Kristof: Trump’s Successes, But Cycle Turning

President Trump has now been in the White House for six months, and Democrats are fairly gleeful in noting that he is: a) deeply unpopular; b) mired in scandals; and c) bereft of any legislative victories. That’s all true, but also I think too glib. Trump has been quite successful, in my view, in two areas:

  1. appointing conservatives to federal courts, most notably Justice Gorsuch to the Supreme Court; and in
  2. changing the regulatory landscape by removing environmental safety standards.

.. Since the 1970s we’ve seen a long-term trend toward cutting taxes and social services, and there have been a series of grim consequences: rising inequality, stagnant high school graduation rates, rising incarceration rates, rising narcotics use, stagnant earnings for the bottom half of Americans, and so on. So many national problems seem to have their roots in a cycle that started then, but I wonder if the cycle is turning.

  • The failure of Trumpcare is a case where a program for the poor, Medicaid, won a political battle, and
  • Kansas has shown that at some point voters prefer to raise taxes than see service cuts. More broadly,
  • even conservative states like Texas have reversed themselves on mass incarceration, and high school graduation rates are again going up.

Could we be turning a corner?

.. For me, the most chilling aspect of President Trump’s interview with The Times on Wednesday was his insistence on reserving the right to fire Bob Mueller. That would be ten times bigger than firing Jim Comey, and the fact that Trump even brings it up makes me think that he fears Mueller is getting close to something the president wants hidden.

‘The Ugly Environmentalist’

The rhetoric of climate-change alarmists grows ever more hysterical.

.. A recent New York magazine cover story on climate change assured readers that all of the previous climate-change alarmism was too tepid. Basically, by the end of the century, the living will envy the dead and much of the planet will be uninhabitable or a reenactment of a Mad Max movie.

.. A recent New York magazine cover story on climate change assured readers that all of the previous climate-change alarmism was too tepid. Basically, by the end of the century, the living will envy the dead and much of the planet will be uninhabitable or a reenactment of a Mad Max movie.

.. It’s remarkable how many of the people who rightly recoil in horror at the idea of using, say, the war on terror to justify curtailing civil liberties have no such response when someone floats similar ideas for the war on climate change.

.. Filipovic is precisely one of those writers you’d expect to go ballistic if some conservative Christian opined about the reproductive choices women should make. But if it’s in the name of the environment? Let’s wag those fingers, everybody!

.. But if you really want to yoke your reproductive choices to the issue of climate change (a bizarre desire if you ask me), maybe you should have as many kids as possible and educate them in science and engineering so they can come up with a solution. 

For instance, did you know America may end up complying with our Paris-accord obligations despite our withdrawal? It’s all thanks to breakthroughs in natural gas, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Thank goodness the people who came up with that stuff didn’t have parents who believed all the hype.

The Bad, the Worse and the Ugly

the most revealing thing in the interview may be Mr. Trump’s defense of Bill O’Reilly, accused of sexual predation and abuse of power: “He’s a good person.” This, I’d argue, tells us more about both the man from Mar-a-Lago and the motivations of his base than his ramblings about infrastructure and trade.

.. How much difference has it made, really, that Donald Trump rather than a conventional Republican sits in the White House?

.. the ignominious collapse of the effort to kill Obamacare — owed almost nothing to executive dysfunction. Repeal-and-replace didn’t face-plant because of poor tactics; it failed because Republicans have been lying about health care for eight years. So when the time came to propose something real, all they could offer were various ways to package mass loss of coverage.

.. Tax reform looks like a bust .. because nobody in the G.O.P. ever put in the hard work of figuring out what should change and how to sell those changes.

.. it’s clear that the administration has no actual infrastructure plan, and probably never will.

.. there are some places where Mr. Trump does seem likely to have a big impact — most notably, in crippling environmental policy. But that’s what any Republican would have done

.. Trumpist governance in practice so far is turning out to be just Republican governance with (much) worse management

.. Trumpism has brought is a new sense of empowerment to the ugliest aspects of American politics.

.. one thing the interviewees often say is that Mr. Trump is honest, that he tells it like is, which may seem odd given how much he lies about almost everything, policy and personal. But what they probably mean is that Mr. Trump gives outright, unapologetic voice to racism, sexism, contempt for “losers” and so on

.. Mr. Trump isn’t an honest man or a stand-up guy, but he is, arguably, less hypocritical about the darker motives underlying his worldview than conventional politicians are.

.. they provide a safe space for people who want an affirmation that their uglier impulses are, in fact, justified and perfectly O.K.

..

whether unapologetic ugliness is a winning political strategy.

Gorsuch’s big fat lie

With a shrewdly calculated innocence, Judge Neil Gorsuch told a big fat lie at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Because it was a lie everyone expected, nobody called it that.

“There’s no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge,” Gorsuch said.

.. We now have an ideological judiciary. To pretend otherwise is naive and also recklessly irresponsible because it tries to wish away the real stakes in confirmation battles.

.. party polarization now affects the behavior of judges, “reducing the likelihood that they will stray from the ideological positions that brought them to the Court in the first place.

.. If partisanship and ideology were not central to Supreme Court nominations, Gorsuch would be looking at more years in his beloved Colorado.

.. conservatives who regularly denounce “liberal judicial activism” now count on control of the Supreme Court to get results they could never achieve through the democratically elected branches of government.

.. They could not gut the Voting Rights Act in Congress. So Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s court did it for them. They could never have undone a century’s worth of legislation limiting big money’s influence on politics. So the Citizens United decision did it for them.

.. Gorsuch has done what economic conservatives count on the judges they push onto the courts to do: He regularly sides with corporations over workers and consumers. We can’t know exactly where the millions of dollars of dark money fueling pro-Gorsuch ad campaigns come from, but we have a right to guess.

.. it appears that the prior relatively pro-business conservative trajectory of the Supreme Court will now be restored.”

.. The nominee himself flicked away White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’s declaration to the Conservative Political Action Conference that Gorsuch “represents the type of judge that has the vision of Donald Trump and it fulfills the promise that he made to all of you.”

.. conservatives, including Trump, want the court to sweep aside decades of jurisprudence that gave Congress broad authority to legislate civil rights and social reform, along with environmental, worker and consumer protections. Gorsuch good-naturedly evaded nearly every substantive question he was asked because he could not acknowledge that this is why he was there.