The US news media seem to be coalescing around a consensus view of the Trump presidency: On the one hand, he is impulsive, narcissistic, and hopelessly ignorant of even the rudiments of his job as president.
On the other hand, he likes to drop big bombs.
So, positive on balance.
Over the past few months there has been a constant stream of articles, written with varying admixtures of sorrow, contempt, and schadenfreude, about Trump voters who are now dismayed because they never supposed that he was actually planning to take away their health insurance, eliminate reproductive rights and medical services, or deport her husband.
These articles calm with facepalm quotes about how they deceived themselves about Trump’s intentions. “She thought Trump would deport only people with criminal records — people he called ‘bad hombres’.” This is contrasted with Trump’s very explicit promises to do exactly what they are now appalled that he is now doing. (more…)
I wonder how many people who don’t follow the news in detail, seeing the juxtaposition of headlines about Republicans unleashing the “nuclear option” and US missiles bombing Syria, have concluded that Trump just went and did what everyone is afraid he will eventually do…
One convenient thing about the Trumpist banana republic is that rampant nepotism makes it easy to keep track of the key players, because no one trusts anyone but a blood relative.* So now the Washington Post reports that Trump’s absurdly incompetent choice for Education Secretary has a brother, Erik Prince, who just happens to be the founder of the infamous Blackwater mercenary troop. And that
The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.
Is it true?
A Prince spokesman said in a statement: “Erik had no role on the transition team. This is a complete fabrication. The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump. Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?”
According to this spokesman it is a “complete fabrication”. On the other hand, “the meeting” occurred, apparently. I suppose the Post might have fabricated the story, which turns out only by sheerest coincidence to be true, like stopped clock that just happens to be showing the right time when you look at it. Seems like we’re getting deep into the epistemological weeds, though.
The best part is the last sentence, though, which sounds like the guy pulled over for drunk driving, who yells at the police, “I pay your salary. Shouldn’t you be out catching some real criminals?
* I heard the joke recently, after Trump gave his son in law the job of reforming the federal government, on top of bringing peace to the Middle East and reviving US manufacturing, that perhaps Trump is one of those fairy-tale kings who requires that the prince seeking to marry his daughter perform three impossible tasks. (Except they’re already married… or are they?) Perhaps he can use his experience to help the federal government find a wealthy heiress to marry…
I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote from Blaise Pascal:
Tout le malheur des hommes vient d’une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
All the misery of mankind comes from a single thing, which is not knowing how to sit quietly in a room.
This is something I thought about a lot in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. People seemed excited that something important was happening. The significance of boredom in human affairs has been underestimated by political theorists.
Donald Trump spoke to Republican legislators yesterday, encouraging them in a friendly way to support necessary legislation that would ease 24 million Americans off their dependence on health insurance. Apparently he didn’t threaten anyone:
“He warned us that there are consequences if we don’t come together for us as a party and also for individuals,” Representative Richard Hudson of North Carolina said after the meeting. “He wasn’t threatening in any way. He was just giving us a pretty clear warning.”
According to the Washington Post Donald Trump had a miserable weekend, brooding over the mean-spirited press coverage of his remarkably successful first diplomatic initiatives toward Russia. Fortunately, his closest advisers know just how to lift his gloomy spirits:
That night at Mar-a-Lago, Trump had dinner with Sessions, Bannon, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly and White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, among others. They tried to put Trump in a better mood by going over their implementation plans for the travel ban, according to a White House official.
If he gets really down in the dumps, perhaps they can cheer him up by screening video of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean.
I was thinking about this comment by Josh Marshall
One of the first bits of news that attracted attention to this possible link was a Trump campaign effort to soften the GOP platform’s plank on Russia and Ukraine at the GOP convention.
I think this fits the development of my thinking, more or less, but it leaves something out. As someone who nothing of the personalities involved, I was already primed to think there was something important and odd about Trump’s connections to Ukraine in particular by the reporting on his hiring of Paul Manafort to advise his campaign in March 2016, and Manafort later becoming campaign manager in April. I remember very clearly thinking, how peculiar that someone with so much foreign experience is guiding a US presidential campaign. And someone who has been working in Ukraine, of all places. Within the context of US politics, which is usually so parochial, an operative who had gone off to work for Eastern European oligarchs and Third World dictators seemed inherently corrupt, like many of the figures that Trump associated with in New York real estate who had slipped across the border from shady dealing into outright criminality, and could no longer be seen in respectable society.
I interpreted it as a sign of Trump’s inability to attract normal campaign operatives to his strange ethno-nationalist insurgency. But then there was this 28 April article by Franklin Foer in Slate:
Some saw the hiring of Manafort as desperate, as Trump reaching for a relic from the distant past in the belated hope of compensating for a haphazard campaign infrastructure. In fact, securing Manafort was a coup. He is among the most significant political operatives of the past 40 years, and one of the most effective…
Manafort has spent a career working on behalf of clients that the rest of his fellow lobbyists and strategists have deemed just below their not-so-high moral threshold. Manafort has consistently given his clients a patina of respectability that has allowed them to migrate into the mainstream of opinion, or close enough to the mainstream. He has a particular knack for taking autocrats and presenting them as defenders of democracy. If he could convince the respectable world that thugs like Savimbi and Marcos are friends of America, then why not do the same for Trump? One of his friends told me, “He wanted to do his thing on home turf. He wanted one last shot at the big prize.”
I was commenting recently on Donald Trump’s tendency to describe himself in superlatives, which expresses itself particularly in his verbal tic of exaggerated protestations of friendship for groups of people that he actively despises. This is not a new pattern. I just came across this description of Trump’s testimony to Congress nearly a quarter century ago, at a time when he was trying to stymie American Indian competition to his Atlantic City casinos:
Testifying before a congressional committee in 1993, he began with his rote protestations of friendship. “Nobody likes Indians as much as Donald Trump.” He then proceeded to worry that the tribes would prove unable to fend off gangsters. “There is no way Indians are going to protect themselves from the mob … It will be the biggest scandal ever, the biggest since Al Capone … An Indian chief is going to tell Joey Killer to please get off his reservation? It’s unbelievable to me.”
Trump poured money into a shell group called the New York Institute for Law and Society. The group existed solely to publish ads smearing his potential Indian competition. Under dark photos of needles and other junkie paraphernalia, the group asserted, “The St. Regis Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented.” (It wasn’t.) “Are these the new neighbors we want?”
Many have noted that Donald Trump shows all the traits of a serial abuser in his dealings with other people, and now with other nations. (Josh Marshall has written perceptively about DT’s Mexico policy in these terms.) So advocates of human rights and personal liberty know to treat it with less than unalloyed relief when Trump said in his CPAC speach
I love the First Amendment — nobody loves it more than me.
One imagines him signing his executive order to shut down the NY Times and arrest its editors while muttering to the First Amendment, “I don’t want to have to hurt you, but you shouldn’t have tried to protect those bad dudes. They don’t know how to love you like I love you, baby.”
On a related matter, has anyone tried to assemble a list of Donald Trump’s self-attributed superlatives? Just in the last week he has described himself as the least racist, least antisemitic person, and the greatest lover of the First Amendment.