The 45th President of the U.S. Chapter II

Written by  //  March 16, 2018  //  Government & Governance, U.S.  //  No comments

The 45th President of the U.S. Chapter I

U.S. Government & governance 2017
The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency
How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.

20 January
Trump’s Lucky YearWhy the Chaos Can’t Last
By Eliot A. Cohen
Trump appears to believe that he achieved great things during his first year in office and that his critics have been proved both vicious and wrong. In fact, he has demoralized the institutions of the U.S. government on which he depends. He has disappointed anyone, at home or abroad, who expected him to mature. He is exhausting his first group of appointees, and he does not have much of a backup bench. And perhaps worst of all, he thinks he knows what he is doing. He does not seem to realize that he has not faced any tests comparable to the 9/11 attacks or the 2008 recession, and there is no reason to believe that he has developed the knowledge or judgment to handle such a challenge when it does arise. What he attributes to genius, most observers correctly attribute to luck. And there is a good chance that 2018 will be the year his luck runs out.
(Foreign Affairs – paywall) Trump was remarkably lucky in 2017. He did not experience any external shocks and paid no visible price for alienating the United States’ friends. But at the same time, no part of the world is conspicuously better off for his efforts. Instead, the preexisting fissures in the international system are either the same or getting worse; no U.S. adversary is noticeably weaker, and some are getting stronger; and the president’s behavior has devalued the currency of the United States’ reputation and credibility. Sooner or later, his luck will run out. And when it does, the true costs of the Trump presidency will become clear.
… throughout his first year, Trump acquired a global reputation for being unreliable, temperamental, and deceitful. According to the Pew Research Center, 93 percent of Swedes polled said they had confidence in U.S. President Barack Obama, but only ten percent said they felt the same about Trump. Of course, this may say more about Sweden than the United States, but in Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom, the numbers were almost as bad. And foreign officials have begun talking openly about how, in the words of Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, “our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership.” The costs of such a deterioration in U.S. standing are long term. They may not be visible yet, but they will come into the open in a moment of acute stress.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has not solved any of the problems it inherited, nor does it appear to have any solutions in view.
If Trump’s first year was unnerving but largely uneventful, there is reason to think his second will be considerably more difficult. Not only are foreign policy challenges beginning to pile up; a year of the Trump administration has left the United States in a worse position to handle them.
The combination of these and other tensions, and not just each individually, constitutes a second source of worry. If any conflict goes hot, Washington’s antagonists in other realms will exploit the opening. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt could conceive and execute strategy against Japan and Germany simultaneously, but Trump is no Roosevelt, and the polarized United States of 2018 is not the unified United States of 1942.
… The final source of instability for U.S. foreign policy in 2018 will be domestic. Elections in November may cost the Republicans control of one or both houses of Congress. There are also likely to be major developments in the investigations led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, now the special counsel looking into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia. These could be indictments of senior figures in the administration or Mueller’s firing by Trump.

16 March
A good round-up of the current state of the nation and the effect of DJT’s self-inflicted wounds
Greg Sargent: The ‘chaos president’ threatens severe damage to the GOP — and the country
(WaPost) With reports coming fast and furious this morning about new tumult and turnover in the White House, the Washington chatter is focused on how the seemingly nonstop chaos enveloping the Trump presidency will damage the Republican Party in the midterm elections.
The president just pushed out his secretary of state. … The Mueller probe is moving closer and closer to Trump personally … The president has toggled between completely divergent positions on everything from gun control to immigration. … A large number of government positions are unfilled … Several of the president’s Cabinet secretaries are embroiled in scandals over pricey office decorations or a penchant for luxe travel. See Politico Playbook: Trump gives it to Democrats on a silver platter: the chaos elections

3 March
Ivanka Trump: Born to legitimize corruption and make the shoddy look cute
By Virginia Heffernan
(LATimes) When an organization exists not to build buildings but to brand them, its business is optics. And Ivanka has long window-dressed the Trump Organization’s deals. She was born to make the shoddy look cute, to legitimize corruption.
And if it’s the coverup and not the crime that will ultimately bring down the Trump syndicate, Ivanka may turn out to be the point person for its demise.

