Will the Blowhard Blow Us Up?

Administration officials have been trying to reassure journalists that James Mattis, John Kelly and Rex Tillerson have a pact designed to ensure that one of them is always in the country to watch over Trump in case he goes off the deep end.

.. a Nixon defense secretary, James Schlesinger, got so worried about a cratering Nixon — who was drinking and telling congressmen, “I can go in my office and pick up a telephone, and in 25 minutes, millions of people will be dead” — that he told military commanders to check with him or Henry Kissinger if the president ordered up nukes.

.. In all my interviews of Trump over the years, he never seemed very chesty about foreign intervention. “If only we could have Saddam back, as bad as he was, rather than $2 trillion spent, thousands of lives lost and all these wounded warriors,” he told me during the campaign.

.. His pitch was mostly about turning inward, so America could shore up its economy, security and infrastructure. “Unlike other candidates, war and aggression will not be my first instinct,” he said in his maiden foreign policy speech on the trail.

.. Now, in case North Korea is too far away, Trump is threatening “a possible military option” closer to home, in Venezuela.

.. Watching Trump, 71, and Kim, 33, trade taunts is particularly disturbing because they mirror each other in so many unhinged ways. Trump is a democratically elected strongman and Kim is a fratricidal despot, but they both live in bizarro fantasy worlds where lying and cheating is the norm.

They’re both spoiled scions who surpassed less ruthless older brothers to join their authoritarian fathers in the family business. They both make strange fashion statements with their hair and enjoy bullying and hyperbole. They both love military parades, expect “Dear Leader” displays of fawning and favor McDonald’s and Madonna.

They both demand allegiance. When Trump feels he isn’t getting it or paranoia takes over, he publicly mocks his lieutenants or jettisons them. Kim simply gets out his antiaircraft machine guns and calls up his nerve-agent assassins. He had his uncle killed for, among the reasons, clapping halfheartedly, The Times reported.

“Kim understands Trump better than Trump understands himself,” Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio told me. “He is only comfortable dominating and forcing others into submission. When that’s not happening, he experiences an almost physical discomfort because he feels unsafe. He doesn’t know any other way to achieve status.”

.. Proving there’s no method to his madness, Trump went after Mitch McConnell, who is literally the most important person to Trump in pushing his agenda through Congress and who, as Carl Hulse wrote in The Times, secured the president “the signature accomplishment of his young presidency” by getting Neil Gorsuch confirmed

Why Americans Vote ‘Against Their Interest’: Partisanship

Working-class Americans who voted for Donald J. Trump continue to approve of him as president, even though he supported a health care bill that would disproportionately hurt them.

Highly educated professionals tend to lean Democratic, even though Republican tax policies would probably leave more money in their pockets.

Why do people vote against their economic interests?

.. “Partisan identification is bigger than anything the party does,”

.. it stems from something much more fundamental: people’s idea of who they are.

.. “It more or less boils down to how you see the conflicts in American society, and which groups you see as representing you,”

.. “That often means race, and religion, and ethnicity — those are the social groups that underlie party identification.”

.. That often leads people to say that they are independent, she said, but in fact most voters consistently lean toward one of the parties.

.. “Older voters who scored high on racial resentment were much more likely to switch from Obama to Trump,”

.. She believes that he successfully made a pitch to what she calls “white male identity politics,” convincing older, less-educated white voters that he would represent their interests.

.. Economic status, it turns out, is not so important in partisanship.

.. Mr. Trump was able to win the G.O.P. nomination even though he broke with Republican ideology on economic matters like trade protectionism. His arguments played to white working-class voter identity

.. while those multiple identities might once have pushed people in different partisan directions  .. today it’s more common to line up behind one party.

.. people now feel that they are fighting for many elements of who they are: their racial identity, professional identity, religious identity, even geographical identity.

.. he as a politician, kind of for the first time, said ‘we’re losers.’ ” Social psychology research has shown that the best way to get people to defend their identity is to threaten it. By saying “we don’t win anymore — we’re losers — and I’m going to make us win again,”

.. Mr. Trump’s pitch to voters both created the sense of threat and promised a defense: a winning political strategy for the age of identity politics.

.. people responded much more strongly to threats or support to their party than to particular issues.

.. He has been careful to recast every potential scandal and policy struggle as a battle against the Democrats and other outside groups.

.. Mr. Trump has insisted, for instance, that the F.B.I. investigation into his campaign staffers’ contacts with Russia is meaningless “fake news,” and that the real issue is whether President Obama wiretapped him before the election.

.. Abandoning him would mean betraying tribal allegiance, and all of the identities that underlie it.