Trump Can’t Win the Blame Game

Like any president, he’ll be judged by his results. So far, he’s failed to deliver much.

.. Mr. McConnell said the president had shown “excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”

This is accurate. Mr. Trump frequently says things like “We are moving very quickly” (referring to health care, on Feb. 27), “We are going to have tax reform at some point very soon” (April 12), and that his administration’s infrastructure plan will “take off like a rocket ship” (June 8).

.. Blaming others may be cathartic for Mr. Trump, but it weakens the presidency and inhibits his agenda.
.. So where are the administration’s focused efforts to use the presidential megaphone to explain the GOP agenda and persuade voters? An early-hours tweet may enthuse true believers, but 140 characters won’t sway most Americans and may even repel them.

Where are the speeches explaining the plan to replace ObamaCare and why it would be better? Where are the Oval Office addresses on why tax reform would produce better jobs and bigger paychecks? Where are the choruses echoing the president’s arguments for an infrastructure bill? They are nowhere to be found.

Missing also are the administration’s legislative proposals, such as an actual infrastructure bill. Although the White House website touts a trillion-dollar price tag for Mr. Trump’s program, it devotes just 314 words to outlining its provisions. As a reference point, that is fewer than half the words in this column—not enough for a major piece of legislation.

Trump Presser Fallout

1. The President of the United States cannot control himself. I know, this isn’t really news, but good grief, it is hard to imagine a president who does more damage to himself by not being able to handle his own temper. Even if he 100 percent believed the things he said today, he ought to have enough sense than to say them publicly. If I worked for this administration, I would send my resume out tonight — if not out of a sense of self-respect, then out of a sense of self-preservation. Trump’s temperament is going to bring his presidency crashing down. It has already started.

2. Trump is openly trying to legitimize people who should never be legitimized. Look at this exchange from today’s press conference

.. Now, let me be clear: there really are very fine people who are opposed to taking down Confederate statues. I know some of them. Their kind would not have gone anywhere near that far-right event in Charlottesville.

Among the far-right groups engaged in organizing the march were the

  • clubs of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer,
  • the neo-Confederate League of the South,
  • the National Policy Institute [Richard Spencer’s think tank],
  • and the National Socialist Movement.

Other groups involved in the rally were

  • the Ku Klux Klan,
  • the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights,
  • the 3 Percenters,
  • the Traditionalist Workers Party,
  • Identity Evropa,
  • the Oath Keepers,
  • Vanguard America,
  • the American Guard,
  • the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia,
  • the New York Light Foot Militia,
  • the Virginia Minutemen Militia,
  • the Nationalist Front,
  • the Rise Above Movement,
  • True Cascadia,
  • and Anti-Communist Action.

Prominent far-right figures in attendance included

  • Richard B. Spencer,
  • Baked Alaska,
  • Augustus Invictus [an occultist, by the way — RD],
  • David Duke,
  • Nathan Damigo,
  • Matthew Heimbach,
  • Faith Goldy,
  • Mike Enoch,
  • League of the South founder Michael Hill,
  • AltRight.com editor Daniel Friberg,
  • former Business Insider CTO Pax Dickinson,
  • Daily Stormer writers Johnny Monoxide,
  • self-described “white activist” and organizer Jason Kessler, and
  • radio host Christopher Cantwell.

.. Who among this crew is a “very fine” person? The rally was called “Unite The Right,” so named by organizers because they wanted to bring together all the far-right groups. If you went down to that protest this weekend and marched alongside neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen, you deserve to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

3. Trump was right about the role of the antifa provocateurs, and he was right about this:

It is perfectly legitimate to raise the question of where this ends. Once the anti-Confederate crusaders remove all those statues, they’re going to turn on the Founding Fathers who owned slaves. Why wouldn’t they? And on what principle will they be stopped?

..  Christine Emba in the Washington Post. “It’s privileged status, not history, that’s being protected.” If this is a war on symbols of “privileged status,” it can never end.

.. Trump’s point is perfectly legitimate, and an important one. But the aftermath of Charlottesville is not the time or the context in which to discuss it. It is also perfectly legitimate to discuss the role of violent antifa provocateurs — but not when you are the President of the United States, and you are under fire for being unable to straightforwardly condemn neo-Nazis and Klansmen. 

.. The Left is emboldened now, and fired up. Trump is an accelerant. They will get nastier and more confrontational.

.. People on the Right — ordinary people, not far-right activists or people who identify with the far right in any way — will become angrier and more afraid of what the Left in power means for them.