2 March
Trump was angry and ‘unglued’ when he started a trade war, officials say
(NBC News) A trifecta of events had set him off in a way that two officials said they had not seen before: Hope Hicks’ testimony to lawmakers investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, conduct by his embattled attorney general and the treatment of his son-in-law by his chief of staff.
Trump, the two officials said, was angry and gunning for a fight, and he chose a trade war, spurred on by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, the White House director for trade — and against longstanding advice from his economic chair Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

1 March
NYT Editorial Board editorial series on nepotism in the White House.
Intrigue in the House of Trump
The power the president gave his daughter and son-in-law upended a basic principle of American democracy and is sowing chaos in his administration.
Jared Kushner Flames Out
Bad advice, shady deals and incompetence define the,presidential son-in-law’s tenure at the White House.
Ivanka Trump’s Brand Building at the White House
Why would any policymaker with the agenda or values she espouses work for a president so determined to lay waste to them?
Since she is the president’s daughter, Ms. Trump considers herself immune from criticism or tough questions even when she’s acting in her public role as a “senior adviser.” In fact, of course, no policymaker truly committed to the agenda Ms. Trump espouses would have joined this administration. No presidential adviser with the values she claims would still be working for a president so determined to lay waste to them. So why does Ms. Trump stay? The answers could only be family allegiance, personal gain, or plans — wildly optimistic plans, in light of the F.B.I. noose tightening around this White House — for a dynastic political career. These are precisely what the founders condemned as nepotism’s dangers to democracy. Ivanka Trump isn’t serving America, she is serving the Trumps.

20 January
John Cassidy: On Trump’s First Anniversary, a Government Shutdown
(The New Yorker) Donald Trump was supposed to be in Palm Beach on Saturday celebrating the first anniversary of his Inauguration with another round of golf and a big party for donors at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Instead, he’s still in Washington, and parts of the federal government, at least for now, have shut down.
After a day of back and forth on Friday, the decisive vote in the Senate was taken after 10 P.M. It was on a motion to go to a vote on a Republican spending bill that would have kept the government open for another month. Needing sixty votes to prevail, the Republicans only got fifty, with four of their own members voting against the party line. (The dissidents were Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul. The ailing John McCain was absent.) …
Much will depend on what happens in the next few days, and, especially, on how Trump behaves. On Friday, the Daily Beast reported that he was distinctly nonplussed at the prospect of staying in Washington and missing his anniversary party down in Florida. (The story didn’t say who at the White House, if anybody, had explained to the President that the job of President occasionally involves staying in town and working weekends.) Will Trump stand by his initial refusal, in the statement Sanders put out, even to negotiate with the Democrats? Or will Schumer’s taunts goad him into action? We’ll soon find out.

19 January
Why is Trump’s staff turnover higher than the 5 most recent presidents?
Trump’s staff turnover sets a new record. From Sean Spicer to Michael Flynn, President Trump’s first year in office was marked by a very high rate of staff turnover—three times that of Obama’s and twice as high as Reagan’s. With past administrations as a guide, Kathryn Dunn Tenpas predicts that recruiting and retaining staff in the Trump White House will be even harder in 2018.
(Brookings) Trump’s turnover is record-setting, more than triple that of Obama and double that of Reagan. In looking at why Trump has experienced such high turnover, I argue he has valued loyalty over qualifications and suffered from a White House that has functioned in a chaotic manner. Both features have made it difficult to retain staff and have contributed to the governance difficulties he has encountered. If history is any guide, staff recruitment and retention during his second year could prove challenging as well. …
If history is any guide, retaining senior staff members in year two will be an even more daunting task. All five of Trump’s predecessors experienced a large uptick in second-year staff turnover. Overworked and stressed out, many staff members may see the 12-month mark as the point at which one can claim White House experience and move on to lucrative, private-sector opportunities. In addition, recent news reports have discussed the possibility of another White House staff shake-up—one that will prioritize the political unit in an effort to gear up for midterm elections. All of these developments suggest another year of frequent churning—creating disruption, unwanted press coverage, and inefficiency.

18 January
Why Conrad Black has Trump’s back

(iPolitics) So why is Black doing it? Surely part of his motivation comes down to personality. In Trump, Black sees himself: a man wronged by the ravages of public scrutiny. In 2007, Black was found guilty of fraud — a case he insisted was the invention of jealous underlings, disseminated by a credulous press. Trump has endured similar slings and arrows just for being himself: rough, boastful and successful. Together, Black and Trump suffer from an acute case of alpha male victimhood.
There may be another, more practical reason behind Black’s championing of Trump. … Black has a wee smudge on his criminal record. Perhaps, as Arpaio did before him, Black sees in Trump a kindred spirit — and a path to a presidential pardon.

13 January
The ‘genius’ of Trump: What the president means when he touts his smarts
(WaPost) when President Trump tweeted last weekend that he “would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!” it was consistent with a pattern of asserting that he will do this his way, without bending to expectations about what constitutes proper presidential behavior.
The tweet, issued in response to a new book that suggests his closest advisers doubt his mental stability, not only doubled down on his belief that smashing conventions is the path to success but also underscored his lifelong conviction that he wins when he’s the center of attention. In the ceaseless battle of life, Trump made clear by claiming the title of genius that he won’t give way to those who believe he doesn’t belong at the top.

