Politics

2017’s top political feuds

2017 was a year of bitter feuding in the political world.

The hyper-partisan atmosphere led to nasty fights across Washington, D.C. and even into sports and pop culture. Many of the clashes were driven by President Trump, who never missed a chance to punch or counter-punch at his many critics and enemies.

Here is a look back at 10 of the most bitter feuds from 2017:

Trump v. The media

The bad blood between the press and the president was one of the defining storylines of 2017, and the contentious relationship figures to play a major role in shaping Trump’s second year in office.

Many top media outlets and reporters have taken a more adversarial approach to covering the White House, leading to charges of bias from Trump and his allies. Tensions at White House press briefings have frequently boiled over with explosive exchanges between reporters and administration officials.

The news media has been saturated with coverage of Trump and several studies have found that the coverage has been overwhelmingly negative. Some critics of the media have alleged that news outlets are loosening their standards in an effort to discredit the president and there is a debate about whether Trump – an unconventional president by any measure – deserves to be covered neutrally.

The president and his allies have relished the fight, launching near-daily attacks on the media and seizing on every correction or retraction to dismiss the mainstream media as “fake news.”

Preferring Twitter and brief, informal gaggles, Trump has almost entirely avoided interacting with the media. The president held only one official press conference in his first year and largely sticks with Fox News in the rare event that he gives an interview.

Bannon v. McConnell

Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) despise one another. Their grudge match will play out in 2018 with major implications for the balance of power in the Senate.

Bannon has vowed to run primary challengers against almost all of the Republicans seeking reelection in the Senate, believing the anger at the Washington establishment will propel a new class of pro-Trump conservatives into office.

McConnell is committed to protecting the incumbents and fearful that Bannon’s motley recruits are primed to lose winnable general election races, potentially costing Republicans a majority in the upper chamber.

Round One of this fight went to McConnell. Bannon stuck by embattled GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who lost in stunning fashion to Democrat Doug Jones in deep red Alabama, a costly upset for Republicans.

Trump vs. the NFL

Perhaps no issue better reflects Trump’s eagerness to engage in the culture wars than his attacks on the NFL players that have taken a knee during the national anthem.

Many of the players say they’re kneeling to protest racial inequality and police brutality, but Trump has sought to turn the controversy into a debate about patriotism and support for the troops.

The president has repeatedly attacked the NFL players, saying they should be cut or suspended for their actions. Vice President Pence staged a walkout at one Indianapolis Colts game and Trump returned fire at an ESPN anchor that called him a racist.

The season-long controversy has dogged the NFL, and Trump has basked in the league’s declining ratings.

Polls show the public is frustrated with both sides – voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the matter but would like to see players stand for the national anthem.

The GOP v. the special counsel

The White House has largely sought to steer clear of public attacks on the special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, preferring instead to cooperate with the hope that the investigation will wrap soon and clear the president.

Conservative media and Republican lawmakers have taken up the effort in their stead, launching attacks aimed at discrediting the special counsel before the investigation concludes.

Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity has been leading the charge in right-wing media, using his highly-rated nightly show to allege political bias and corruption on Mueller’s team.

That effort has spread to Capitol Hill, where angry Republicans are increasingly demanding the investigation be shut down and the FBI and Justice Department investigated. Pressure is growing on attorney general Jeff Sessions – GOP lawmakers are demanding he fire Mueller or step aside for someone who will.

Trump vs. Republicans

Trump and McConnell ended the year on a high-note, each showering the other in praise on the steps of the White House after Republicans passed a massive tax overhaul.

But Trump spent much of the year feuding with McConnell and some other Republicans, expressing frustration at the Senate’s failure to repeal and replace ObamaCare or secure any meaningful legislative victories until the end of the year.

Trump does not have many allies in Washington and his attacks against McConnell, who needs to move his agenda through Congress, puzzled many political watchers.

Less puzzling were Trump’s attacks against his GOP critics on Capitol Hill. Two Republicans senators who are not seeking reelection in 2018 – Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (Az.) – have freely unloaded on the president and earned his ire in return.

In late October, Trump and Corker exchanged blows ahead of a critical meeting between the president and the GOP conference on Capitol Hill about tax reform. Trump got personal, disparaging Corker as “liddle’ Bob.”

