The Cosmic Joke of Donald Trump’s Power

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?

Trump’s Brazen Dodge To Avoid Dealing With His Conflicts of Interest

just as we knew that Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, was the favorite to be Trump’s choice as Energy Secretary. (This despite the fact that, in 2012, when Perry ran for President, he wanted to abolish the department.)

.. If he had come out on Thursday and announced that, in spite of these warnings, he is going to retain ownership of his businesses, which is clearly what he intends to do, there could have been another political firestorm.

.. By postponing the event, Trump insured that the Electoral College will have already cast its votes when he announces that he intends to tell the ethics lawyers to go and jump in the Potomac. In a pair of tweets on Monday night, he confirmed that the most he is willing to do is hand day-to-day management of the Trump Organization over to his two eldest sons, Donald, Jr., and Eric, while still retaining ownership control.

.. Trump appears to have made a deal, at least an implicit one, with the Republican leaders in which they get their way on many of the big policy issues—taxes, education, the environment, regulation of finance and the labor market—and he gets to keep hold of his businesses, and his personal brand, the value of which, as he freely admitted a few weeks ago, has been greatly enhanced by his election victory.

.. the stock and pension rights that Tillerson accumulated at Exxon are worth about two hundred and ninety million dollars. And Bloomberg reckons that Gary Cohn, whom Trump has picked to head his National Economic Council, owns stock in Goldman Sachs, the investment bank where he is currently president and chief operating officer, worth more than two hundred million dollars.

.. Would he be willing to put that business at risk, by, for example, recommending to Trump that the U.S. government maintain, or even strengthen, its sanctions on Russia? (In 2014, Tillerson gave a speech opposing these sanctions.)

..

Cohn, as Trump’s top economic adviser, will be tasked with, among other things, helping to decide which of the financial regulations that were introduced after the financial crash of 2008 should be cast onto the Republican bonfire. In anticipation of a big rollback in federal oversight, stock in Goldman and other Wall Street firms has risen sharply since the election. Can Cohn, a big beneficiary of that rise, provide objective advice on this issue?

Democrats can stop Trump via the electoral college. But not how you think.

If all 232 Democratic electors pledge to reach across the aisle and vote for a Republican alternative to Trump, it would take just 38 GOP electors to make that person the next president.

.. If Clinton announced she is releasing “her” electors and asked them to vote for a credible Republican alternative, she could plausibly deliver all 232 Democratic electors.

.. In 2012, Romney won a larger share of the popular vote (47.2 percent) than Mr. Trump did this year (46.2 percent).

.. If Democrats believe Trump poses a unique threat yet don’t support another Republican in the electoral college, it will indicate that Democrats see Trump as no different from any other Republican. And if Democrats treat Trump as normal, they will be complicit in normalizing his behaviors.

Why I Will Not Cast My Electoral Vote for Donald Trump

Federalist 68 argued that an Electoral College should determine if candidates are qualified, not engaged in demagogy, and independent from foreign influence. Mr. Trump shows us again and again that he does not meet these standards.

.. Mr. Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief. During the campaign more than 50 Republican former national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter opposing him. In their words, “he would be a dangerous president.”

.. Hamilton also reminded us that a president cannot be a demagogue. Mr. Trump urged violence against protesters at his rallies during the campaign. He speaks of retribution against his critics. He has surrounded himself with advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon, who claims to be a Leninist and lauds villains and their thirst for power, including Darth Vader.

.. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s pick for national security adviser, has his own checkered past about rules. He installed a secret internet connection in his Pentagon office despite rules to the contrary. Sound familiar?

.. I believe electors should unify behind a Republican alternative, an honorable and qualified man or woman such as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.