Shields and Gerson on Mattis’ resignation, congressional stalemate

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson join Judy Woodruff to analyze the week’s political news, including the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the congressional scramble to fund the government and avoid a partial shutdown.

 

Summary

Jim Mattis’s resignation resulted in panic and is a sign that we are reaching the beginning of the end.

Trump had an agreement for temporary funding but felt pressured by Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh because the threat of the Mueller Report forces Trump to solidify his support on the right.

s Trump has already authored his own tell-all

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,”

  1. attacked the “Deep State Justice Department,” taken credit for the lack of commercial airline crashes,
  2. urged“Jail!” for former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, called for the sacking of two journalists,
  3. claimed the news media will eventually “let me win” reelection to keep up their ratings,
  4. displayed a sputtering inability to describe his own health-care reform plan,
  5. claimed that a cold snap disproves global warming,
  6. boasted of having “a much bigger & more powerful” nuclear button than Kim Jong Un,
  7. tried to prevent the publication of Wolff’s book,
  8. 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.

 

To save the GOP, Republicans have to lose

Roy Mooreism was distilled Trumpism, flavored with some self-righteous moralism. It was all there: the aggressive ignorance, the racial divisiveness, the disdain for governing, the contempt for truth, the accusations of sexual predation, the (just remarkable) trashing of America in favor of Vladimir Putin, the conspiracy theories, the sheer, destabilizing craziness of the average day.

.. Most of the party remains in complicit silence. The few elected officials who have broken with Trump have become targets of the conservative media complex — savaged as an example to the others.

.. This is the sad logic of Republican politics today: The only way that elected Republicans will abandon Trump is if they see it as in their self-interest. And the only way they will believe it is in their self-interest is to watch a considerable number of their fellow Republicans lose.

.. In the end, the restoration of the Republican Party will require Republicans to lose elections.

.. It will require Republican voters — as in Alabama and (to some extent) Virginia — to sit out, write in or even vote Democratic in races involving pro-Trump Republicans.

.. victory for Republicans will look like: strategic defeat

..  Trump and his allies are solidifying the support of rural, blue-collar and evangelical Christian whites at the expense of alienating minorities, women, suburbanites and the young. This is a foolish bargain, destroying the moral and political standing of the Republican Party

.. It is the emergency method for Republicans to detach themselves from Trump, create a new party identity and become worthy of winning.

.. Trump’s Republican opponents will not be to blame. It would be Trump and his supporters, who turned the Republican Party into a sleazy, derelict fun house, unsafe for children, women and minorities.

.. A healthy, responsible, appealing GOP can be built only on the ruins of this one.

 

How Trump broke conservatism

Chief among them is Trump’s assault on truth, which takes a now-familiar form. First, assert and maintain a favorable lie. Second, attack and discredit sources of opposition. Third, declare victory based on power or applause.

So, Trump claimed that Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson’s account of his conversation with a Gold Star widow was “totally fabricated.” (Not true.) Wilson, after all, is “wacky.” (Not relevant.) And Trump won the interchange because Wilson is “killing the Democrat Party.” (We’ll see.)

The pattern is invariable. President Barack Obama is a Kenyan; the Mexican government deliberately dumps criminals across the border; “thousands and thousands” of people in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attacks ; Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s father consorted with Lee Harvey Oswald; vaccination schedules can be tied to autism; Obama was “wiretapping” Trump Tower during the presidential campaign; Obama asked British intelligence to spy on Trump; at least 3 million immigrants voted illegally in the 2016 election. Any source that disputes Trump is personally defamed or dismissed as “fake news.” And how is truth ultimately adjudicated? “The country believes me,” Trump said earlier this year. “Hey, I went to Kentucky two nights ago. We had 25,000 people.” Confronted by a reporter about his routine deceptions, Trump answered, “I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president and you’re not.”

.. Conservatives were supposed to be the protectors of objective truth from various forms of postmodernism. Now they generally defend our thoroughly post-truth president. Evidently we are all relativists now.

..  The problem is not just the constant lies. It is the dismissal of reason and objectivity as inherently elitist and partisan.

a pernicious form of tyranny: a tyranny over the mind.

.. The alternative to reasoned discourse is the will to power.
.. This is the frightening direction of Trumpism. It is the corruption that good men such as White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly are enabling.

Shields and Gerson on Trump’s deal with Democrats, DACA’s demise

Republicans were livid with the way Trump handled them over the debt ceiling.  They were not livid over all Trump’s other outrages.

Trump has special chemistry with Chuck Schumer, as a fellow New Yorker.

Trump delighted in favorable press coverage from the Mainstream Media he claims to hate.

The conservative mind has become diseased

But this failure of decency is also politically symbolic. Who is the politician who legitimized conspiracy thinking at the highest level? Who raised the possibility that Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Who hinted that Hillary Clinton might have been involved in the deathof Vince Foster, or that unnamed liberals might have killed Justice Antonin Scalia? Who not only questioned President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, but raised the prospect of the murder of a Hawaiian state official in a coverup? “How amazing,” Trump tweeted in 2013, “the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived.”

We have a president charged with maintaining public health who asserts that the vaccination schedule is a dangerous scam of greedy doctors. We have a president charged with representing all Americans who has falsely accused thousands of Muslims of celebrating in the streets following the 9/11 attacks.

 .. In this mental environment, alleging a Rich-related conspiracy was predictable. This is a concrete example of the mainstreaming of destructive craziness.
Those conservatives who believe that the confirmation of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch is sufficient justification for the Trump presidency are ignoring Trump’s psychic and moral destruction of the conservative movement and the Republican Party.
.. He is shaping conservatism in his image and ensuring an eventual defeat more complete, and an eventual exile more prolonged, than Democrats could have dreamed.
.. The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased. The movement has been seized by a kind of discrediting madness, in which conspiracy delusions figure prominently.
.. Conspiracy theories often involve a kind of dehumanization. Human tragedy is made secondary — something to be exploited rather than mourned. The narrative of conspiracy takes precedence over the meaning of a life and the suffering of a family. A human being is made into an ideological prop and used on someone else’s stage.
.. A conspiratorial approach to politics is fully consistent with other forms of dehumanization — of migrants, refugees and “the other” more generally. Men and women are reduced to types and presented as threats. They also become props in an ideological drama. They are presented as representatives of a plot involving invasion and infiltration, rather than being viewed as individuals seeking opportunity or fleeing oppression and violence.