18 January
Conrad Black: “The nasty little secret, singing joyously above the battlefield like a lark, is that Donald Trump is a very capable president, and has had the best first year of any president since Nixon, if not Eisenhower, or even FDR. ”
Our Comments:
1. CB considers Michael Wolff ‘an utterly odious man’ – pot & kettle?
2. Donald Trump would never understand ninety percent of the words CB uses, so probably won’t read this.
3. CB obviously considers Trump to be more likely to offer a pardon than was President Obama.
Michael Wolff and the Death Rattle of Trumpophobia
Having encountered Michael Wolff and having had an acidulous public exchange with him, I attest that he is an utterly odious man. He can’t write properly, has no professional integrity, and is a sociophobic mud-slinger and myth-maker. His entry into the continuing Trump controversy in its twilight proclaims that we have reached the era of the swiftly evaporating, nausea-inducing nothingburger. And yet, in what will surely prove the one civically useful thing Wolff will have done in his adult life, he has performed almost the final evisceration of the throbbing pustule of deranged Trumpophobia.

12 January

Trump’s Abominable Snow Job
In the 2016 US presidential election, Donald Trump presented himself as a populist who would protect America’s “forgotten” workers from the disruptions of trade and immigration and the nefarious designs of unnamed elites. But, a year after assuming office, it has become abundantly clear that “America first” means workers come last.
(Project Syndicate editors) Almost one year ago, beneath a gray sky and before a middling crowd, Donald Trump was sworn in as US president. In his inaugural address, he vowed that, “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.” And to the “forgotten men and women of our country,” he vowed, “I will never, ever let you down.”
Trump had campaigned on a promise to tear up “unfair” trade agreements and crack down on immigration. And in his first weeks and months in office, he abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He announced America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. He banned entry to the United States for Muslims from seven countries. And he has cleared the way for the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans who have been living in the US legally for a generation or more.
But, as Trump prepares to deliver his second “State of the Union” address, it is clear that many other major promises have fallen by the wayside. The wall he promised to erect on the border with Mexico is no closer to being built than it was a year ago. The 2010 Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) remains un-repealed. American infrastructure remains neglected and underfunded. And, rather than “drain the swamp” of entrenched insiders and vested interests that shape so much US policy, he’s stocked it with bigger alligators.

3-8  January
(The Atlantic) In the midst of speculation about his competence to lead the country following a provocative new book about his White House, President Trump described himself on Twitter as “like, really smart” and “a very stable genius at that.” From his experience interviewing Nobel Prize winners and others, James Fallows notes that these kinds of self-descriptions aren’t common among the world’s geniuses; indeed, the like alone mystified many observers. (Here’s a language expert’s take.) Yet as David Frum writes, the episode points to something more important than Trump himself: “the system of power surrounding the man.”
Trump, Defending His Mental Fitness, Says He’s a ‘Very Stable Genius’
(NYT) In a series of Twitter posts that were extraordinary even by the standards of his norm-shattering presidency, Mr. Trump insisted that his opponents and the news media were attacking his capacity because they had failed to prove his campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. … “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” he added.
Jennifer Rubin: The ‘stable genius’ isn’t even functioning as president
Seen in the context of his intellectual and emotional limitations, some decisions should set off alarm bells. Take the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “Bad. Obama’s deal. Worst ever. Get rid of it. People will love me if I get rid of it.” That is very likely the sum total of his “thinking” on the subject. He’s not considering the next step, the reaction of allies, the implication for America’s standing in the world, the available evidence of Iranian compliance or any other data point that would go into a rational consideration of United States’ policy. Policy isn’t being made or even understood by the president. What comes from his fears and impulses is whatever aides are able to piece together that might satisfy his emotional spasm of the moment without endangering the country. (The compromise was to “decertify” the deal, freaking out our allies but leaving the deal in place — for now.)

David Remnick’s piece for the 15 Jan print edition of the New Yorker The Increasing Unfitness of Donald Trump will likely have to be updated in light of latest news and conjectures.
Meantime, the invoking of the 25th Amendment which allows the vice president and the majority of the Cabinet to remove the president from office if they decide he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” is not all that easy. According to The Hill
“The amendment has never been used, in large part because the burden of proof to remove a president is tremendously high. Plus, there is no indication that Vice President Pence or the Cabinet have concerns about Trump’s mental state.”As the Cabinet was appointed by Trump, with the exception of the few true competents, one wonders what would be in it for them? And there is the looming threat of Pence, not certifiably crazy, but a dangerous ideologue.
Paul Krugman’s take Faust on the Potomac may answer some questions
“Trump has exceeded everyone’s worst expectations, yet Republicans, far from cutting him loose, are tying themselves even more closely to his fate. Why?
“The answer, I’d argue, is that they’re stuck. They knowingly made a deal with the devil, and can’t back out.
“More specifically, Trump’s very awfulness means that if he falls, the whole party will fall with him. Republicans could conceivably distance themselves from a president who turned out to be a bad manager, or even one who turned out to have engaged in small-time corruption. But when the corruption is big time, and it’s combined with obstruction of justice and collaboration with Putin, nobody will notice which Republicans were a bit less involved, a bit less obsequious, than others. If Trump sinks, he’ll create a vortex that sucks down everyone involved. … What this means, among other things, is that expecting the GOP to exercise any oversight or constrain Trump in any way is just foolish at this point. Massive electoral defeat – massive enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and other structural advantages of the right – is the only way out.”
Attacks on Wolff’s credibility by the usual suspects have already started, of course. But David Brooks, who is no big fan of DJT and the current administration added some notes of caution on PBS Newshour
“I don’t know what to believe in the book because I don’t think he practices the kind of journalism that we practice. He doesn’t practice the kind that could allow you to work in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, PBS.
“Many of the things he reports are true, and many of the things he reports are fictionalized. And a lot of things all throughout his career — this is not a new thing with him. Some of the things in the book are factually completely inaccurate. Some of the things ring false to me. Maybe somebody told him, so he put it in the book without checking it out.”

