8 Things we Learned From the Kavanaugh Appointment

8 Things we Learned From the Kavanaugh Appointment

From the Weekly Standard:

(1) Naming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is the least Trumpiest thing Trump has done so far (tied with his appointment of Neil Gorsuch.) The often-erratic president followed a highly un-erratic path to this pick, outsourcing the vetting to groups such as the Federalist Society and working off a list of highly qualified, intellectually credible candidates. So we get a sterling pick for SCOTUS, from a White House that has in the past given us Seb Gorka, Anthony Scaramucci, and Omarosa. As Ross Douthat notes, at least on this one issue, “Trump has demonstrated that he’ll take his Trumpishness only so far.”

Rather than choosing a red-meat fight to entertain his base, he went with a candidate that the conservative legal establishment will embrace with enthusiasm (and relief).

(2) Naming Kavanaugh was the Bushiest thing Trump has done as president. No, we didn’t get Judge Janine or someone championed by Sean Hannity. Instead, Trump chose a veteran of the Bush White House and a Bush appointee, and (forgetting the unforgettable Harriet Miers fiasco for a moment), a judge very much in the mold of John Roberts and Sam Alito, the two George W. Bush appointees. And no, he’s not going to be another David Souter. That’s the point of having a list.

Our Summer of Jerkitude

Our Summer of Jerkitude

From the Weekly Standard:

As America continues its downward spiral of incivility, we have entered the Summer of Jerkitude. (I had thought about using a different word that ended in “-holery,” but wasn’t sure it would pass muster with the editors of a tasteful and intellectual publication like THE WEEKLY STANDARD.)

But “jerkitude” is a useful concept for our national moment of irritation and obnoxiousness. As it happens, some years ago, Eric Schwitzgebel, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, developed a comprehensive theory of the essence of jerkitude:

The jerk culpably fails to appreciate the perspectives of others around him, treating them as tools to be manipulated or idiots to be dealt with rather than as moral and epistemic peers. . . .The jerk himself is both intellectually and emotionally defective, and what he defectively fails to appreciate is both the intellectual and emotional perspectives of the people around him.

Which brings us to the owner who kicked Sarah Huckabee Sanders out of her restaurant, Robert DeNiro’s f-bomb at the Tony Awards, President Trump’s twitter feed, Corey Lewandowski’s “mwah-mwah” about a child with Down Syndrome, Maxine Waters, and actor, director, and thorough jerk, Seth Rogen.

Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump and the New Cruelty

Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump and the New Cruelty

From The Weekly Standard:

n the movie L.A. Story, the character played by Chevy Chase goes to a hyper-fashionable restaurant named, appropriately enough, L’Idiot.

He is greeted by the maitre d’, played by Patrick Stewart, who asks, ‘Your usual table?”

“No,” Chase’s character responds, “I’d like a good one this time.”

“I’m sorry, that is impossible,” Stewart’s character replies.

“Part of the new cruelty?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Although L.A. Story was released in 1991, it has supplied us with an apt rubric for our own times; the New Cruelty is the Trumpian successor to the New Deal and Great Society.

I was reminded of it watching the viral video of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, defend the policy of separating children from their mothers and fathers at the border. (Less than 24 hours later, Trump would reverse course and issue an executive order he said would stop the practice, although it’s unclear how that will work.)

Appearing on Fox News, Lewandowski mocked a story about a 10-yearold with Down syndrome being separated from her parents. “Wahh, wahh,” Lewandowski cracked, making “a dismissive trombone-like sound effect,” as the Washington Post described it.

The reaction to Lewandowski’s crassness was justifiably outraged. “There is no low to which this coward Corey Lewandowski won’t sink,” tweeted Megyn Kelly, “This man should not be afforded a national platform to spew his hate.”

And, indeed, Lewandowski seems especially vile in an era in which vileness increasingly appears to be a career path. But was his insensitive gibe off-message? Or was it simply a cruder version of the New Cruelty that has displaced whatever was left of “compassionate conservativism.”

