Donald Trump slipped into the Oval Office through a wormhole of confusion about the American identity.
.. We were moving from a white-majority, male-dominated country and manufacturing base to a multicultural, multilateral, globalized, P.C., new energy, new technology world, without taking account of the confusion and anger of older Americans who felt like strangers in a strange land.
.. And we certainly don’t want men like Rob Porter who have punched, kicked, choked and terrorized their wives to be in the president’s inner circle, helping decide which policies, including those that affect women, get emphasized.
.. We don’t want the White House chief of staff to be the sort of person who shields and defends abusers — and then dissembles about it — simply because the abuser is a rare competent staffer. Or a man who labels Dreamers “too lazy to get off their asses” simply because they didn’t apply for legal protections in time.
.. John Kelly served as a character witness not only for Porter, after he didn’t receive security clearance because F.B.I. agents had heard the harrowing tales from his battered ex-wives. Kelly also testified as a character witness for Gen. Robert E. Lee and a former Marine who pleaded guilty to sending inappropriate sexual messages to female subordinates; who drove drunk to an arraignment; and who got charged in Virginia with sex crimes against children.
.. As a more lucid Trump tweeted in 2012 about Rihanna getting back together with Chris Brown, “A beater is always a beater.”
.. We don’t want a president who bends over backward to give the benefit of the doubt to neo-Nazis, wife beaters, pedophiles and sexual predators — or who is a sexual predator himself.
.. We don’t want a president who flips the ordinary equation, out of some puerile sense of grievance, to honor Russia and dishonor the F.B.I.
.. We don’t want a president who is too shallow to read his daily intelligence report and too obsessed with the deep state to deal fairly with our intelligence agencies.
.. We don’t want a president who suggests that Democrats who don’t clap for him are treasonous and who seems more enthralled by authoritarian ways than democratic ones.
.. who loves generals but trashes Gold Star parents
.. who wants the sort of chesty military parade that we mock Kim Jong-un for, a phallic demonstration of overcompensation that would only put more potholes in the D.C. boulevards.
.. one who could be so easily trapped in lies that he can’t even be allowed to talk to an investigator.
.. And, finally, we surely don’t want a president who seeks advice on foreign affairs from Henry Kissinger. Ever. Again.
Everyone’s talking about the civil war in the Republican Party. It seems more like a surrender to us. The great bulk of elected Republicans have surrendered to the forces of Donald J. Trump. And they didn’t even put up much of a fight. Has a hostile takeover of a historic institution ever been accomplished with less resistance? The flag of surrender went up before many blows were even landed.
.. What I find so shocking is not so much the capitulation but the terms of the surrender. Or, rather, I should say the term — singular — of surrender, because there seems to be only one requirement expected of Republicans: Lavish praise on Donald Trump no matter what he does or says. Or at the very least, never, ever criticize him. Policy is an afterthought.
.. A reporter for Politico recently asked John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, for his views on a potential bipartisan compromise extending cost-sharing payments under Obamacare. “I’m with the president,” Cornyn told Seung Min Kim. When she asked him where, exactly, Trump is on the plan, Cornyn threw his hands in the air. So Cornyn doesn’t know what Trump’s position is — but he knows that he shares it.
.. The Trump agenda begins and ends with personal loyalty to Trump — not to the Trump agenda, but to the Trump personality.
.. Sasse likes to point out he is the third most conservative senator by voting record. I’m not sure how he reached that figure, but it seems plausible given that the American Conservative Union gave him a 100 percent conservative score in both 2015 and in 2016.
..But, remember, Sasse is the RINO squish traitor.
..Ah, quoth the Bannonite mobs, but he’s thwarting Trump’s agenda! Conservatism is a dead creed. What matters now is the new nationalism and supporting our president’s pursuit of coveted wins. Nothing else matters. Well, according to FiveThirtyEight, Sasse has voted with Trump 90.2 percent of the time. He supported the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill, admittedly with reservations. But if Sasse had his way, the president would have had more than one big win by now.
.. Losing a seat to the Democrats is worse for the pro-life cause than appeasing the Trump White House — or at least a reasonable person could come to that conclusion.
.. They also talk about wanting to get things done and the importance of fulfilling the Trump “agenda.” But they reserve their purest passion and most sustained vitriol not for people who don’t vote with Trump, but for people who do vote with Trump but who also refuse to remain silent.
.. Why? Well, in the president’s case, the answer is obvious: his own Brobdingnagian yet astoundingly fragile ego. Because Trump cares so little about policy, he can forgive policy differences quite easily. What he can’t forgive is anyone even hinting that the emperor’s new clothes are, at best, invisible to the naked eye.
.. I’ll give Steve Bannon credit. He understood this from the get-go. He understood that criticizing Trump for the Access Hollywood tape was the kind of disloyalty Trump cares about. But criticizing a tax-reform proposal? He won’t care, at least not if it’s couched in compliments.
.. The Breitbart folks are quick to point out that they criticized Trump when he seemed to be capitulating on DACA — “Amnesty Don” and all that. This was at Bannon’s direction of course. But Bannon & Co. never, ever criticize the man himself. When Trump is doing wrong, it’s because the “Globalists” or the “Establishment” are giving the king bad information and whispering treason in his ear.
.. THE NEW SNOWFLAKE CAUCUS
It really is amazing. The people most likely to mock “snowflakes” and ask if you’ve been “triggered” have the most Pavlovian responses to criticism of Trump. They can’t seem to handle hearing anyone pointing out Trump’s personal, ideological, political, or managerial failings.
.. Ted Cruz is right that the Republicans have work to do. But who has taken his eye off the ball more than anyone else in Washington? Hint: It’s not Jeff Flake, it’s not Bob Corker, and it’s not Ben Sasse. It’s most emphatically not Mitch McConnell, who gave Trump his biggest win — Justice Gorsuch — and who is doing yeoman’s work to get conservatives on the lower courts.
.. It’s the guy who’d rather fight Gold Star families and rant about the NFL. It’s the guy who talks about revoking licenses for the press and talks about Confederate generals as “our heritage.” But just as there’s no reasoning with Dad when he gets into the Dewar’s, there’s no talking Trump out of his Twitter when he gets into one of his “moods.”
.. the culture-war spats and nasty personal fights are to a very real extent Trump’s true agenda, or at least it’s what people who love the Trump Show love about the Trump Show.
.. “But he fights!” can be a principle for everyone — for people without principles and also for those of us who have them.
Trump lashed out on Twitter the next morning, calling Wilson’s account “totally fabricated” and stating that he had “proof.” Trump’s subsequent revelation that Obama had not called Kelly after his son’s death led to Kelly’s appearance in the briefing room Thursday.
.. In the Fox interview, Trump insisted that he did speak La David Johnson’s name in his conversation with his widow.
At the White House, Sanders accused reporters of fanning the flames of a sensational story. “It should have ended yesterday after General Kelly’s comments,” she said. “But it didn’t. . . . It’s still the bulk of the coverage on most every TV you turn on and most every newspaper that you open up today.”
She did not mention that Trump had tweeted again about the issue late Thursday, nearly eight hours after Kelly’s briefing room appearance.
“The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson (D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!” Trump wrote.