What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like

David Brooks, writing in the New York Times:

I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.

Trump’s White House staff is at war with itself. His poll ratings are falling at unprecedented speed. His policy agenda is stalled. F.B.I. investigations are just beginning. This does not feel like a sustainable operation.

On the other hand, I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.

There are no longer moral arbiters in Congress like Howard Baker and Sam Ervin to lead a resignation or impeachment process. There is no longer a single media establishment that shapes how the country sees the president. This is no longer a country in which everybody experiences the same reality.

Everything about Trump that appalls 65 percent of America strengthens him with the other 35 percent, and he can ride that group for a while. Even after these horrible four weeks, Republicans on Capitol Hill are not close to abandoning their man.

The likelihood is this: We’re going to have an administration that has morally and politically collapsed, without actually going away.

What does that look like?

First, it means an administration that is passive, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing. To get anything done, a president depends on the vast machinery of the U.S. government. But Trump doesn’t mesh with that machinery. He is personality-based while it is rule-based. Furthermore, he’s declared war on it. And when you declare war on the establishment, it declares war on you.

The Civil Service has a thousand ways to ignore or sit on any presidential order. The court system has given itself carte blanche to overturn any Trump initiative, even on the flimsiest legal grounds. The intelligence community has only just begun to undermine this president.

President Trump can push all the pretty buttons on the command deck of the Starship Enterprise, but don’t expect anything to actually happen, because they are not attached.

Second, this will probably become a more insular administration. Usually when administrations stumble, they fire a few people and bring in the grown-ups — the James Baker or the David Gergen types. But Trump is anti-grown-up, so it’s hard to imagine Chief of Staff Haley Barbour. Instead, the circle of trust seems to be shrinking to his daughter, her husband and Stephen Bannon.

Bannon has a coherent worldview, which is a huge advantage when all is chaos. It’s interesting how many of Bannon’s rivals have woken up with knives in their backs. Michael Flynn is gone. Reince Priebus has been unmanned by a thousand White House leaks. Rex Tillerson had the potential to be an effective secretary of state, but Bannon neutered him last week by denying him the ability to even select his own deputy.

In an administration in which “promoted beyond his capacity” takes on new meaning, Bannon looms. With each passing day, Trump talks more like Bannon without the background reading.

Third, we are about to enter a decentralized world. For the past 70 years most nations have instinctively looked to the U.S. for leadership, either to follow or oppose. But in capitals around the world, intelligence agencies are drafting memos with advice on how to play Donald Trump.

The first conclusion is obvious. This administration is more like a medieval monarchy than a modern nation-state. It’s more “The Madness of King George” than “The Missiles of October.” The key currency is not power, it’s flattery.

The corollary is that Trump is ripe to be played. Give the boy a lollipop and he won’t notice if you steal his lunch. The Japanese gave Trump a new jobs announcement he could take to the Midwest, and in return they got presidential attention and coddling that other governments would have died for.

If you want to roll the Trump administration, you’ve got to get in line. The Israelis got a possible one-state solution. The Chinese got Trump to flip-flop on the “One China” policy. The Europeans got him to do a 180 on undoing the Iran nuclear deal.

More here.

Early Signs Suggest Trump’s Actions Are Taking a Toll on Trump Brand

Rachel Abrams, writing in the New York Times:

Since the day Donald J. Trump began his presidential campaign, there were questions about how the Trump brand would be affected. Would his stream of insults hurt viewership of “The Apprentice” or sales of Ivanka Trump shoes? Or was all the attention good for business, a marketing adage President Trump could have learned during his time as a reality television star.

The answer may surprise him.

Major companies appear to be re-evaluating their relationships with the Trump brand, which, in some instances, does not appear to have benefited from Mr. Trump’s presidency. Hinting at lackluster sales, Neiman Marcus confirmed on Friday that it had dropped Ivanka Trump’s jewelry line from its website. A day earlier, her brand had disappeared from Nordstrom.com, a move reported by the fashion news site Racked.

Not everyone was happy that retailers were distancing themselves from the Trump name. By Saturday, some Twitter users were posting #BoycottNordstrom.

Companies also seem worried about how protests over the president’s actions, particularly his recent executive order on immigration, could hurt sales.

