Trump’s opponents have often been accused of naïveté for their appeals to norms and civility. But early Friday morning, at least, that faith was rewarded.
After Donald Trump implied Ted Cruz’s wife was ugly and accused his father of helping to kill President John F. Kennedy, Cruz still worked the phones for him. Trump humiliated “liddle” Marco Rubio, who endorsed Trump anyway. Trump implied Ben Carson was a child molester, and then appointed him to his cabinet. Trump ran a campaign in which he exhorted audiences to call for Hillary Clinton’s imprisonment, and she showed up to his inauguration. Trump rose to prominence by questioning whether the first black president was even American, and won the opportunity to destroy a huge part of that president’s legacy.
All of that made former First Lady Michelle Obama’s memorable line about going high when the other side goes low seem dangerously naive. Trump belittled, humiliated, threatened, and smeared his opponents (and sometimes his supporters) nearly every day since the beginning of his candidacy for president. His opponents appealed to precedent, to norms, to comity, and to decency. Today, Trump sits in the White House.
.. Then early on Friday morning, as the moment neared for a crucial vote on the last of the Republican proposals for repealing all or part of the Affordable Care Act neared, McCain went against his party. Along with Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, he denied the Republicans the bare majority they needed for a partial repeal
.. While it might have been a long shot given her earlier votes, Republicans might have still salvaged Murkowski’s support. But that chance was probably lost when the Trump administration threatened the entire state of Alaska to try to coerce her into backing repeal. By the wee hours of Friday morning, as Republican senators huddled around her trying to win their votes, it was too late.
Collins seemed opposed to full repeal from the beginning of this process. But if anything, Texas Republican Blake Farenthold’s threat to duel her solidified her position rather than weakening it.
.. At one point President Trump, who had mocked McCain’s capture, torture and imprisonmentduring the Vietnam War just a little more than two years ago, implored McCain to change his vote with a last-minute phone call.
.. And McCain himself seemed to relish the drama, telling reporters as he walked in for the final vote, “Watch the show.”
.. Had Democrats met that vote by attacking McCain, he might not have voted no last night. He might not have been so immune to the entreaties of his colleagues. He might not have resisted the arm-twisting of the president who never spent a day in public service before winning an election, who mocked him so cruelly two years ago.
.. While repeal supporters’ bullying might have solidified opposition to the bill, this time, Democrats’ comity almost certainly bought them goodwill among the Republicans they needed to flip. Eventually, people get sick of being bullied.
Maybe not most of the time, maybe even not much of the time. But every once in a while, going high instead of going low pays off.
It is a more sensitive matter for women because for centuries, they relied on their looks for economic security, and they continue to be judged more on physical traits and clothing choices.
.. When Trump called the House health care bill mean, he knows whereof he speaks. He’s the King of Mean. Pathetically, Trump mistakes cruelty for strength.
.. The 71-year-old president’s pathological inability to let go of slights; his strongman reflex to be the aggressor and bite back like a cornered animal, without regard for societal norms; his lack of self-awareness about the power he commands and the proportionality of his responses; his grotesque hunger for flattery and taste for Tony Soprano tactics;
his Pravda partnership with David Pecker, the head honcho at The National Enquirer, which has been giving Trump the Il Duce treatment while sliming his political opponents, the “Morning Joe” anchors and Megyn Kelly — these are all matters that should alarm men and women equally.
.. Trump is isolated in the White House, out of his milieu, unable to shape the story, forced to interact with people he doesn’t own.
.. Before he got to D.C., Trump was used to media that could be bought, sold and bartered with. He is not built for this hostile environment and it shows in his deteriorating psychological state.
.. Trump has always been obsessed with looks — his own, men’s and women’s. One of his favorite phrases is “Here’s the beauty of me.”
.. back in the ’90s Donald would hand out tubes of Rogaine to male executives and say the worst thing in the world is for a male executive to go bald.”
.. I gave Trump the benefit of the doubt after his comment on Megyn Kelly about “blood coming out of her wherever” when he claimed he meant her nose. But later, a longtime Trump associate told me that Trump had practiced that line before he said it on CNN and that it was meant to evoke an image of Kelly as hormonal.
.. you can never be sure of anything that comes out of this White House.
Except the cruelty.
I was in Cleveland for the Republican convention. I think there was a Wall Street Journal story during that week or just right afterwards. And the headline was “GOP Delegates Think American Economy Is Terrible – Except Where They Live.” You know, there was a sense that most of their communities were doing OK, but they believe the entire American economy was troubled.
And I think we are seeing some combination of the way in which a generation’s worth of cable news has sort of conditioned people to nonstop and undifferentiated crisis around the world. The great difficulty of presenting positive developments in ways that don’t seem silly or sap-like. And also – I guess I’ve been thinking about this in the last day or two – the elevation of national politics to something like a religion
.. And I think national politics has become what you – what I think of as either a religious affiliation or a particularly sort of acrid sporting team loyalty where people who you otherwise can work with and compromise with and build a future with you either really feel connected to or you really feel just are the other based on which team they’re on, whether they’re on the Republican team, the Trump team, or the anti-Trump team.
