One day it’s all sun and sycophantic fun on one of the president’s fancy golf courses, where you’re telling yourself that to marvel at his putts and swoon over his swing are small prices for influence and will pay off in the end.
.. That’s the story of Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Its moral couldn’t be clearer. There’s no honor or wisdom in cozying up to Donald Trump — just a heap of manure.
.. Maybe more than any other figure on Capitol Hill, Graham personifies his party’s spastic, incoherent, humiliating response to Trump across time and its fatally misguided surrender.
He denounced Trump before he befriended and defended him. He graduated from the unpleasant experience of being Trump’s punching bag to the unprincipled one of being his enabler. Like the majority of his Republican colleagues in Congress, he reckoned that he could somehow get more than he was giving up, which included his dignity. He reckoned wrong.
.. It was Graham who recently joined Senator Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican, in undercutting the credibility of federal inquiries into Trump’s ties with Russia by recommending that the Justice Department investigate Christopher Steele
.. Did Graham tell himself then that he was craftily staying in Trump’s good graces so that he could coax the president toward saner, better immigration policy?
.. when Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, strenuously disputed the initial accounts that Trump said “shithole” in the Oval Office, it was not because his talk was actually statesmanlike. No, they heard him fume about immigrants from “shithouse countries” rather than “shithole countries,” and in that scintilla of semantic difference they found a rationale for muddying the waters and rallying around the president.
.. During the campaign, Graham blasted Trump as the “world’s biggest jackass,” said that the way to make America great again was to “tell Donald Trump to go to hell” and described the choice of Trump versus Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination as a decision whether to be “shot or poisoned.”
.. A fervent champion of national security, he gave Trump a pass for making light of Russian interference in an American election.
.. He sternly reprimanded the media for calling the president “some kind of kook.” Oops! He had hung that same label on Trump,
.. But it’s reckless folly, because it doesn’t take Trump’s creeping authoritarianism, his instability, his degradation of the presidency and, yes, his racism into full account. To flatter him is to sanitize and encourage all of that.
Trump is damaged most, not by sabotage, but by self-revelation.
.. The president has recently taunted FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for “racing the clock to retire with full benefits,”
- attacked the “Deep State Justice Department,” taken credit for the lack of commercial airline crashes,
- urged“Jail!” for former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, called for the sacking of two journalists,
- claimed the news media will eventually “let me win” reelection to keep up their ratings,
- displayed a sputtering inability to describe his own health-care reform plan,
- claimed that a cold snap disproves global warming,
- boasted of having “a much bigger & more powerful” nuclear button than Kim Jong Un,
- tried to prevent the publication of Wolff’s book,
- and insisted he is “like, really smart” and “a very stable genius.”
.. More likely, Trump is exhibiting a set of compulsions and delusions that have characterized his entire adult life. You can’t have declining judgment that never existed. You can’t lose a grasp on reality you never possessed. What is most striking is not Trump’s disintegration but his utter consistency.
.. If the secret tape of a president threatening a private citizen with jail were leaked, it would be a scandal. With Trump, it is just part of his shtick.
.. The president’s defenders, in perpetual pursuit of the bright side, argue for the value of unpredictability in political leadership — which is true enough. But Trump is not unpredictable. He is predictable in ways that make him vulnerable to exploitation.
He is easy to flatter, easy to provoke and thus easy to manipulate.
.. The Chinese have made an art of this
.. “I like very much President Xi,” Trump has said. “He treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China.” Contrast this with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has treated Trump like an adult with arguments and criticism. Big mistake.
.. Trump has revealed a thick streak of authoritarianism. “I have [an] absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” he insists.
- .. “Libel laws are very weak in this country,”
- Rivals are not only to be defeated; they should be imprisoned.
- Critics are not to be refuted; they should be fired.
- Investigations are not to be answered; they should be shut down.
.. we are depending on the strength of those institutions, not the self-restraint of the president, to safeguard democracy.
.. At the beginning, they could engage in wishful thinking about Trump’s fitness. Now they must know he is not emotionally equipped to be president. Yet, they also know this can’t be admitted, lest they be accused of letting down their partisan team.
.. GOP leaders are engaged in an intentional deception, pretending the president is a normal and capable leader.
.. they will, eventually, be exposed. And by then, the country may not be in a forgiving mood.
Shortly before he announced his retirement, Mr. Hatch gushed about Mr. Trump that “we’re going to make this the greatest presidency that we’ve seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever.”
This has been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump Administration,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, said. “Thank you, Mr. President, for all you are doing.” Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, added that passing the tax bill “could not have been done without exquisite Presidential leadership.” Senator Orrin Hatch, of Utah, spoke directly to Trump, saying, “You are one heckuva leader, and we’re all benefitting from it.” And Congresswoman Diane Black, of Tennessee, put it even more bluntly. “Thank you, President Trump, for allowing us to have you as our President,” she said.
It is well known that Trump, his ego as fragile as an eggshell, demands constant flattery. But this was cravenness of a level rare even for Washington. Perhaps the Republican senators and representatives were taking their cue from Mike Pence. At an end-of-year Cabinet meeting that was held shortly before the celebration on the South Lawn, the Vice-President praised his boss fourteen times in three minutes—once every 12.5 seconds, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out—and after Pence had finished his obsequious speech, other Cabinet members chimed in with their own gushing tributes.
.. Not only do we have a chronically insecure President with Napoleonic pretensions. We also have Republican leadership that is happy to feed those pretensions in order to get its way. For much of 2017, many Trump antagonists, myself included, have taken consolation from the belief that he wasn’t achieving much.
.. The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court received a lot of attention, of course. At least equally important, though, was the appointment of more than seventy conservative judges to lower courts. And right-wing zealots have also been parachuted into the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and other regulatory agencies, where they are busy stripping away many of the protections that previous Administrations put in place, such as clean-air regulations, workplace rules, and guarantees of net neutrality.
.. the introduction of tax breaks for private-school tuition fees. Ted Cruz wasn’t exaggerating when he described the latter provision, which he proposed, as potentially the biggest piece of federal school-choice legislation in history.
.. Paul Ryan has already signalled what that means: a renewed assault on Medicare and Medicaid.