Donald Trump's Sinister New Pardon Show

Donald Trump's Sinister New Pardon Show

Watch the television images: the joyous reunion of an elderly black woman with her family after being freed by a dramatic presidential pardon. Alice Marie Johnson had been imprisoned for more than 20 years on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. But she was freed by presidential fiat—Donald Trump commuted her sentence—after a high-profile appeal from Kim Kardashian.

The reviews were ecstatic across the political divide. ”Huge victory!!” declared commentator and progressive activist Van Jones, “Congrats to everyone who kept fighting, even when they said it was impossible.” On CNN, Jones hosted an emotional interview with Kardashian, who described the momentshe called Johnson with the news of her freedom.

"We cried, maybe, on the phone for like three minutes straight," an emotional Kardashian told CNN's Van Jones, recounting her advocacy for Johnson, and her role in President Donald Trump's decision to grant Johnson clemency on Wednesday. "Everyone was just crying."

This was all powerful stuff and no one understood the extraordinary made-for-television quality of the moment more than that inveterate television watcher, Donald Trump.

This will work for him, and he knows it.

Trump has already used his sweeping powers to wipe away the convictions of right-wing troll Dinesh D’Souza and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, as well as the late great Jack Johnson, but the president’s enthusiasm for pardons seems to be growing.

Under the Constitution, the power to pardon or commute is virtually unlimited. With the exception of impeachment, there are no real checks or balances. He requires no congressional action or even consultation; the courts play no role. With the exception of ordering military action, the pardon is perhaps the most awesome of presidential powers.

Roman emperors learned that they could score points with the public by providing bread and circuses; but at the heart of the imperial power was the gesture of thumbs up or thumbs down.

The pardon is the presidential equivalent of the thumb. With a simple edict, the president can confer freedom and redemption, at least for a favored few.

The Mystery of Scott Pruitt's Mattress

The Mystery of Scott Pruitt's Mattress

From the Weekly Standard:

I get the grifting, I even get the graft.

Human nature being what it is, there is nothing mysterious about Scott Pruitt’s penchant for self-dealing and aggrandizement. He is hardly the first newcomer to be seduced and corrupted by the blandishments of ego, power, prestige, and greed that power the nation’s capital.

This is especially true for officials in an administration that takes its cue from the firm of Giuliani, Cohen, and My Cousin Vinny.

So it’s cringeworthy, but not particularly shocking, that the EPA administrator would have a taste for sweetheart deals with lobbyists, first-class airfare, a 20-person security entourage, motorcades with flashing lights, and a $43,000 super-secret phone booth.

Given the concentric circles of sleaze in Trump World, not even Pruitt’s taste for nepotism seems especially out of place. We now learn that Pruitt somehow found the time to task an EPA aide with trying to help wrangle a Chick Fil-A franchise for his wife Marilyn.

Three months after Scott Pruitt was sworn in as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, his scheduler emailed Dan Cathy, chief executive of the fast-food company Chick-fil-A, with an unusual request: Would Cathy meet with Pruitt to discuss “a potential business opportunity”?

Apparently, nothing came of it, but the attempt to use his office and his staffers to score a deal for his family doesn’t win many points for subtlety (or legality). For Pruitt, it probably just seemed like an another day in a town that now does much of its schmoozing at the Trump Hotel and where the lines between governing and the family business often seem a bit vague.

Pruitt, nonetheless, has become the quintessential swamp creature of the Trump era. Given the competition, this is quite an accomplishment for a guy from Oklahoma.

I get all that. What I don’t get is the mattress.

In testimony to congressional investigators, Pruitt’s now ex-scheduler says that the EPA boss instructed her to track down a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel and to help him find a new apartment.

This is likely illegal:

Federal ethics standards prohibit such personal assistance by a subordinate, even if the employee is working outside of office hours . . . One provision bans the use of government time to handle personal matters. A second provision prohibits bosses from asking employees to handle personal matters for them outside of the office.

It is also incomprehensibly gross.

Is Donald Trump a Bernie Bro?