And one other theme which no doubt we will explore, which is the ways in which people in non-coastal America feel as – not so much looked down on, but just ignored by media in particular
.. when my wife and I began our flying project back in 2013, our premise was to go to places that you would normally go to only if there were a flood or a tornado or a shooting as opposed to treating them as real entities and giving them the sort of three-dimensionality that you’d naturally give to the big coastal cities.
.. the opinion polls that came out before Donald Trump’s announcement when they asked people to sort of free associate across the country about the greatest threats to the nation, immigration was normally not in the top 10. You know, some people were very concerned about it, but not most people. So I would view this as a phenomenon of something about modern political national-level campaigning and media emphasis thereof has allowed us to get hyperpolarized and hyper, you know, upset about phenomena that in the daily life of the country are not seen as that threatening or disturbing.
.. I’ve interviewed most of the fallen Republicans and their campaign managers. And they really felt that the cable-based structure of those debates, where you had 10 or 11 people on the stage all crowding around for airtime, with Donald Trump standing dominant in the middle – that that helped him as well because it sort of preconditioned a “Survivor” or “Apprentice”-type show where you would knock off the weaklings one by one.
And there was always somebody who was weaker than Donald Trump, so he ended up seeming relatively stronger as time went on. And also, none of them – they didn’t figure out that they needed to join in together to attack him.
.. I think, in a potentially ominous way in the violation of norms. Donald Trump didn’t release his tax information. We thought in modern times that’s what a presidential candidate would have to do. During one of the debates Donald Trump said to Hillary Clinton that if he won, she would be in jail. This is something we have not heard from our candidates. We think of our candidates if they lose a bitter campaign, they say we offer our support to the next president. When Donald Trump suggested that he might not accept the results of the election, that also was unusual.
.. And Jimmy Carter, who had many thoughts to offer about speeches at all times, his thought about this was we don’t say that. You know, he’s a former president. We don’t talk about our opponents that way. We say we disagree with their views. We say they’ve made mistakes, but we don’t say their intentions are bad. And so to leap from there to saying that the incumbent president and his one purported successor are traitors, that is one more of the norms that we had – we’d not seen before this year.
.. I recorded a number of times where something happened and Donald Trump would immediately say it’s 100-percent clear that X happened. For example, this EgyptAir plane disappeared over the Atlantic some time ago – I’m sorry, over the Mediterranean some time ago. And still nobody knows what happened to that plane. But within, like, 30 minutes of its disappearing, Donald Trump was on the news saying it’s 100 percent clear this is terrorism. If you don’t know it’s terrorism, believe me, you’re suckers, folks. This is entirely what it is.
.. FALLOWS: So his main point, it’s based on something that is in my view largely just wrong and connected to something that is – that is real…
GROSS: I mean, wrong you disagree or factually incorrect?
FALLOWS: Factually incorrect – and that is the idea that essentially the economic problems America has is because China is – in particular but also Mexico and Japan and South Korea – are stealing our factories and stealing our jobs. And this is the main reason why the U.S. has the economic problems, the employment problems that it has. I think if 20 years ago, when China was beginning its ascent, you could say that a lot of the economic problems of the early ’90s were much more directly traceable to outsourcing decisions than anything that’s going on right now
.. But if you go many places now, the people who have been losing jobs in the last 10 years have been losing them only minorly to Mexico, China, South Korea, Japan. They’ve been losing them mainly to automation.
.. I can tell you from going back and forth to China that in every single country of the world, including China and Japan and South Korea and Mexico, the employment problem is the hollowing out of factory-type jobs because of automation.
.. I think to blame it as he does on bad-and-stupid deals with Mexico, China, Japan and South Korea both is out of date about the problem and really off about the solution because I don’t think there’s anybody who is involved with those countries who thinks that much tougher or canny or dealmakers is going to bring a lot more factories back to Indiana or Illinois.
A journalist who covered Nixon’s fall 45 years ago explains why the current challenge to America may be more severe—and the democratic system less capable of handling it.
the worst version of what Nixon and his allies were attempting to do—namely, to find incriminating or embarrassing information about political adversaries ranging from Democratic Party Chairman Lawrence O’Brien to Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg—was not as bad as what came afterward.
.. attacks by an authoritarian foreign government on the fundamentals of American democracy, by interfering with an election
.. as part of a larger strategy that included parallel interference in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and elsewhere.
.. meant to destroy trust in democracy
.. But even in his stonewalling, Nixon paid lip service to the concepts of due process and check and balances.
.. Stennis compromise
.. he wanted to act as if he was doing so while sticking to some recognizable rules... Nothing Donald Trump has done, on the campaign trail or in office, has expressed awareness of, or respect for, established rules.