New scrutiny for Trump’s mental fitness after book, tweets
“Legally, there are many uncertainties; politically, it is hard to see it coming about; and historically, we are in uncharted territory,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a presidential historian at the University of Houston.

Michelle Goldberg: Everyone in Trumpworld Knows He’s an Idiot
(NYT) As Wolff wrote in a Hollywood Reporter essay based on the book, over the past year, the people around Trump, “all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.”

The Memo: Bannon firestorm consumes Washington
(The Hill) Among sources in Trump’s orbit who spoke to The Hill on condition of anonymity, opinions were varied as to whether the relationship between the two men was at a permanent end or whether Trump would simply shut Bannon out for a period.
Trump’s lawyers slapped Steve Bannon with a cease and desist.
(Politico)  The letter comes after excerpts of a forthcoming book by journalist Michael Wolff revealed that Bannon criticized Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. According to the excerpts, Bannon referred to a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russian operatives arranged by Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Trump portrayed as uninformed, unprepared and lacking focus in unflattering new book
Trump Breaks With Bannon, Saying He Has ‘Lost His Mind’

(Quartz) Trump scrapped his voter-fraud investigation. He disbanded the White House commission that he had tasked with unearthing evidence to support his claims of voting irregularities (paywall) during the 2016 campaign. The president didn’t say that the probe had found nothing (in fact, it found nothing), but rather that he was dissolving it to save taxpayer money.


31 December
For Trump, a Year of Reinventing the Presidency
In ways that were once unimaginable, President Trump has discarded the conventions and norms established by his predecessors. Will that change the institution permanently?
(NYT) Mr. Trump is the 45th president of the United States, but he has spent much of his first year in office defying the conventions and norms established by the previous 44, and transforming the presidency in ways that were once unimaginable.
Under Mr. Trump, it has become a blunt instrument to advance personal, policy and political goals. He has revolutionized the way presidents deal with the world beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, dispensing with the carefully modulated messaging of past chief executives in favor of no-holds-barred, crystal-breaking, us-against-them, damn-the-consequences blasts borne out of gut and grievance.
In upending the traditional dynamics of governance, Mr. Trump has made himself the most dominant figure in American life even as polls show that he is also the most unpopular first-year president in modern history. He is testing the proposition that a president can still effectively remake the country without securing or even seeking a broader mandate.
The power of unintended consequences!
5 Things That Are Better Now Because of Trump
Relax, liberals. Some good things happened this year.
(Politico) 1. The United States Congress; 2. The Entertainment Industry; 3. The State of Alabama; 4. Investigative Reporting; 5. The Constitution

28 – 29 December
Excerpts From Trump’s Interview With The Times
President Trump spoke on Thursday with a reporter from The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt. The interview took place in the Grill Room of his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla., whose noise made some portions at times hard to hear. The following are excerpts from that conversation, transcribed by The Times. They have been lightly edited for content and clarity, and omit several off-the-record comments and asides.
Read more coverage and analysis of the interview »
(Vanity Fair) Trump’s Rambling New York Times Interview Reveals a Mind in Denial
In his most recent interview with the “failing” newspaper, the president offers a dubiously rosy review of his performance to date.
(The Hill) Trump’s NYT interview sets 2018 stage
(WaPost Fact Checker) In a 30-minute interview, President Trump made 24 false or misleading claims

21 December
The presidency survived the Watergate, Iran-contra and Clinton scandals. Trump will exact a higher toll.
Histories of past presidential scandals reveal common threads and turning points — but also show how Trump stands alone.
By Carlos Lozada
(WaPost) Trump appears Nixonian in his disregard for democratic norms, Clintonian in his personal recklessness and beyond Reaganesque in his distance from the details of policy. But where the parallels and parables of past scandals fall apart is with Trump’s well-documented disregard for truth. In Watergate, Iran-contra and the Clinton impeachment, views of the president’s honesty played a significant role for the public, for administration officials and for lawmakers torn over how to proceed.
… Once certain transcripts were made public, Nixon lawyer Leonard Garment worried that president had “allowed America into the ugliness of his mind — as if he wanted the world to participate in the despoliation of the myth of presidential behavior. . . . That was the truly impeachable offense: letting everyone see.”
With Trump, we’ve already seen it, and we already know it. His tweets are his Nixon tapes; the “Access Hollywood” recording his Starr report; his heedlessness for checks, balances and the rule of law his Iran-contra affair. Offending does not destroy his mandate, it fulfills it. The expectation of integrity has given way to a cynical acceptance of deceit. As much as anything Mueller uncovers, this is the scandal of our time.