From the Weekly Standard:

In fairness, Steve Bannon has never really pretended to be a conservative.

“I’m a Leninist,” Steve Bannon told Ronald Radosh, back in 2013. “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

That included, of course, such antiquated ideas as free markets, fiscal conservatism, and small government. “Like [Andrew] Jackson's populism, we're going to build an entirely new political movement," he boasted to Michael Wolff back in November 2016. "The conservatives are going to go crazy. I'm the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. …. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution—conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement."

In retrospect, the reference to the 1930s—not an especially great decade for conservative policy—ought to have been a tip-off. So it probably should not come as a great shock to hear that Trump’s chief ideologist’s grand new vision includes incorporating a socialist as a part of the future of his movement, while flirting with the far right European parties.

“Europe is about a year ahead of the United States. ... You see populist-nationalist movements with reform [here]. ... You could begin to see the elements of Bernie Sanders coupled with the Trump movement that really becomes a dominant political force in American politics.”

Of course, it’s tempting to brush this off as Bannonite grandiloquence, but the crossover between Trumpism and Bernie-ism has always been an undercurrent of Bannon’s vision and Trump’s campaign.

Whether they fully grasp it or not, many Republicans seem to be embracing that post-conservative vision, especially as Trump flirts with trade wars and his administration openly contemplates forcing the use of coal and nuclear power on the nation’s grid operators.

The department’s strategy, outlined in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News, would use authority granted under a pair of federal laws to establish a “strategic electric generation reserve” and compel grid operators to buy electricity from at-risk plants. The steps are necessary, the memo says, to protect national security. [Emphasis added.]

Bernie would be proud.

Read the rest here:


Smug Alert!

From the Weekly Standard:

It is belatedly dawning on some progressives that they may need to more than just #resist Donald Trump to win elections. What, asks the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, is the big idea that Democrats will carry into the 2020 election?

I doubt it will be “cultural appropriation.”

As I write that sentence, I’m already feeling the blowback brewing out there, probably a hangover from my time in the social justice barrel last week.

It all began simply enough. This year’s Met Gala had the theme “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” featuring the usual collection of beautiful people and celebrities, rather unusually dressed up in faux-Catholic costumes.

Katy Perry showed up with an impressive set of angel’s wings; Victoria’s Secret model Taylor Hill wore an outfit that would have done a priest in the Spanish Inquisition proud. In its write-up, the New Yorker noted that actor/director Jared Leto showed up dressed as “an eccentric Jesus, in a floor-length liturgical stole and a golden crown of thorns,” while actress Olivia Munn, best known in these parts as the former girlfriend of Aaron Rodgers, turned up in “a custom H & M dress complete with a Monty Python-esque chain-mail coif,” which made her “the only guest who went full Crusades.” Madonna was also there, wearing something similarly Catholic-ish.

Naturally, this set off one of those minor cultural skirmishes that have become a fixture in our time.

Read the rest here: https://www.weeklystandard.com/charles-j-sykes/met-gala-chinese-prom-dresses-and-the-problem-with-whining-about-cultural-appropriation

Donald Trump's Crab Bucket Moral Universe

Donald Trump's Crab Bucket Moral Universe

From the Weekly Standard:

We should be clear about this. John McCain haunts the Trump White House, not because of his votes or policy disagreements, but because he represents the man that Donald Trump cannot ever be.

McCain, who is battling brain cancer, is exiting the stage as a Man in Full, his integrity intact and intent on having the last word. With every passing day he sharpens the contrast between himself and the man in the Oval Office: In his final book, due out this month, he writes of Trump that “[f]lattery secures his friendship, criticism his enmity.” The former prisoner of war has also expressed his opposition to the nomination of Gina Haspel to lead the CIA.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” White House aide Kelly Sadler reportedly quipped dismissively. Sadler’s crass comment drew angry and well-deserved rebukes. "People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a pointed statement. “It happened yesterday."