On Friday, MillerCoors, a brewing company, contacted Shannon Coulter, a founder of GrabYourWallet.org, a campaign pushing for boycotts of Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and other businesses associated with the Trump name.

“He wanted to talk about why they were on the list,” she said, adding, “I think all the companies are paying close attention.”

At a time when protests and boycotts can easily be organized online, brands face more pressure to respond to consumer demands.

More here.

Trump pressured Park Service to find proof for his claims about inauguration crowd

Via The Washington Post:

On the morning after Donald Trump’s inauguration, acting National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds received an extraordinary summons: The new president wanted to talk to him.

In a Saturday phone call, Trump personally ordered Reynolds to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the Mall, according to three individuals who have knowledge of the conversation. The president believed that the photos might prove that the media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average.

Trump also expressed anger over a retweet sent from the agency’s account, in which side-by-side photographs showed far fewer people at his swearing-in than had shown up to see Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

According to one account, Reynolds had been contacted by the White House and given a phone number to call. When he dialed it, he was told to hold for the president.

For Trump, who sees himself and his achievements in superlative terms, the inauguration’s crowd size has been a source of grievance that he appears unable to put behind him. It is a measure of his fixation on the issue that he would devote part of his first morning in office to it — and that he would take out his frustrations on an acting Park Service director.

Word rapidly spread through the agency and Washington. The individuals who informed The Washington Post about the call did so on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the conversation.

Neither Reynolds nor the Park Service would talk about it.

“The National Park Service does not comment on internal conversations among administration officials,” agency spokesman Thomas Crosson said.

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the call simply demonstrated that Trump’s management style is to be “so accessible, and constantly in touch.”

“He’s not somebody who sits around and waits. He takes action and gets things done,” Sanders said. “That’s one of the reasons that he is president today, and Hillary Clinton isn’t.”

On Saturday, the same day Trump spoke with Reynolds, the new president used an appearance at CIA headquarters to deliver a blistering attack on the media for reporting that large swaths of the Mall were nearly empty during the event.

“It’s a lie,” Trump said. “We caught [the media]. We caught them in a beauty.”

“It looked like a million, a million and a half people,” Trump said, vastly inflating what the available evidence suggested.

More here.

Donald Trump continues out of control behavior. He simply cannot stand to be stopped in virtually any behavior.

Kathleen Parker: Trump has released a malevolent spirit upon the land

Via The Washington Post:

As usual, the year’s end brings reflections and ruminations on what was and what is to be. This time around, however, it feels as though an era is coming to an end.

That gentle frisson between past and future about which columnists customarily write feels vaguely apocalyptic as we approach the new year.

The usual regrets — too much ice cream, not enough exercise, too quick with a retort, not enough thank-you notes — all feel quaintly irrelevant juxtaposed against a collection of very real fears about the future. During a year of bitter political infighting — sister against sister, neighbor against neighbor — we’ve lost a better part of ourselves and unleashed armies of vengeful strangers.

To put a fine point on it, Donald Trump’s election has released a malevolent spirit upon the land. He invoked the magic message — essentially them vs. us — and the demons disembarked from their dark hiding places. He raided the lost ark and lifted the lid, and the whirlwind of humankind’s worst impulses escaped.

Hyperbolic, yes. But when the next leader of the free world casually comments that we need to build up our nuclear arsenal — and seems to welcome a return of the Cold War — alarm expressed in the strongest terms possible is required. When such alarm did find expression around the nation and the world, the president-elect huddled in his “fake news” bunker and claimed that his remarks were quoted incompletely. He took special aim at NBC News, tweeting that the network “purposely left out this part of my nuclear qoute [sic]: ‘until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.’ Dishonest!”

If NBC staffers left out the balance of his tweet, shame on them, but the rest of what he said adds nothing to assuage the larger concern that he thinks we need more nukes. Or, since this apparently needs pointing out, that he believes having more nukes will have no effect whatsoever until the rest of the world comes to its senses. My guess is the rest of the world is thinking the exact same thing: This president-elect is not in his senses — and he makes no sense.

Trump’s complete original quote, as usual offered via Twitter, was: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

Really? By “greatly” expanding our already huge nuclear arsenal, other leaders will come to their senses regarding nukes? Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed earlier on the same day that he wishes to boost his country’s nuclear strength, too. Just great.