11 December
Andrew Coyne: The state of Donald Trump’s mental health is a valid — and open — question
(National Post) We know he is a rampant narcissist, a compulsive liar, has zero impulse control, and so on. Who cares whether this is clinical, or just bad parenting?
In recent days, as Trump’s behaviour has seemed to deteriorate further — retweeting anti-Muslim propaganda posted by a British far-right party, suggesting that TV commentator Joe Scarborough had murdered his intern — the possibility has been raised with increasing urgency in political and media circles that Trump is, in fact, suffering from some form of mental illness: anything from a personality disorder to progressive dementia.

7 December
I’m a brain specialist. I think Trump should be tested for a degenerative brain disease
By Ford Vox, M.D., medical journalist and commentator who practices brain injury medicine in Atlanta.
(STAT) As the president’s demeanor and unusual decisions raise the potential for military conflict in two regions of the world, the questions surrounding his mental competence have become urgent and demand investigation.
Until now, most of the focus has been on the president’s psychology. It’s now time to think of the president’s neurology — and the possibility of an organic brain disorder.
In turning my attention to the president, I see worrisome symptoms that fall into three main categories: problems with language and executive function; problems with social cognition and behavior; and problems with memory, attention, and concentration. None of these are symptoms of being a bad or mean person. Nor do they require spelunking into the depths of his psyche to understand. Instead, they raise concern for a neurocognitive disease process in the same sense that wheezing raises the alarm for asthma.

4 December
Elizabeth Drew: The Madness of King Donald
The risk of a US military confrontation with North Korea, coupled with President Donald Trump’s increasingly peculiar behavior, has put official Washington on edge. To put it bluntly: the worry is that a mentally deranged president might lead the US into a nuclear war.
(Project Syndicate) Much of America’s capital has entered a state of near-panic. In recent days, President Donald Trump has been acting more bizarrely than ever, and the question raised in the mind of politicians and civilians alike, though rarely spoken aloud, has been: What can be done with this man? Can the United States really afford to wait for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to wrap up his investigation (on the assumption that he’ll find the president guilty of something)? That could still take quite a while.
That risk, coupled with Trump’s increasingly peculiar behavior, has made Washington more tense than I’ve ever known it to be, and that includes the dark days of Watergate. To put it bluntly: the worry is that a mentally deranged president might lead the US into a nuclear war.
The fact that Trump appears to have some mental disorder, or disorders, has created a dilemma for psychiatrists, politicians, and journalists alike. The American Psychiatric Association has a rule that its members may not offer diagnoses of people they have not examined. But, given what some psychiatrists see as a national emergency, many have broken the rule and spoken or written publicly about their professional assessments of Trump’s mental state.

28 November
Chris Patten: Donald Trump Thought
Xi Jinping Thought has now been enshrined in the charter of the Communist Party of China, making Xi more powerful than any leader since Mao. If Donald Trump’s own eponymous ideology were entrenched similarly in the US Constitution, what would it require of future American leaders?
(Project Syndicate) … just consider the possibility: Amend the US constitution, as has happened 27 times, to include “Donald Trump Thought,” and fire up the masses, yet again, with the hope of “America First.”
Don’t worry if the country in question is a democracy or a dictatorship. Actually, a country may be a better friend – to Trump, if not the US – if it is run by a “tough guy” who locks up (or worse) critics and opponents. Democracies require leaders to answer too many questions, jump through too many hoops, and face too much resistance.
The second tenet of Donald Trump Thought provides a way to circumvent these inconveniences at home: Any news the leader doesn’t like is fake news. Reality is whatever makes the leader look good.
This tenet dictates the following imperative: Keep every idea so simple that it can be expressed in less than 280 characters, tweeted from the sofa, Fox News blaring. These ideas should appeal to the electorate’s most atavistic urges. Their defining message should be “blood and soil.”
Donald Trump Thought is easy to understand and requires little intellectual strain to master. First, be nice to countries where there is, or could be, a Trump Tower or other family franchise. Be particularly friendly to countries that roll out a long red carpet – or, better yet, a golden welcome mat – when Trump stops by.