Notably, the White House does not deny Sadler’s mockery. But on Friday, Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, refused to apologize, expressing more concern about the leak than the attack itself. "I'm not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of a leaked meeting.” The voluble Trump himself is also notably silent, unwilling to make a single gracious gesture or expression of regret.

None of this should be surprising, because in Trump World, the tone is set from the top.

The Closing of the Liberal Mind

The Closing of the Liberal Mind

From the Weekly Standard:

This piece by Eric Levitz has been around for a few days and has already been widely panned. But I think it’s worth more discussion, if for no other reason than its unusual honesty.

Writing in New York Magazine's “Daily Intelligencer,” Levitz argues that in its quest for “diversity,” the liberal media doesn’t need conservatives. He’s not simply calling for the defenestration of provocative writers like Kevin Williamson; he argues that liberal publications can do without any conservative voices at all.

Levitz makes two general points: Conservative ideas have no merit because the right is wrong just about everything and that conservative intellectuals have no constituency to speak of. “Donald Trump’s election exposed the irrelevance of conservative intellectuals,” he writes, “and thereby, the incoherence of many a liberal publication’s mission statement.”

The Indispensability of Hannah Arendt in the Age of Trump

The Indispensability of Hannah Arendt in the Age of Trump

From the Weekly Standard:

One of my favorite stories about Winston Churchill goes like this.

Churchill: "Madam, would you sleep with me for 5 million pounds?" 

Socialite: "My goodness, Mr. Churchill ... Well, I suppose ...”

Churchill: "Would you sleep with me for 5 pounds?"

Socialite: "Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!"

Churchill: "Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”

Unfortunately, the story is what we would now call fake news. The same anecdote has been attributed at various times to George Bernard Shaw, Groucho Marx, Mark Twain, W.C. Fields, Bertrand Russell, H.G. Wells, and, implausibly, Woodrow Wilson.

In time, it will probably be ascribed to Donald Trump.

But the story came to mind last week, when the Washington Post’s Dan Balz asked, “Does it bother anyone that President Trump has been caught lying? Does it bother anyone that this is not new? Does it bother anyone that the president has been shown to be a liar?”

Stephen Hayes and I discussed the question on the Daily Standard podcast last week.

Of course, we pretty much know the answer. Many Americans, perhaps most, do indeed care. But in an age of tribal and transactional politics, a lot of folks frankly don’t, and are not afraid to say so:

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.) said Sunday that he believes Americans are more concerned with the economy than falsehoods from President Trump.

“I think people are much more concerned about the economy and job preparation,” Blunt told CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that Trump's misstatements did not come up during a visit last week to his home state…

Blunt’s comments echoed USA Today’s report from a focus group of Trump supporters: “Yes, they think President Trump's lying about Stormy Daniels. And no, they really do not care.”

Americans who voted for the president say they don't believe his denial of the adult film star's claim that she had a 2006 affair with Trump, the same year that Melania Trump gave birth to their son Barron. But that hasn't tempered their sky-high support for the president.

This is no longer a bug. It is a feature, wherein the indifference to Trump’s mendacity has become as much a reflex as the right’s newfound moral relativism. We are no longer even haggling about the price.

Matt Schlapp Has a Point, Sort Of.

Matt Schlapp Has a Point, Sort Of.

From the Weekly Standard:

I wasn’t going to write anything about Matt Schlapp this week but I think it’s never a good idea pass up the opportunity to use the word “oleaginous.”

Last week, Schlapp became one of the central figures of the Bonfire of Hypocrisy set off by the latest iteration of the White House Correspondent’s dinner.

Even in a town where obsequious careerism is a way of life, Schlapp and his wife Mercedes, have found a way to distinguish themselves, becoming in the words of a New York Times profile, D.C.’s new “it couple.”

While others have twisted themselves into pretzels to accommodate the demands of the Trump era, the Schlapps have taken the effort to a distinctive conjugal level. These days, their oleaginous talents are devoted to an audience of one. “Before falling asleep each night,” the Times reported, ‘ the couple would lie in bed rehearsing how they would explain this or that Trumpian tweet or uproar on TV the next morning.”

