WASHINGTON — In two hours on Thursday, President Trump publicly unveiled an expansive farm bill, railed against the dangers of illegal immigration, fought with Congress over funding for a border wall and announced the departure of Jim Mattis, his defense secretary, who is resigning over what he regards as the president’s ill-planned decision to pull back American troops from Syria.
Why not throw in a video of himself singing the theme song from the 1960s sitcom “Green Acres”?
The world may never know why, exactly, Mr. Trump chose to divert attention from the political chaos — just before turning the fire hose back on himself — by posting a video on Twitter of his performance at the 2005 Emmy Awards. That year, appearing onstage with the (slightly cringing) comedian Megan Mullally, Mr. Trump, dressed in overalls, huffed along to the song with some of the lyrics modified to squeeze in a reference to Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Farm Bill signing in 15 minutes! #Emmys #TBT pic.twitter.com/KtSS17xvIn
Maybe it was the president’s way of bringing some awkward levity to a day that will be remembered for a high-profile cabinet departure and a looming government shutdown. Maybe it was the work of an overzealous social media producer. But it was most likely meant to boost the president as he celebrated the passage of a sweeping, $867 billion farm bill — a result of rare bipartisan compromise that critics say his administration is already seeking to undermine by using regulatory power to restrict access to food stamps.
Mr. Trump, a man of endless contradictions, did not explain why he decided to tweet the video to his 56 million followers as he unveiled the farm bill or to have the audio played as he entered the White House’s South Court Auditorium to sign the bill. When asked who was in charge of the tweet, a senior administration official claimed ignorance — that person said White House aides were trying to focus on the farm bill’s contents, presumably before moving on to the next thing.
Mr. Trump, who only a day earlier had tweeted a message declaring victory over the Islamic State and announcing the pullback of troops in Syria — a decision that would prove to have a grave effect on his relationship with Mr. Mattis — took the podium and, with the world on his shoulders, provided the background on the theme song performance.
“That was from the Emmys,” Mr. Trump said proudly as members of his administration greeted him with a round of applause. “I sang ‘Green Acres’ and received a very nice award that night.”
Actually, he didn’t win an award.
That evening, Mr. Trump won “Emmy Idol,” a spoof competition based on “American Idol,” for his performance with Ms. Mullally. In a 2016 appearance on “The Late Show,” she recalled the experience as a “dumb thing that they did on the Emmys” that allowed viewers to call in to vote for their favorite segment. She said Mr. Trump called her with his congratulations the next day.
“If he felt that way about ‘Emmy Idol,’” she said, “how do you think he felt about the presidential election?”
To be sure, there are other matters of consequence unfolding throughout this administration.
For starters, the farm bill the president mentioned along with his video is a major piece of legislation, one that will bring relief to farmers stung by harsh economic or weather conditions, and continue to allow for access to food stamps — known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits — for Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. The fact that it managed to slip through a hyperpartisan Congress currently battling over whether or not to shut the federal government down was hailed as a positive, if slightly dissonant, development.
Before sending the video, the president hit back at both allies and critics over his decision to call back American troops from Syria, a move that has been criticized as too abrupt and possibly destabilizing.
“Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East,” Mr. Trump tweeted into the ether, “getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing? Do we want to be there forever?”
It was a thought that Mr. Mattis echoed in his resignation letter: “Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world.”
Also present in Mr. Mattis’s letter were repeated references to respecting the country’s allies. It was about the only topic that did not show up on the president’s Twitter feed on Thursday.
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