20 November
The Nationalist’s Delusion
Trump’s supporters backed a time-honored American political tradition, disavowing racism while promising to enact a broad agenda of discrimination.
Less than three weeks before the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump declared himself “the least racist person you have ever met.”
Even before he won, the United States was consumed by a debate over the nature of his appeal. Was racism the driving force behind Trump’s candidacy? If so, how could Americans, the vast majority of whom say they oppose racism, back a racist candidate?
… What I found was that Trump embodied his supporters’ most profound beliefs—combining an insistence that discriminatory policies were necessary with vehement denials that his policies would discriminate and absolute outrage that the question would even be asked.
These supporters will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.

6 November
The Trump presidency: Looking back one year and forward one year
By Elaine Kamarck, Founding Director – Center for Effective Public Management, Senior Fellow – Governance Studies
(Brookings) It has been a year since Donald Trump was elected president, surprising most of the world and many of his supporters. Since then we have witnessed a president unlike any we have ever seen before; combative, unpredictable, uneducated in the substance of policy and consumed with himself. Can the presidency according to Donald Trump survive? Answering that involves looking back one year to election day and looking forward one year to the midterm elections.
By and large, the first year of his presidency has been nothing but one big self-inflicted wound. He failed to enact any of his big campaign promises, he got himself accused of obstruction of justice (an impeachable offense), he fanned the conspiracy flames around his relationship with Russia, he insulted and contradicted his staff, made enemies of allies, and sent a series of conflicting messages on policy. He has record-low approval ratings for this point in any presidency in the modern era and he has already provoked discussions of impeachment. A mere four months into Trump’s term and the “I” word (impeachment) was already in play.
the American constitutional system is doing what it was designed to do: check power. The press is not afraid of him—after all, he makes for good copy regardless of what he is doing, even if it’s attacking them. The courts are not afraid of him—they have turned down his immigration orders three times and indicted his campaign manager. Some Republican members of Congress, including Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), have been overtly critical. But while others have not followed suit in their public remarks, they have stopped his efforts to repeal Obamacare and have passed (by an overwhelming vote) legislation tying the president’s hands when it comes to lifting Russian sanctions. Trump may talk like a dictator but the Constitution is working just as it should to prevent him from behaving like one.
The first real test of the Trump presidency will occur a year from now in the midterm elections. Until then, we can only speculate on the effect of the Trump presidency. The judgement rendered in 2018 will be made in the context of historical trends. A sitting president’s party almost always loses seats in the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.
Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to gain control of the House. Historically this likely would have been easy, but Republican ability to gerrymander districts over the past decade has created fewer competitive districts. Nonetheless, there are some early signs that should make Democrats optimistic about the next year.All in all, Democrats in 2017 are looking as good or better than Republicans did in 2009 before their big wins in the 2010 midterms. But Trump has the advantage of a very healthy economy; unemployment is low, the stock market is high, and, perhaps most importantly, middle-class incomes are up and the poverty rate is down.
And, let’s face it, Americans are getting used to the reality TV show that is the Trump presidency. So far, his desires to be a dictator are unfulfilled; so far, he has not gotten us into a war; and so far, there is no proof that he colluded with Russians during his campaign. If these things remain, the 2018 verdict on Trump’s presidency may not be as bad as Democrats hope and Republicans fear.

11 October
Faster, Steve Bannon. Kill! Kill!

(WaPost) It is the Trumpian Anschluss, the peaceful takeover of a party too craven to fight back. Republican leaders cry, “You’re helping the Democrats win!” But that doesn’t matter to Bannon and Trump. For one thing, it may not even be true, for who can be sure that a thoroughly Trumpist Republican Party won’t be able to defeat a Democratic Party apparently bent on nominating unelectable candidates on the left? But either way, Bannon and Trump undoubtedly believe it is more important to turn the party into Trump’s personal vehicle, to drive out the resisters, the finger-waggers, the losers, the proud scions of the responsible establishment who could not stop Trump and apparently cannot legislate their way out of a paper bag.
Today the definition of a brave Republican is someone who is not running for reelection. So rooting for them is no longer an answer. The best thing for the country may be to let the party go. Let it become the party of Trump and Bannon, and as fast as possible.

9 October
A ‘pressure cooker’: Trump’s frustration and fury rupture alliances, threaten agenda
(WaPost) Frustrated by his Cabinet and angry that he has not received enough credit for his handling of three successive hurricanes, President Trump is now lashing out, rupturing alliances and imperiling his legislative agenda, numerous White House officials and outside advisers said Monday.
In a matter of days, Trump has torched bridges all around him, nearly imploded an informal deal with Democrats to protect young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, and plunged himself into the culture wars on issues ranging from birth control to the national anthem.
“We have been watching the slow-motion breakup of the Republican Party, and Trump is doing what he can to speed it up,” said Trump’s former chief strategist, Patrick Caddell …
“Trump is firmly placing himself on the outside, trying to become an almost independent president,” he said.  “He knows that many people will be with him, that he helps himself when he’s not seen as the Republican president. But what about his program? That’s the question — and possibly the cost of what he’s doing.”