Not surprisingly, when the Schlapps chose to walk out of the White House Correspondence Dinner in protest of the comedian Michelle Wolf’s offensive humor, it set off irony meters across the punditocracy.

And then there was this detail from The Times story:

 "It’s why America hates the out of touch leftist media elite,” Ms. Schlapp tweeted from a limousine en route to an exclusive after-party organized by NBC/MSNBC." (Asked about the couple’s own membership in the elite, Mr. Schlapp responded, “I mean, I’m not trying to act like I’m driving a garbage truck in Des Moines.”)

Having exhausted the possibilities of self-parody, one imagines that Schlapp dropped the mic. But he didn’t, because he never does.

Pence Demonstrated How Trumpism Corrupts.

Pence Demonstrated How Trumpism Corrupts.

We’re too close to all of this to know whether we are living through farce or tragedy. The return of President Trump’s former doctor Harold Bornstein to the national stage suggests the latter. Bornstein now admits that his glowing letter declaring “unequivocally,” that Trump “will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” was, in fact dictated by Trump himself.

But we all sort of knew that, didn’t we? (We should have.)

We have also grown used to watching how proximity to Trump seems to diminish otherwise rational and respected players. Since Trump won’t adapt to the role of the presidency, others adapt to him, and the results are seldom pretty.

Which brings us to Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance in Arizona, and his shout out to former Sheriff Joe Arpaio:

Pence said at the tax event that he was “honored” by the former sheriff’s attendance, and called Arpaio a “great friend of this president and tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law,” to cheers from the crowd.

Where to even begin? Far from being a champion of the “rule of law,” Arpaio is a man who defied the law to violate constitutional rights. He was convicted of criminal contempt for violating a federal court order to stop detaining immigrants who had not broken the law.


Pat Buchanan's Brave New World

Pat Buchanan's Brave New World

From the Weekly Standard:

It’s springtime for Pat Buchanan.

Once a respected voice on the right, erstwhile presidential candidate, and omnipresent talking head, Pat Buchanan has in recent years languished in obscurity, so it would be easy to dismiss him as a bitter, disappointed figure skulking at the fringes since being effectively and appropriately cast out of the conservative movement for his chronic flirtation with anti-Semitism. But it is difficult to deny his influence on a strain of right-wing politics that, until recently, has lain dormant.

Indeed, Buchanan was pushing his nationalist, nativist, anti-globalist politics while Donald Trump was still trolling the New York tabloids, stalking Playboy models, and donating to Democrats. But with Trump’s rise, Buchananism is getting a second wind, and with a bizarre twist: Pat Buchanan has grown disgusted with democracy itself.

This isn’t entirely new. Buchanan’s animus toward the “democracy worshippers of the West” is something he has been nursing for years, but in a recent column, he made his position explicit, along with his admiration for authoritarian strong men like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. “The title the Ayatollah bestowed upon us, ‘The Great Satan,’ is not altogether undeserved,” he wrote (emphasis added).

As columnist Anne Applebaum asked, “Who else on the American Right now openly hates America?”

The Conscience of Ann Coulter

The Conscience of Ann Coulter

Give her credit: Ann Coulter is a woman of strong convictions. Those convictions may be wrongheaded, bizarre, and even bigoted, but she knows what she believes and is willing to hold Donald Trump accountable. Unless he builds the wall (and not just some candy-ass fence) she's done with him—ready to turn on him with the white hot bitterness of the true believer who suddenly awakes to betrayal.

It's easy to mock Coulter, who wrote a book titled In Trump We Trust, for ever thinking she could trust Trump (and I will probably go on doing so), but at least something mattered to her. Unlike the cultists for whom Trump can do no wrong, and who will not hold him to any of his promises as long as he fights the right enemies, Coulter's politics have a very clear standard. "We have been betrayed over and over and over with presidents promising to do something about immigration," she explained to the New York Times's Frank Bruni. "If he played us for suckers, oh, you will not see rage like you have seen."

