I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

.. The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.
.. To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.
.. But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.
That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.
The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.
.. Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives:
  • free minds,
  • free markets and
  • free people.
At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.
.. In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture:

  • effective deregulation,
  • historic tax reform, a
  • more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is

  • impetuous,
  • adversarial,
  • petty and
  • ineffective.

From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

.. Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

.. On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

.. This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

.. The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

.. Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

.. We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

.. There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.

Nikki Haley’s extraordinary rebuke of the White House

With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” Haley said in a statement.

.. The situation was fraught from the beginning, with Haley making an ironclad and unmistakable announcement of new sanctions. And there was no correction for more than 24 hours, even though it was a major story for that whole time.

From the outside, it looked a lot as if the notoriously fickle Trump had simply changed his mind, but the White House tried to play it off as a mix-up and even Haley’s fault. Haley clearly was not having it — especially when Kudlow publicly called her out.

But to be clear, her comment Tuesday is a pretty big repudiation of both Kudlow and what the White House has been saying anonymously.

.. It also means Haley is effectively saying Trump and/or the White House did change their minds — that their increasingly tough posture on Russia has at least momentarily been arrested.

.. The exact reason for that is up for debate. The Kremlin complained about the new sanctions, calling them “international economic raiding.” And in what seems like possibly the tipping point for Trump, The Washington Post reported Sunday night that Trump “has battled his top aides on Russia and lost.” I argued Monday that perhaps Trump just decided to exert his authority, even if it made his administration look unmoored.

Whatever the reasons, though, Haley made clear this was not handled well by the administration, and that it was not her fault. It will be interesting to see what lies ahead for her relationship with the White House — and Kudlow.

Richard Rohr: Prayer: A Tuning Fork

Prayer is connecting with God/Ultimate Reality. It is not an attempt to change God’s mind about us or about events. Such arrogance is what unbelievers make fun of—and often rightly so. Prayer is primarily about changing our own mind so that things like infinity, mystery, and forgiveness can resound within us.

..  Instead of presenting a guarded self to the moment, prayer stops defending or promoting its ideas and feelings, and waits for, expects, and receives guidance from Another. It offers itself naked to the now, so that our inner and aroused lover can meet the Lover. Such prayer takes major surgery of heart, mind, and inner sight. Prayer is about changing you, not about changing God.

.. Most simply put, prayer is something that happens to you (Romans 8:26-27), much more than anything you privately do. It is an allowing of the Big Self more than an assertion of the small self. Eventually you will find yourself preferring to say, “Prayer happened, and I was there” more than “I prayed today.”

.. Afterward you know instinctively that your life is not about you, but you are about Life. “I live now not I, but Another Life lives in me,” to paraphrase Paul’s poetic words (Galatians 2:20).

This does not mean you are morally or psychologically perfect. Not at all. But you will now have the freedom to recognize your failings and to grow and love better because of them.

The Joy of Hate Reading

My taste for hate reading began with “The Fountainhead,” which I opened in a state of complete ignorance as bonus material for a college class on 20th-century architecture. I knew nothing of Ayn Rand or of objectivism.

.. What stuck was the abiding knowledge that I was not, nor would I ever be, a libertarian.

.. It was only by burrowing through books that I hated, books that provoked feelings of outrage and indignation, that I truly learned how to read. Defensiveness makes you a better reader, a closer, more skeptical reader: a critic. Arguing with the author in your head forces you to gather opposing evidence. You may find yourself turning to other texts with determination, stowing away facts, fighting against the book at hand. You may find yourself developing a point of view.

.. loathing is mixed with other emotions — fear, perverse attraction, even complicated strains of sympathy. This is, in part, what makes negative book reviews so compelling.

.. the authors were too credulous of certain research, and in ways that served their thesis.

.. It can be interesting, and instructive, when a book provokes animosity. It may tell you more about a subject or about yourself, as a reader, than you think you know. It might even, on occasion, challenge you to change your mind.

.. an even more stimulating excitement comes from finding someone else who hates the same book as much as you do