15 September
The Loneliest President
He’s increasingly isolated in the White House, but for Donald Trump, being alone is not a liability. It’s where he’s most comfortable.
(Politico Magazine) His critics might see his growing isolation as a product of his political inexperience—an aversion to the norms of the legislative process, a penchant for topsy-turvy management. But as unprecedented as this might be in the annals of the West Wing, it’s merely a continuation of a lifelong pattern of behavior for Trump. Take away the Pennsylvania Avenue address, the never-ending list of domestic and international crises, and the couldn’t-be-higher geopolitical stakes—and this looks very much like … Trump throughout his entire existence. Isolated is how he’s always operated. … Trump, forever, has collected an array of acquaintances, fellow celebrities and photo-op props, while friendships mostly have been interchangeable, temporary and transactional.

The First White President
Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
(The Atlantic Magazine October 2017) It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. … Trump’s dominance among whites across class lines is of a piece with his larger dominance across nearly every white demographic. … From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to nascar dads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant. According to Mother Jones, based on preelection polling data, if you tallied the popular vote of only white America to derive 2016 electoral votes, Trump would have defeated Clinton 389 to 81, with the remaining 68 votes either a toss-up or unknown.
… The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of. Moreover, to accept that whiteness brought us Donald Trump is to accept whiteness as an existential danger to the country and the world. But if the broad and remarkable white support for Donald Trump can be reduced to the righteous anger of a noble class of smallville firefighters and evangelicals, mocked by Brooklyn hipsters and womanist professors into voting against their interests, then the threat of racism and whiteness, the threat of the heirloom, can be dismissed. Consciences can be eased; no deeper existential reckoning is required.
It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. … But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.

The departure (did he jump? was he pushed?) of Steve Bannon from the White House  signals a new chapter in this unique and stormy presidency.

9 September
Bound to No Party, Trump Upends 150 Years of Two-Party Rule
(NYT) President Trump demonstrated this past week that he still imagines himself a solitary cowboy as he abandoned Republican congressional leaders to forge a short-term fiscal deal with Democrats. Although elected as a Republican last year, Mr. Trump has shown in the nearly eight months in office that he is, in many ways, the first independent to hold the presidency since the advent of the current two-party system around the time of the Civil War.
In recent weeks, he has quarreled more with fellow Republicans than with the opposition, blasting congressional leaders on Twitter, ousting former party officials in his White House, embracing primary challenges to incumbent lawmakers who defied him and blaming Republican figures for not advancing his policy agenda. On Friday, he addressed discontent about his approach with a Twitter post that started, “Republicans, sorry,” as if he were not one of them, and said party leaders had a “death wish.”

8 September
Trump is making Americans see the U.S. the way the rest of the world already did
By Suzy Hansen, a writer living in Istanbul and the author of “Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World.”
(WaPost) The debate about how the United States elected an irresponsible nationalist like Trump has focused on why the first America, the supposedly beautiful one, failed, rather than why the second America, the ugly one, triumphed. But from abroad, Trump makes a lot more sense — and has much more in common with his predecessors and his countrymen — than many Americans realize.

29 August
Trump’s ability to govern tested by Harvey at home and North Korea abroad
(WaPost) Trump is a president who has no major accomplishments on Capitol Hill outside of the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice, is still under siege over his associates’ dealings with Russia during the campaign, is fighting an open war with his own Republican Party and is embroiled in a simmering feud with key members of his administration following his response to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville.
An effective response to either crisis could allow Trump to demonstrate an ability to govern that has remained elusive during the turbulent first months of his administration. But for many of the same reasons, skepticism also abounds.

28 August
Michael Gerson: Trump deepens the moral damage to the GOP
This presidential action is not “just” anything. Following his expression of sympathy for the “very fine people” attending a white- supremacist rally in Charlottesville — who were, he said, defending “our history and heritage” — Trump must have known his next move would be highly symbolic, either as a retreat from prejudice or as its affirmation. What followed with the Arpaio pardon constitutes the most forthright racist incitement of the Trump era.

26 August
Nicholas Kristof: There Once Was a Great Nation With an Unstable Leader
This might be a good time for disheartened Americans to remember that Rome survived Caligula.