Trump does seem worried. After a few days pretending that he hadn't really been rolled on the border wall (Congress allocated only $1.6 billion of the $25 billion he had requested in the budget passed last month), Trump has ramped up his anti-immigrant rhetoric, killed the deal to regularize the status of so-called "dreamers," lashed out at Mexico, and authorized sending the National Guard to patrol the border.

The GOP Surrenders to Trump

The GOP Surrenders to Trump

My latest in the New York Daily News:

It is not Donald Trump's fault that the State of the Union has devolved into a reality television spectacle, with equal parts puffery and pep rally.

What Trump has done, however, has been to turn it into a full-fledged alternative reality experience in which we get to imagine that he might actually be a uniter, a statesman and an empathetic human being. He is, of course, none of those things, but for a while last week both partisans and pundits could indulge their fantasies.

The occasion did, however, serve to highlight a genuine reality in Washington D.C.: the surrender of the GOP to Trump and its willingness to serve as his political praetorian guard.

Rituals of sycophantic abasement by the GOP have by now become almost routine, as we saw with the fawning praise heaped on the President at the celebration following the passage of the tax cut bill.

But last week had a different feel to it. We saw was the GOP's full-blooded embrace of the Trump presidency and of Trump himself, including his attempts to obstruct and derail the investigation into his conduct.

Ruth, Meet Gracie

Ruth, Meet Gracie

My latest in the Weekly Standard:

I wish Ruth Marcus had come to the birthday party Wednesday night.

Not that I know her that well, but I’ve always found her pleasant, decent, and smart. We’ve exchanged green room pleasantries and apparently last week during a joint appearance, I introduced her to the term “pornstache” (in a discussion of John Bolton’s facial hair).

A few weeks ago, Marcus created a stir with her column headlined: “I would’ve aborted a fetus with Down syndrome. Women need that right.” A mother of two, Marcus wrote that she was old enough to be tested for Down syndrome after the 15thweek of her pregnancy. “I can say without hesitation,” she wrote, “that, tragic as I would have felt, and ghastly as a second-trimester abortion would have been, I would have terminated those pregnancies had the testing come back positive. I would have grieved the loss and moved on.”

I would have liked to have taken Ms. Marcus to Gracie Jagler’s 21st birthday party.

Gracie had her hair done for the event and a limousine brought her to the local Elks Club lodge for the gathering of families and friends. Coincidentally, her birthday fell on World Down Syndrome Day, which was appropriate since Gracie was born with an extra chromosome.

National Review.... Reviews "How the Right Lost Its Mind"

National Review.... Reviews "How the Right Lost Its Mind"

From the November 13, 2017 edition.

By Guy Benson

For years, Charlie Sykes sat atop the totem pole of Wisconsin’s extraordinarily influential talk-radio universe. He and his fellow righty talkers played an integral role in reshaping the Badger State’s politics from progressive blue to reformist red, serving as indispensable allies to the political figures who ushered in this improbable transformation — Governor Scott Walker, House speaker Paul Ryan, former RNC chairman and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and Senator Ron Johnson the most prominent among them. Electoral victories brought real results, with Sykes serving on the front lines to defend and buttress the Walker administration on a string of paradigm-shifting reforms. Most notable was the controversial, and ultimately successful, budget overhaul that whipped Wisconsin’s organized Left into a frenzy, culminating in a powerful rebuke to them by voters in 2012’s failed recall election — an outcome in which Sykes & Co. had a significant hand.

It’s jarring, therefore, to watch Sykes promote his new book, How the Right Lost Its Mind, as a celebrated guest on MSNBC. It’s the same cable-news network whose hosts’ exquisitely gloomy election-night reactions to Walker’s recall triumph were a source of schadenfreude-filled delight to many conservatives, Sykes very much included. Following a rather abrupt retirement, which might look to some observers like a self-imposed exile, the polite, bespectacled commentator is now off the radio dial in Wisconsin. His new on-air home is alongside Rachel Maddow and friends. In some conservative circles, ostensibly conservative pundits whose bread is disproportionately buttered by criticizing Republicans from the left are often derided for making a living by being useful to liberals. You know the formulation the liberals use: “Even Conservative X says . . .”

