A Vengeful and Shortsighted Act

It is hard to imagine how this would coax the Palestinians to offer more concessions in a negotiation with Israel. What they see is that the United States under Mr. Trump has embraced the views of Israeli right-wing nationalists and tried to take two of their most important negotiating issues — the status of Jerusalem, which Mr. Trump undermined by announcing late last year that the United States embassy would be moved to Jerusalem, and now the right of return — off the table.

Through all the decades of peace negotiations, the Palestinians had believed that the United States, dedicated to Israel’s security, was the only power that could fairly mediate with Israel on their behalf. Mr. Trump has abdicated this leadership role, risking a humanitarian disaster and renewed violence.

The Week When President Trump Resigned

Trump resigned the presidency already — if we regard the job as one of moral stewardship, if we assume that an iota of civic concern must joust with self-regard, if we expect a president’s interest in legislation to rise above vacuous theatrics, if we consider a certain baseline of diplomatic etiquette to be part of the equation.

.. He abdicated his responsibilities so thoroughly and recklessly that it amounted to a letter of resignation. Then he whored for his Virginia winery on the way out the door.

.. Trump knew full well what he should have done, because he’d done it — grudgingly and badly — only a day earlier. But it left him feeling countermanded, corrected, submissive and weak, and those emotions just won’t do for an ego as needy and skin as thin as his.

.. On Tuesday he “relinquished what presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan have regarded as a cardinal duty of their job: set a moral course to unify the nation,” wrote The Times’ Mark Landler

.. Did he place the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the same “moral plane” as those who showed up to push back at them?

“I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane,” Trump answered.

.. he never in fact wanted or set out to be president, not as the position is conventionally or correctly defined.

.. He revealed that repeatedly as he rejected the traditional rules and usual etiquette, refusing to release his tax returns, bragging about his penis size, feuding with the Muslim father of a fallen American soldier and electing puerility over poetry at nearly every meaningful moment.

.. All that time on Twitter wasn’t principally about a direct connection to voters. It was a way to stare at an odometer of approval and monitor, in real time, how broadly his sentiments were being liked and shared.

.. Applause. Greater brand exposure. A new layer of perks atop an existence already lavish with them. Utter saturation of Americans’ consciousness. These were his foremost goals. Governing wasn’t

.. He made clear that conflicts of interest didn’t trouble him, drawing constant attention to Trump properties

.. members of Congress who met with Trump about the repeal-and-replace of Obamacare were aghast at his ignorance of the legislation and of the legislative process itself.

.. A president is supposed to safeguard the most sacred American institutions, repairing them if need be. Trump doesn’t respect them. He has sought to discredit and disempower the judiciary, the free press, the FBI, the Congressional Budget Office. He even managed to inject politics into, and pollute, the Boy Scouts. This is the course of a tyrant.

.. I kept coming across variations on the verdict that he had “failed to lead,” and that phraseology is off. “Fail” and “failure” imply that there was an effort, albeit unsuccessful.

How Congress Failed to Plan for Doomsday

What would happen if some crazed gunman or terrorist massacred Congress? We don’t really know—and that’s bad news for our democracy.

without the coincidental presence of Majority Whip Steve Scalise—there wouldn’t have been any Capitol Police presence, meaning no security to return fire and stop the shooter. “It would’ve been a massacre.”

.. if ever there were a mass slaughter of top members of Congress—a chemical or biological attack, or even a shooting incident that merely injured or incapacitated a large number of senators or representatives—business could come to a grinding halt and leave the House and Senate impotent for weeks or even months.

.. America’s continuing inability to rebuild Congress after a catastrophic attack is, one might say, supposed to be a feature, not a bug.

.. The men and women who have occupied the House leadership before Scalise have decided that they don’t want members to be easily replaced, even if preserving congressional traditions means that senators and representatives would be sidelined from post-disaster decision-making.

.. What if an attack incapacitated large numbers of senators and representatives without immediately killing them?

.. From the 1940s to 1962, as it wrestled with the issue of presidential succession, Congress saw more than 30 different proposed bills and constitutional amendments about what to do in the case of a mass death of its membership

.. The Senate .. had relatively clear constitutional policies about how to appoint interim senators to fill a vacancy. The House, though, had no clear way to reconstitute itself quickly

.. The House prides itself on the fact that every person who has ever set foot in the body has been duly elected by the people

.. Had United Flight 93 taken off on time, instead of 41 minutes late, and the passengers hadn’t had time to learn of the other attacks and storm the cockpit, the plane might very well have successfully continued to Washington and hit the Capitol building at about the same time as American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.

.. “With hundreds dead and perhaps hundreds of others in burn units in hospitals, Congress would likely have been without a quorum, without a building, without the ability to function,”

.. What if an attack wiped out the vast majority of the body? Would anyone want a subset of just a handful of representatives, perhaps just a dozen, score, or even a hundred, making sweeping decisions about declarations of war, new appropriations or the massive civil liberties curbs likely to be imposed following a large-scale attack?

.. In the case of the death of the president and vice president, a nine-member House could then elect a new Speaker, who would become president of the United States for the remainder of the term.

.. if the sitting vice president had been a victim of the incident as well, a new No. 2 could not be confirmed absent a House quorum, since both bodies have to confirm such a position.

.. Two years after 9/11, in 2003, its final report called for a new constitutional amendment to expedite special elections in the wake of an attack and to otherwise smooth the reestablishment of a devastated Congress.

.. One idea floated was that each member of Congress should designate his or her own list of successors in case of incapacitation

.. Every single proposal for congressional continuity was imperfect and troublesome in one aspect or another

.. Nevertheless, since the beginning of “continuity of government” planning during the Cold War, officials had successfully made just these types of trade-offs in other areas

.. they looked at it from their own narrow parochial perspective and it was, ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to let this son of a bitch pick my successor!”

.. Speaker Hastert finally attached “continuity of Congress” legislation to an existing appropriations bill—a parliamentary move frowned upon in normal practice—and forced the Senate to accept it without amendment. The bill, which ultimately became law and remains in force today

.. it required states to hold “expedited” special elections within 49 days

.. Congress has effectively abdicated its responsibility to participate in the nation’s governance during the worst-case scenarios that could befall our country in the future