25 August
Harvey doesn’t care about politics—Trump is about to face his first natural disaster
Trump will have a role in coordinating FEMA’s response and working with state governments.
President Trump’s flagrant Friday night news dump
(WaPost) It’s Friday night. A Category 4 hurricane is about to slam the Texas coastline, and President Trump just directed the Pentagon to ban transgender people from joining the military and pardoned a politically radioactive convicted former sheriff. News also broke that one of his more controversial advisers, Sebastian Gorka, is leaving the White House.
This isn’t your average sleepy Friday news dump — a trick newsmakers use to bury unpopular news by releasing it when most people aren’t reading news. This is a flagrant attempt to hide a series of politically fraught (but base-pleasing) moves under the cover of an August Friday night hurricane.
Pouring unpopular news out like this is an extremely politically risky decision for Trump. Hurricane Harvey is his first major test as emergency commander in chief. Earlier in the day, top Republicans had urged him to stop tweeting insults to them and focus on keeping people safe in Texas and Louisiana.
Trump pardons former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio
Arpaio’s pardon — the first of the Trump presidency — is a rarity among rarities. In recent decades, presidents have tended to issue controversial pardons at the end of their terms, not the beginning. The move raises questions about how often the president might pardon other political figures — and for what types of offenses.
In a statement announcing the pardon, Trump made no mention of Arpaio’s offense — criminal contempt of court — but praised his past military service.
Sebastian Gorka, a fiery nationalist and Bannon ally, abruptly exits White House
Gorka says he resigned because his faction had been silenced, but White House officials say he was pushed out.
(WaPost) Although Trump enjoyed watching his cable television appearances, in which he performed like a pit bull and taunted many news anchors for peddling what he and the president deemed “fake news,” Gorka had run afoul of many of his colleagues, including some on the National Security Council who considered him a fringe figure.
Officials said it was widely known that White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly was eager for Gorka to depart the administration.
No longer necessary?
Dems introduce legislation to keep Stephen Miller and Seb Gorka from getting paid
(Death & Taxes) The amendments, introduced by Reps. Barbara Lee and Jared Huffman, are part of the spending bill that Congress will be arguing over when they return from vacation after Labor Day. The amendments specifically name Miller and Gorka, whom Lee has previously called out as white supremacists and neo-Nazi sympathizers.

24 August
Trump defends his divergent personas, boasting of his ability to ‘change tones’ in three speeches
(WaPost) In a pair of morning tweets, Trump wrote, “The Fake News is now complaining about my different types of back to back speeches. Well, there was Afghanistan (somber), the big Rally …(enthusiastic, dynamic and fun) and the American Legion — V.A. (respectful and strong). Too bad the Dems have no one who can change tones!”
Different Day, Different Audience, and a Completely Different Trump
(NYT) President Trump reverted to his script as commander in chief here [Reno, Nevada] on Wednesday.
The morning after he delivered an aggrieved and impromptu defense of his comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Va., Mr. Trump spoke in a more measured tone to the national convention of the American Legion. …
It was a day-and-night contrast to Mr. Trump’s performance Tuesday night in Phoenix, where he lurched from subject to subject and accused the news media of ignoring what he insisted had been his message of unity in the aftermath of Charlottesville.
But such contrasts have become a recurring motif of his presidency: Mr. Trump has toggled between Teleprompter Trump and Unplugged Trump every day since the deadly clashes in Virginia, leaving Washington and the rest of the nation with a chronic case of rhetorical whiplash.

19 August
Bannon: ‘The Trump Presidency That We Fought For, and Won, Is Over,’by The Weekly Standard’s Peter J. Boyer: “With the departure from the White House of strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who helped shape the so-called nationalist-populist program embraced by Donald Trump in his unlikely path to election, a new phase of the Trump presidency begins. Given Trump’s nature, what comes next will hardly be conventional, but it may well be less willfully disruptive-which, to Bannon, had been the point of winning the White House. ‘The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,’ Bannon said Friday, shortly after confirming his departure. ‘We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.'”
A comprehensive summary
Inside the rise and fall of Steve Bannon
(Politico) Trump’s chief strategist had become increasingly isolated in the West Wing.
Bannon Is ‘Going Nuclear’
The ousted White House chief strategist is back at Breitbart News, and he’s planning to make mischief.
(The Atlantic) In firing Steve Bannon, President Trump has lost his chief ideologue, the man who channeled his base and advocated for the populist-nationalist policies that helped propel Trump to victory.
But he has gained an unpredictable and potentially troublesome outside ally who has long experience running a media organization, and an even longer list of enemies with whom he has scores to settle both outside the administration and inside.
Bannon exit raises new questions for White House
(The Hill) Steve Bannon’s days at the White House are over, but questions remain over how much influence — or chaos — he will cause from the outside.
“Steve’s allies in the populist-nationalist movement are ready to ride to the gates of hell with him against the West Wing Democrats and globalists like [deputy national security adviser] Dina Powell, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, [economic adviser] Gary Cohn and [national security adviser] H.R. McMaster,” said one Bannon ally

17 August
‘Art of the Deal’ writer predicts that Trump will resign by the end of the year
(LATimes) Tony Schwartz spent 18 months ghostwriting Trump’s bestselling 1987 memoir “The Art of the Deal,” which was based on Schwartz’s interviews with the brash New York developer who dominated the tabloids.
“Trump is going to resign and declare victory before Mueller and congress leave him no choice,” he tweeted. “Trump’s presidency is effectively over.”

Leave a Comment

comm comm comm