President Trump has had a lot on his plate lately.
There’s the trade war with China, with the broken-down negotiations and the resulting duel in tariff increases, with the resulting pain to ordinary people in both nations.
Then there’s North Korea. The president thought he had forged a strong relationship with that nation’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, talking at one point about “love letters” between the two. And then North Korea goes and fires off two more test missiles over the weekend.
And don’t forget Iran. To the president, they’re as intractable as ever. The sanctions don’t seem to be having any effect on them. Now our military has spotted signs of potential moves by their military.
Then there’s our own southern border. Those caravans are still streaming north, try as we might to discourage them. But Congress still won’t go for the wall, despite the support of millions of Americans.
Congress—that’s a whole problem in itself. After two years, the Democrats get the Mueller report—no new indictments, no collusion, no charge of obstruction—and they’re still not satisfied. They’re still sore that Hillary lost in 2016 and they’ve been trying to stage a coup ever since.
And of course, there’s the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe…
Yes, it’s true. At 8:48 AM May 8, the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, the most powerful man on Earth, tweeted out an advisory concerning the tribe to members of his party in the US House of Representatives.
“Republicans shouldn’t vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren,” President Trump tweeted. “It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!”
So, as is so often the case with the current president… where do we begin?
Facts—the sort of thing that President Trump sometimes doesn’t seem to care much about—likely would be a good place.
HR 312 is legislation filed by Congressman William Keating of Bourne, whose congressional district includes Mashpee and the rest of the Upper Cape.
The bill would reaffirm the taking of land into trust by the federal government for the benefit of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, notwithstanding any action taken in a federal court.
The Mashpee Wampanoags, who had finally succeeded in their long battle for federal recognition, thought in 2016 that they had their reservation—300 acres, split between Mashpee and Taunton—locked up.
But then a group of East Taunton residents, unhappy with a Wampanoag resort and casino proposed for the Taunton section, sued in federal court.
The residents argued that the Mashpees, based on certain details in federal law, didn’t qualify for recognition. A federal judge agreed with the residents.
The ruling stymied construction of the proposed casino. The tribe has been trying to climb out of its legal hole ever since.
The Keating legislation, which has had bipartisan support in the House, would supersede the court decision. On May 1, the House Committee on Natural Resources voted to move the bill out of committee and on to the full House. On May 8, the president tweeted his tweet.
On Wednesday, despite the president’s tweet, the full House passed the bill, 275-146, with about 50 Republicans supporting its passage.
So... whatever drew the president’s interest?
1. Elizabeth Warren, the senior senator from Massachusetts who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, last year supported a parallel version of the Keating legislation in the US Senate. The Senate has yet to refile the bill.
Sen. Warren puts President Trump on edge. He taunts her with the derisive nickname “Pocahontas,” mocking her previous claim to Native American ancestry.
And the Mashpee Wampanoag situation gives him the opportunity to take another shot at her.
2. Presidential tweet diviners (an updated version of presidential tea leaf readers) at outlets including the Daily Beast have pointed out that lobbyist Matt Schlapp, the husband of White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp, has criticized the tribe legislation. To boot, he too has publicly mentioned Sen. Warren in connection with the bill.
Oh… and by the way… Mr. Schlapp’s firm represents Twin River Management Group, which operates a casino in Tiverton, Rhode Island, not far from, you guessed it, Taunton.
3. President Trump calls HR 312 “unfair” and further asserts that the legislation “doesn’t treat Native Americans equally.”
Here the president is flat-out wrong. The legislation seeks to re-level the playing field for the Wampanoags, who have (unfairly) suffered from the historical accident that Englishmen stumbled upon them too early, long before the United States even existed.
Hence the oddity that tribes farther west long have qualified for federal recognition, while the Wampanoags, who greeted the Pilgrims, have had to wage an arduous fight for the same recognition.
In fact, the National Congress of American Indians has unanimously voted to support the Wampanoags’ fight to secure a reservation.
So there you have it. The president of the United States, who you would think would have more important matters on his mind, takes the time to sandbag a small Indian tribe in Massachusetts.
But that’s not all.
In a Thanksgiving address back in 2017, the president stated, “Beginning with the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth Colony and continuing until the present day, Native Americans’ contributions are woven deeply into our Nation’s rich tapestry.
“During National Native American Heritage Month, we honor and celebrate the first Americans and recognize contributions and sacrifices.”
President Trump isn’t only small and mean. It looks like he’s getting forgetful, too.