Flake wrote a book about how Republicans have lost their way and need to reclaim conservatism from Trump. The steady attacks against Flake by Trump and his allies are part of the reason why Flake struggled to gain traction for his reelection efforts and will instead leave Washington in 2018.

Trump v. Sessions

Trump’s attack on Sessions was a brutal lesson in how the president can turn on his allies.

Sessions has been one of the president’s most loyal and enduring supporters, backing Trump’s outsider presidential candidacy from an early point.

But Sessions has been in the doghouse since he recused himself from the Russia investigation, paving the way for deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to tap Mueller as special counsel.

The president has been venting his frustration at Sessions ever since, boiling with rage that he is being investigated by his own Justice Department and demanding his attorney general investigate Democrats as well.

Trump’s allies have since taken up the charge. Sessions is increasingly facing demands from GOP lawmakers to resign.

Trump vs. 2020 Dems

“Life is a campaign,” Trump said before taking the stage for a rally in Florida, less than a month after he was sworn into office.

As such, it should be no surprise that Trump is already sizing-up his potential Democratic presidential challengers in 2020.

The president has repeatedly mocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as “Pocahontas,” a reference to her disputed claim of Native American heritage. Trump recently sparked outrage for calling Warren by that name at an Oval Office event honoring Native American Code Talkers who served in World War II.

Earlier this month, Trump took aim at Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), another potential presidential candidate, for saying he should resign because of the allegations of sexual harassment against him. Trump called Gillibrand “a total flunky” and claimed that she had come to him “begging” for campaign contributions.

Those attacks have boosted the Democrats’ 2020 prospects, giving them valuable national media attention, a windfall of donations and energizing grassroots liberals.

Scaramucci vs. other White House aides

Anthony Scaramucci, a former investment banker, lasted only 10 days as White House communications director. It was a memorable stretch.

Then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer decided to quit rather than report to the brash and foul-mouthed Scaramucci.

Scaramucci then leaked to the press that he intended to fire Michael Short, a low-level member of the White House press shop. Short had to read about his firing in the press.

Then-chief-of-staff Reince Priebus was the next to go, ending the GOP establishment’s influence within the White House.

Scaramucci’s influence extended beyond personnel matters – he turned the cameras back on for the White House press briefings. His swagger and unfiltered rants briefly made him the object of media fascination in Washington.

It also got him in trouble. Believing he was off-the-record, Scaramucci gave an expletive-laden interview to the New Yorker, attacking Priebus and then-chief strategist Stephen Bannon in vulgar terms.

Priebus’s replacement, new chief-of-staff John Kelly, had no sense of humor for Scaramucci’s antics. Kelly fired Scaramucci his first day on the job.

Trump v. Kim Jong Un

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have been in an escalating game of name-calling and personal attacks.

The president has dubbed Kim “Little Rocket Man” for ramping up the country’s missile testing program. Kim later called Trump a “dotard,” provoking Trump to call Kim short and fat.

Trump has at times undercut secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s efforts to engage China to find a diplomatic solution to the stand-off with North Korea. Trump has tweeted that Tillerson is “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man” and that the U.S. will “do what has to be done.”

Trump’s preference for Twitter diplomacy – including tweeted threats against U.S. adversaries – has alarmed the foreign policy establishment and has many in Washington worried that he could inadvertently start a war with North Korea.

Trump v. San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz

After being widely-praised for the search-and-rescue efforts in the wake of hurricanes that struck the U.S. mainland, Trump did not take kindly to criticism that the government responded too slowly to a hurricane that ravaged Puerto Rico

Cruz emerged as one of the president’s most vocal critics on this front, wearing a shirt for a CNN interview that said “Help us, we are dying” and blasting the administration’s efforts as insufficient.

Trump fired back – disparaging Puerto Ricans even as the island territory was in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.

Trump said Cruz had displayed “poor leadership” and suggested Puerto Ricans were too reliant on federal assistance and were not doing enough to help themselves.

Cruz called Trump the “hater-in-chief” and said he was “incapable of fulfilling the moral imperative” to help the people of Puerto Rico.

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