But given Sykes’s years of unassailable service to the conservative cause in a critical battleground state, it feels deeply unfair to cast him as someone eager to be useful to the Left. Just the opposite: He devoted his long-running daily radio program to being a pestering, relentless, effective thorn in liberals’ side. Wisconsin Democrats have the battle scars to prove it. So, to borrow from the title of another post-election book, what happened?

Is Donald Trump's Presidency Becoming... Normal?

Is Donald Trump's Presidency Becoming... Normal?

Even though Donald Trump’s poll number continue to be abysmal, there is something of an anti-anti-Trump backlash underway in GOP circles. Never-Trump conservatives have never been a particularly robust group and their numbers seem to be dwindling by the day. But now they are taking friendly fire.  Even the venerable Trump skeptic David Brooks suggests in The New York Times that Trump critcs have not only gone too far in their opposition, but actually seem to “be getting dumber.”

While Brooks appears to be reacting to the Michael Woolf’s journalistically-challenged best seller, he is echoing a growing refrain on the right: If you ignore Trump’s tweets and other erratic utterances, his presidency is really not all that bad. (Brooks wrote just days before Trump referred to African countries as “shitholes.”)

The argument from Brooks and other Trump rationalizers s actually quite plausible: under Trump the GOP has been able to pass sweeping tax reform, eliminate the individual mandate, roll back the regulatory state, and install conservative judges throughout the federal judiciary, including, most notably, the Supreme Court.  The stock market continues to soar, unemployment is down, and the excommunication of Steve Bannon could mark a turn toward a more normal presidency, with rational and prudent center-right figures now steering the policy ship.

Some Tips for Retirement in the Age of Trump

Some Tips for Retirement in the Age of Trump

My gratuitous advice in Sunday's New York Times:

Milwaukee — When I retired from daily broadcasting in late 2016, I knew I had to make some serious resolutions. I no longer had to set the alarm for 4:15 a.m., but I didn’t want to sleep so late that I spent the morning walking around the house in a robe. (Trust me, that’ll happen sooner than you think.)

I also knew that I needed to continue to speak out about the bizarre fever that seemed to have gripped my fellow conservatives who had embraced Donald Trump.

Originally, my plan was to sit in a rocking chair, and after a few weeks to start rocking. But the election wrecked those plans, making retirement in the Era of Trump a complicated affair.

I started thinking about that this past week, when Orrin Hatch, the seven-term Republican senator from Utah, announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election this year. He joins two Republican colleagues, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, in announcing retirement. Word is that Steve Bannon is also likely to have a lot more free time on his hands soon, especially since the billionaire Mercer family has cut off his funding, one of the few things that has kept him relevant.

So even though they didn’t ask, I’m going to offer some pointers.

Read the whole thing here: 


What the Trump-Bannon Crackup Means.. and Doesn't Mean

What the Trump-Bannon Crackup Means.. and Doesn't Mean

My latest in Sunday's New York Daily News:

The increasingly nasty breakup between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon could mark the first genuine rupture in the Trumpist ranks, but so far the civil war on the right has been decidedly one-sided.

Bannon has been abandoned by many of his populist-nationalist media allies, who scurried to establish their fealty to the regime. Perhaps worse for Bannon, he has alienated his dark money patrons, the Mercers, a breach that may cost him his job at Breitbart.

In his romantic self-regard, Bannon is likely to think of himself as the Robespierre of this Trumpian revolution, who was ultimately destroyed by the forces he helped release. But Bannon is reaping what he has sowed.

For the last year, he imagined that he could control, shape and use Donald Trump as an empty vessel to fill with his poisonous worldview (he even at one point described him as an "imperfect vessel" for the political upheaval he had long been envisioning). Like so many others on the right, Steve Bannon thought he could ride the tiger. Instead, he and his allies have become the latest road kill in this shambolic presidency.