Even more than with most subjects, when Trump brings up Russia he seems to be speaking of something that is deﬁned less by reality than by what he needs it to be.
.. “We’re the schmucks paying for the whole thing.”) On Thursday, Trump proclaimed,
“I believe in nato,” then immediately undermined the sentiment by complaining that Europe was unfair to American farmers.
.. Another likely explanation for this performance is that the nato members were simply being subjected to the phenomenon of one bully showing off to another. “He’s a competitor,” Trump said of Putin. “Somebody was saying, Is he an enemy? Mmm, no, he’s not my enemy. Is he a friend? No, I don’t know him well enough.” Trump, by that measure, isn’t interested in anyone’s relationship with Putin except his—not Europe’s, not America’s. The policy contents of his demands were hardly relevant; his message to Putin was that he had yelled at nato.
.. Trump’s European tantrum was also, no doubt, intended for the home audience.
.. Russia, in this sense, becomes shorthand for all “those things”—the fakery and dodgy promises and money—that are just a part of the daily life of an American political candidate.
.. he said that May had “wrecked” Brexit, because “she didn’t listen to me.” He then proceeded to endorse, as a future Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, May’s freshly departed, self-indulgently destructive Foreign Secretary, largely on the ground that “he obviously likes me.” With that, and a swipe at immigration in Europe (“You are losing your culture”)
How much power will a president with such tenuous claim to it get to wield? How profound and durable an impact will such a shallow and fickle person make?
.. Donald Trump barely won the White House, under circumstances — a tainted opponent, three million fewer votes than she received, James Comey’s moral vanity and Russia’s amoral exertions — that raise serious questions about how many Americans yearned to see him there.
.. In his heart of hearts, he doesn’t give a damn about rolling back abortion rights. Any sane analysis of his background and sober read of his character leads to that conclusion. Yet this man of all men — a misogynist, a philanderer, a grabber-by-the-you-know-what — may be the end of Roe v. Wade.
.. So many of Trump’s positions, not just on abortion but also on a whole lot else, were embraced late in the game, as matters of political convenience. They were his clearest path to power. Then they were his crudest way to flex it.
.. Now they’re his crassest way to hold on to it. He will almost certainly move to replace Kennedy with a deeply, unswervingly conservative jurist not because that’s consistent with his own core (what core?) but because it’s catnip to the elements of his base that got him this far and could carry him farther.
.. Never mind how much it exacerbates this country’s already crippling political polarization
.. his is a moment, if ever there was one, to set a bipartisan example and apply a healing touch.
.. Trump will gladly cleave the country in two before he’ll dim the applause of his most ardent acolytes.
.. Get ready: He’ll crow and taunt. He’s already crowing and, characteristically, making Kennedy’s retirement all about him.
.. He will bully, both ideologically and tactically. And he will get his way, because — this is part of that cosmic joke — the advantages seem always to cut his way. The obstacles teeter and collapse.
.. Other presidents have had to worry about getting 60 votes in the Senate for Supreme Court nominations to proceed. Not Trump.
.. McConnell used the “nuclear option” once already, for Neil Gorsuch, rendering a Democratic filibuster irrelevant. So the precedent has been set.
.. In fact three of them — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — supported Gorsuch’s confirmation last year. It’s no accident that North Dakota, which Trump won by nearly 36 points, was the site of his rally on Wednesday night.
.. his sneering, gloating, uncompromising response to that aren’t a familiar combination.
.. It’s impossible to square the roughly 77,000 votes by which he won the Electoral College with the license that he has given himself and the rein that the members of his adopted party have given him.
.. the truth about Trump is the opposite of the story he tells. He points to Robert Mueller’s investigation and to negative media coverage and portrays himself as a modern-day martyr.
.. But he’s the luckiest man alive. Although he savaged the G.O.P. en route to its presidential nomination, he was greeted in Washington by a mum McConnell, a blushing Paul Ryan and a mostly obsequious Republican congressional majority.
.. with a handpicked replacement for Kennedy, he’d probably have “fewer checks on his power than any president in his lifetime
.. “The media, normally the last check on a president with total control of government, has lost the trust of most Republicans and many Democrats, after two years of Trump pummeling.”
.. That doesn’t account for a Democratic takeover of at least one chamber of Congress, the importance of which cannot be overstated.
.. conscience. A better man might shudder somewhat at the division that he was sowing and the wreckage in his wake. Trump merely revels in his ability to pull off what nobody thought he could. Shamelessness is his greatest gift. How unfunny is that?