And, really, again. What’s with making such war-mongering threats when you’re not in the White House yet? Tweeting on matters of such import is unpresidential, not to mention unmanly. Also, it’s insane !

Much more here.

James Madison offers a take on our current election challenges

James Madison, via The Yale Record:

Hey there shitheads. Remember me? Yeah, it’s James fucking Madison. Third Secretary of State? Supervisor of the Louisiana Purchase? Fourth President of the United States of America? That guy. How’s it going?

What’s that? You’re scared? You’re worried you might elect as the next President a misogynistic turkey leg that somehow escaped the state fair, fell into a bale of hay, and inexplicably managed to bankrupt six companies? Oh dear, that sounds stressful. And nobody saw it coming? Wow, that sucks. I mean, Jesus Christ, how did nobody consider that one day, some insane demagogue might incite a populist rebellion and threaten to shit on our country? How did no one think to create some kind of safeguard?


Remember that Constitution you guys all say you loooove so much? Yeah, I wrote that shit. All of it. Even though for some reason you assholes keep thinking it was Jefferson. And because I’m way smarter than all of you, I wrote in a little something I call the Electoral College.

ARTICLE II SECTION 1, NIMRODS. Maybe if you had paid attention in civics class instead of fantasizing about having seven seconds in heaven with Joey Leibowitz during free period you would know about it. But here, let me break it down for you.

As this election cycle has clearly shown, you are all fucking morons. And that’s the problem with republics:, they let everybody vote for elected officials. Even the idiots, which, as we’ve established, is most of you. So, I figured that instead of letting you motherfuckers decide who runs the free world, I would let some people who aren’t quite as goddamned stupid make the actual decisions. Yeah sure, you all get to go to your cute little polling places and cast your adorable fucking ballots, but the actual decision would be made by people called electors who actually, you know, have some basic understanding of the abilities a president needs instead of making decisions based on the fact that their daddies didn’t love them enough and now they feel the need to take out their loneliness and anger on Mexican immigrants. Or whatever.

Now, for the most part, the electors would do whatever voters said. I mean, as stupid as you all are, you would normally manage to at least pick someone whose skin doesn’t look like a burnt creamsicle.




If you fucktards DID elect somebody with an inferiority complex as big as his hands are tiny, those electors could override you. HOLY SHIT. What a concept. And now I bet you’re all thinking, “Gee thanks, Jim. Looks like you saved our asses again. How’d you like an ice cold beer and a blowjob?”

But NOOOOO, you assholes wanted more DEMOCRACY. So most states decided to pass laws that bind the electors so that no matter what decision you impotent mouth-breathers make, they have to follow it.

So just remember in November that if you numbskulls decide to elect a trench coat of 12 xenophobic raccoons masquerading as a person, I tried my fucking best to stop it. You assholes only have yourselves to blame.

—A. Chase

The President as unilateral executioner

The New York Times has reported that the President himself decides which people, including American citizens, should be targeted for execution via drone (and other) forms of attack. The claim that Americans can be killed at the order of a sitting President, with no due process proceedings or court review, is so dangerous to civil liberties that it should be obvious that it is not constitutional.

Today, an editorial in the Times warns of this danger:

Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he can be thoughtful and farsighted, but, like all occupants of the Oval Office, he is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights — without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.

How can the world know whether the targets chosen by this president or his successors are truly dangerous terrorists and not just people with the wrong associations? (It is clear, for instance, that many of those rounded up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks weren’t terrorists.) How can the world know whether this president or a successor truly pursued all methods short of assassination, or instead — to avoid a political charge of weakness — built up a tough-sounding list of kills?

It is too easy to say that this is a natural power of a commander in chief. The United States cannot be in a perpetual war on terror that allows lethal force against anyone, anywhere, for any perceived threat. That power is too great, and too easily abused, as those who lived through the George W. Bush administration will remember.

Please go to this petition opposing such unilateral power on the official White House website and sign it.  If 25,000 signatures are filed, the White House must respond.

Political quote of the day

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 20: President George W. B...
Birds of a Feather

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

— Barack Obama