Before deciding he wanted to serve as leader of the free world, Donald Trump’s most volatile geopolitical fight involved a golf course in Scotland.
Trump’s company was building a course in Aberdeen, on the northeastern coast of the country. The Scottish government, though, had approved an offshore wind farm in the same area, which Trump worried would spoil the views from his course. He embarked on a years-long crusade against the installation, targeting Scottish leaders in letters and tweets. He was unsuccessful.
Now, Trump’s fights are bigger in scale, but, perhaps, more easily resolved from within the power-saturated walls of the White House.
On Tuesday, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke issued an unusual statement exempting the state of Florida from Trump’s recent announcement that the administration would allow new offshore drilling off America’s coasts. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), an early Trump supporter in 2016, had objected to the plan, in part for the reasons Trump objected to those wind turbines in Scotland. Zinke acquiesced.
“I have witnessed Governor Scott’s leadership through hurricane season and am working closely with him on Everglades restoration,” Zinke wrote. “He is a straightforward leader that can be trusted. President Trump has directed me to rebuild our offshore oil and gas program in a manner that supports our national energy policy and also takes into consideration the local and state voice. I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.” Therefore, no new drilling near the state.
One installation on the Florida coast that no longer needs to worry about spoiled views or, should worse come to worst, seeing a coastline covered in oil, is Mar-a-Lago, the Trump Organization’s crown jewel. Filmmaker Michael Moore had goaded Trump by pledging to drill for oil off the coast near the resort; Zinke’s announcement puts that (non-serious) idea to rest.
Zinke’s announcement also serves as a reinforcement of how, in the Trump administration, much of the decision-making appears to be based on how the president feels about the people involved.
Before describing his decision as an effort to preserve tourist revenue in Florida, Zinke declares that Scott “is a straightforward leader that can be trusted.” This, somehow, is positioned as more important when considering the idea of whether offshore drilling should be allowed. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) quickly pointed out on Twitter that California also has extended coastline that drives tourist revenue, raising the question of why Florida should be exempted but California might not be.
If California isn’t exempted after objecting to the plan — which it has — why hasn’t that exemption been made? Is it because California (and Washington and Oregon) aren’t reliant enough on tourism? Or is it because they don’t have “straightforward leader[s] that can be trusted”?
Or is it because they voted for Hillary Clinton?
Blue states would be justified in thinking that the administration was targeting them for punishment. Consider the tax bill that was signed into law late last year. The bill’s elimination of deductions for state and local taxes will have significant ramifications for states with high state taxes — like New York, New Jersey and California. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) of New York has pledged to sue to challenge the provision that adversely affects his state.
This could be considered an incidental effect of a change to the tax code, but it’s clear that the negative effects for Democratic-voting states were to at least some extent a selling point. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) wrote last month that on “the day of the vote last month, a southern congressman looked at me with a big grin and exclaimed, ‘Today is the day we get to stick it to the northeast!’ ” So they did.
Last September, The Post’s John Wagner walked through myriad other examples of the administration aiding red states at the expense of blue ones. The Senate health-care bill would have included 14 red states among the 15 states seeing the most benefit and 11 blue states among those seeing the most negative effects. Trump’s crackdowns on immigration and legal marijuana also focused on blue states more than red. One blue-state senator complained that blue states were even receiving less in grant money.
Over the course of his first six months in office, Trump indirectly communicated his priorities with his feet. During that time, he spent twice as much time in red states as blue states (excluding his frequent visits to his own properties). That includes trips to Virginia, which, for a president, is hard to avoid given its proximity and that it is home to things like the Pentagon. When he traveled for events and rallies, it was to Iowa, Ohio, Missouri — red states.
Trump’s politics have always been personal and always been centered on loyalty. As a businessman, this was only natural; his opposition to those wind turbines didn’t take into consideration whatever benefits might have been seen by the Scots. As president, though, it’s a bit more cumbersome.
On Monday, Trump visited another red state for an event: Tennessee, where he spoke at an agricultural event.
“Oh, are you happy you voted for me,” Trump said to cheers. “You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.”
As it turns out, they were indeed lucky to have voted for him.