the New Cruelty is the Trumpian successor to the New Deal and Great Society... And, indeed, Lewandowski seems especially vile in an era in which vileness increasingly appears to be a career path. But was his insensitive gibe off-message? Or was it simply a cruder version of the New Cruelty that has displaced whatever was left of “compassionate conservativism”?.. Trump rode to the presidency by embracing broad, crudely designed policies—from the proposed ban on all Muslims to mass deportations of all illegals—that ineluctably lead to a zero-tolerance policy that demands the arrest of all illegal border-crossers, even those with infants or children... his supporters enthusiastically cheered polices that treat large populations as an undifferentiated mass, regardless of individual circumstances. These policies do not treat individuals based on the “content of their character,” or their merit, or the exigencies of their circumstances, but on their religion, nationality, and immigration status... the president has cultivated a studied insensitivity, treating empathy as a sign of weakness or fecklessness... The distinctive rhetoric of Trumpism isn’t merely the use of insult and invective against political opponents; it is also the brutal willingness to degrade and demonize others as “animals” and “rapists” while unsubtly comparing them to the sort of vermin who will “infest” the country... swaggering callousness became a hallmark of Trumpism, with harshness masquerading as toughness and cruelty as a sign of strength... Ironically, conservatives used to lead the charge against zero-tolerance policies, because they produce foolish, knee-jerk, bureaucratic responses that lack common sense and result in absurd outcomes... It was in the name of zero tolerance that a kindergartner was once suspended for bringing a dinosaur-shaped squirt gun to school and it was zero tolerance that led school boards to such excesses as expelling a high school student for having a single tablet of Advil in her purse... What’s important to recognize is that the children were not collateral damage of Trump’s policy: They were the entire point... Removing them from their parents was designed to be shocking because their trauma was intended as a deterrent... the pitiless separation of young children from their mothers was supposed to send a chilling message to anyone foolish enough to seek asylum here... More important, it was supposed to project strength, or at least the bully’s imitation of strength... Perhaps more than any other trait, it is this that motivates Trump: his need to appear strong and his fear of looking weak... He is just another of the menagerie of misfit toys, in the likeness of Steve Bannon, who feed off Trump’s sundry insecurities. They do not shape or influence those anxieties, they simply minister to them, encouraging the president in his use of spite to substitute for real strength... Fred Hiatt described the New Cruelty as the ultimate victory of Bannonism:
Truculent, anti-immigrant nationalism; disdain for the “deep state”; disparaging democratic allies while celebrating dictators: These are now the pillars of President Trump’s rule. In his administration’s policy, foreign and domestic, and in the compliant Republican Party, Bannonism is ascendant.
.. Bannonism is now indistinguishable from Trumpism.
while it’s tempting to see Bannon’s fall as an inflection point, the reality is that his departure does nothing to change the fundamental nature of this presidency, which continues to be shaped by Donald Trump’s hollow core, erratic character and impulsivity….
As malign an influence as Bannon was, it seems naïve to now expect a more modulated or moderate Trump. Instead, we can expect Trump to attempt to insulate himself against Bannonite attacks by throwing out even more red meat for his base, and escalating the culture wars that Bannon has done so much to foment.
.. Bannon may have helped write the ill-fated travel ban, but it was Trump who denounced “Mexican rapists,” and Trump who called for a Muslim ban. It was Trump, not Bannon, who rose from reality TV stardom to political prominence and power by spreading birther conspiracy theories.
.. It was Trump, not Bannon, who retweeted white supremacists and refused to distance himself from white nationalists during the campaign; Trump, not Bannon, who attacked a Mexican-American judge, demeaned women and mocked a disabled reporter... Divorcing Bannon doesn’t fix what is wrong with this presidency. The cancer at the heart of this White House isn’t the staff. It’s the man in the Oval Office and he is not changing.
This was not the first time that Barr has trafficked in social-media racism or directed a simian comparison at an African-American closely connected to the Obama Administration. She has also directed anti-Semitic barbs at George Soros and promoted conspiracy theories pushed by the far left and the far right.
.. Donald Trump, who congratulated Roseanne for her high ratings, said nothing about the egregious racism that led to the show’s cancellation. He did, however, deploy his own hallucinatory sense of victimization. Why, he asked, had ABC not apologized for the “HORRIBLE” things it has said about him? That statement functioned on two levels: first, in implying that the network had tolerated equivalent offenses when directed at him, he deflected the idea that Roseanne had done anything beyond bounds.
.. The second level of Trump’s remark was that, in pointing to his own wounds, he resorted to the aged, reactionary cliché that the real racists are not bigoted whites but, rather, black people who point out said bigotry.
.. She had initially told her more than eight hundred thousand followers not to defend her, but they seem to have persuaded her after all that she had been wronged. “You guys,” she told them, “make me feel like fighting back.”
.. Bee apologized, conceding that her joke had “crossed a line.” Her apology, though, served to highlight the chasm between her contrition and the complete absence of the concept in Trump’s public behavior.
.. Has his antagonism toward norms freed his opponents to flout those same rules, or is it more important than ever that they be upheld?
.. whether Al Franken should have been pushed to resign, given that Trump himself has been accused of far worse behavior
.. Michelle Obama famously noted that “when they go low, we go high,”
.. The question, among hundreds that arose in response to the 2016 election, is, How does that work out in real life?
.. Emily Nussbaum has pointed out, Trump’s insult-comic persona allowed him to portray the groups and the individuals whom he was attacking as dour, humorless marks, who were so fixated on his demise that they treated his jokes as policy statements.
.. The flip side of this has been Trump’s own gossamer-skinned inclinations, the way that he consistently complains about “unfairness” in his Twitter rhetoric. To the outsider, he appears as the classic bully, capable of dishing it out, incapable of taking it.
.. To the truest of his believers, however, he is cast in heroic terms, pointing out his wounds to show how deeply he has suffered on their behalf—a vulgar Jesus showing off his stigmata at the golf club.
.. It has become common to cast Trump as hostile toward democracy, but his hostilities, like his appetites, are far more basic. They are not aimed at undermining democracy but the norms of decency and accountability that make democracy possible.
.. That Roseanne Barr seems to have decided that maybe she was wronged only affirms the wisdom of ABC’s decision. The threat is not that Trumpism will destroy our sense of decency but rather that it may goad Americans into doing it for him.