would be paid $20 an hour, not the standard $30. So the president's criticism seems like deflection.
And then there is John McCain. He and Trump couldn't stand each other. But Trump unloaded on him over the weekend, despite the fact that McCain died last August.
First, he lambasted the late Arizona senator for giving the uncorroborated Steele dossier to the FBI. Trump quoted Ken Starr as saying this was "unfortunately a very dark stain against John McCain." Trump added:
"He had far worse 'stains' than this, including thumbs down on repeal and replace after years of campaigning to repeal and replace!" And there was another shot against "'last in his class' (Annapolis) John McCain."
Those tweets prompted stinging personal criticism from McCain's former aides and from his daughter Meghan.
McCain, who often joked about being a poor student at the Naval Academy, was a controversial figure in the GOP. The onetime nominee was a maverick who often took on his own party, starting with George W. Bush. He did cast that late-night thumbs-down against abolishing ObamaCare, but that was the third repeal attempt that, if not for divisions among Republicans, would never have come down to one vote.
But whether Trump's grievances against McCain are justified is beside the point. He was a war hero who served his country for decades. He is no longer with us. Perhaps it's time for the president to let it go.