.. watch the reaction to Mark Lilla’s book The Once And Future Liberal, which exhorts the left to abandon identity politics so they can start winning elections.) The radicalized Left will overreach, and we will see even angrier, more conservative Republicans elected to Congress.

.. 5. The Left — including in the media — will now despise all Trump voters equally, without qualification.

.. The liberal journalist Chris Arnade has been doing incredible work actually traveling the country and visiting Trump voters among the down and out. He’s made the point over and over again that a lot of people voted for Trump not because they’re bigots, but because they are in desperate straits, and have concluded that they have been forgotten by elites.

6. Trump has definitively made his brand pure poison. Anybody who stands by him going forward is going to suffer for it. Look at this:

7. The nation is at an extraordinarily weak moment. Nearly two out of three Americans disapprove of the president. That’s bad news for any president, but in Trump’s case, it’s worse, because he’s so polarizing. If this country were to face a serious crisis — a war, in the worst case — do you really see the nation uniting around Donald Trump? If I were an enemy of America, I would see this as an opportunity.

UPDATE: Here is a link to a 22-minute VICE report on the weekend’s events in Charlottesville.  Warning: it is not safe for work, because of language. But you need to see it if you have time. These far-right provocateurs are demonic. At the end, Christopher Cantwell, one of the leaders (and a heavily armed dude from New Hampshire) tells the reporter that the killing of the female protester by the fascist kid driving a car was justified — and that by the time they’re done, there will be a lot more dead. Watch it. It’s chilling.

Trump Loses Corporate America

There is no point in taking brickbats for a president who does not deliver.

Especially he has not made headway on corporate taxes—the issue that bought him whatever benefit of the doubt America’s CEO class was willing to give him.

..  Mr. Trump is the one party to these exchanges who doesn’t have three layers of advisers to help him discover his deepest thoughts. If he did, he might not be frittering away his presidency.
.. Charlottesville is a Democratic town, in a state run by a Democratic governor. Its Mayor Mike Signer declared the city a “capital of resistance” shortly after Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

Why is Donald Trump so bad at the bully pulpit?

Why is Trump so bad with words? Blame reality television, Twitter and political talk shows.

Trump “cannot give a speech without his hosts distancing themselves from his rhetoric.”
.. Consider Trump’s three biggest rhetorical own-goals over the past week.
  1. His “fire and fury” statement on North Korea forced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to try to talk the United States off a ledge.
  2. Trump’s belated response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ejection of U.S. diplomats was even worse:
  3.  Trump attempted to address the violence triggered by white nationalists in Charlottesville with a namby-pamby statement that blamed “many sides” for the violence.
    • It is odd that a president who claimed to despise political correctness with respect to Islamic terrorists suddenly chose to be circumspect in describing homegrown neo-Nazi terrorists.
    • Trump was more willing to call his country’s intelligence community Nazis than he was to call actual Nazis Nazis.

.. Running for office repeatedly tends to hone one’s rhetorical instincts. At a minimum, most professional politicians learn the do’s and don’ts of political rhetoric.

.. Trump’s political education has different roots. He has learned the art of political rhetoric from three sources:

  1. reality television,
  2. Twitter and
  3. “the shows.”

His miscues this past week can be traced to the pathologies inherent in each of these arenas.

..  I have seen just enough of the “Real Housewives” franchise to know that this genre thrives on next-level drama. No one wants to watch conflicts being resolved; they want to watch conflicts spiral out of control. So it is with Trump and North Korea. He never sees the value in de-escalating anything, and North Korea is no exception. Calm resolution is not in the grammar of reality television.

.. I am pretty familiar with Twitter, and the thing about that medium is that it is drenched in sarcasm. It is a necessary rhetorical tic to thrive in that place. The problem is that while sarcasm might work on political Twitter, it rarely works in politics off Twitter.

.. Finally, there are the political talk shows. If there is one thing Trump has learned from that genre, it is the “both sides” hot take. Pundits are so adept at blaming a political conflict on both sides that the #bothsides hashtag is omnipresent on political Twitter.

.. These people are bigots. They are hate-filled. This is not just a protest where things, unfortunately, got violent. Violence sits at the heart of their warped belief system.

.. substantive problems with Trump’s reaction to each of these three crises

  • .. He seems overly eager to escalate tensions with North Korea and
  • steadfastly does not want to call out Vladimir Putin or white nationalists by name.
.. his limited grasp of the bully pulpit. He ad-libbed all these rhetorical miscues. In doing so, he relied on tropes he had learned from reality television, social media and political talk shows.
Those tropes might work for a reality-show hack desperate to engage in self-promotion. They do not work for the president of the United States.