Why Donald Trump feels invincible

People who think they are invincible tend to find out that they are not in the harshest way possible.

.. one could understand Trump’s behavior if he was doing nothing but winning — except that he isn’t. Most of the coverage suggests Trump feels liberated in particular by his decisions to levy steel and aluminum tariffs and plan on a summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. But let’s review those two moves. The former is bad policy and bad politics, and it failed to win the Pennsylvania special election for the GOP. The latter may or may not happen, but it is very likely to not end well.

The best interpretive framework through which to understand Trump’s leadership is psychological rather than ideological. One would think that a president with historically low poll numbers, facing an investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of growing seriousness, heading (in all likelihood) toward a disastrous midterm repudiation that could lead to his impeachment, and presiding over an administration run on the management principles of Maximilien Robespierre might be acting out of desperation. On the contrary, White House insiders indicate that Trump’s increasingly flailing decisions are the function of a president gaining in confidence. Having decided that he has gotten the hang of the job, Trump has lost patience with opposition and constraints. He seems not frightened but giddy.

.. Trump feels he’s winning because he is not losing as much as everyone has claimed.

None of the crazy stuff Trump said or did — from boasting about the size of his nuclear button to firing the FBI director running the investigation into his campaign — merited more than a shrug from investors. And when the market finally did hit a turbulent patch, in early February of this year, it wasn’t because of anything Trump had done; it was triggered by a boring old economic indicator, an upbeat jobs report that made investors worry the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates. Even Trump’s globe-shaking announcement last week of big tariffs on imported steel and aluminum only had a temporary effect. Stocks initially plunged on fears of a disastrous trade war, but they recovered nearly all the ground they had lost in just three days, as traders figured Trump would water down the actual policy.

.. White House staffers have been counseling presidents against rash actions since the invention of White House staff. The way they do this is by warning of dire consequences if their advice is not followed.

Indeed, this was the tactic that Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used to try to forestall the tariffs.

.. In the end, however, they were wrong. Trump has such a short-term worldview that if something calamitous does not happen immediately after he does something, it bolsters his assumption that he’s bulletproof.

Despite doomsaying

  • predictions of a crashing economy if he was elected, the economy is still chugging along. Despite dire warnings that the
  • tariffs would trigger a trade war and a global economic scare, that has not happened yet, either. Despite much clucking about
  • the impropriety of shifting from “maximum pressure” on North Korea to a planned summit, no alliance has been torn asunder.

.. I am not saying any of Trump’s moves are great ideas. But they haven’t triggered immediately catastrophes either. If an adviser keeps warning you that bad things will happen and then they have not yet come to pass, you would start to doubt their worth as well.

.. If Trump thought about it he would probably realize some of his self-initiated moves, like

  • firing James B. Comey, have been calamitous. And as White acknowledges, it is possible “Trump really does pose a massive systemic risk, and
  • markets just can’t see it or can’t price it.”
  • A botched summit could lead to war on the Korean Peninsula.
  • All of Trump’s myriad miscues could come back to haunt him in the midterms.

But nothing bad has happened yet, so Trump will continue to feel emboldened. Essentially, he is acting like he is invincible. And people who think they are invincible tend to find out they are not in the harshest way possible.

Putin’s Phony Arms Race

Russia announced “new” systems aimed at defeating U.S. defenses. They change nothing.

an extravagant hype of a “breakthrough in developing new models of strategic weapons,” designed to ensure that Russia’s nuclear forces can defeat any defense the U.S. now has or can build.

.. I believe Putin’s aggressive stance was almost entirely for domestic consumption and geopolitical posturing. Though I don’t want to underestimate the importance of geopolitical posturing

.. Consider the new missile that presumably can defeat all of our defenses: Russia now has, and has had for many decades, missiles that can readily defeat U.S. defenses. Russia does not have to attack the U.S. from the south to do so. We have always believed that Russian missiles have decoys that can defeat our defenses by saturating them, even if our defenses were to work as advertised. And if we were to build more and better defenses, Russia would then build more and better decoys, or for that matter, more warheads for the missiles they already have. Building more decoys or more warheads is always easier and cheaper than building bigger and better defenses to defeat them. Even if our defenses were to shoot down 80 percent of the warheads in a large-scale attack (a percentage that no experience and no test data support), 200 to 300 nuclear warheads detonating in the U.S. could hardly be considered a successful “defense.” That is what the Russians can do with their present arsenal—and we can do the same. That is what mutual deterrence is all about.

The Republican’s Guide to Presidential Etiquette

Remember the hand-wringing when Barack Obama wore a tan suit or tossed a football in the Oval Office?

 .. As part of our continuing effort to resist the exhausting and numbing effects of living under a relentlessly abusive and degrading president, we present, for the third time in nine months, an updated guide to what Republicans now consider to be acceptable behavior from the commander in chief. As before, these examples, drawn from incidents or disclosures in the last three-plus months, do not concern policy decisions — only the president’s words and actions.

Question the authenticity of a recording of you bragging about sexual assault, even though you previously admitted it was real

.. Call the American justice system a “joke” and a “laughingstock”

Have your lawyer pay $130,000 in hush money to a porn star with whom you had an affair while your wife was at home caring for your new son

.. Continue to call for a criminal investigation of your former political opponent, whom you call the “worst (and biggest) loser of all time” a year after the election

.. Tell your rich friends after your tax bill passes, “You all just got a lot richer

Boast that you have a higher I.Q. than your secretary of state, who fails to deny that he called you a “moron”

.. Defend your mental competency by saying that you are “like, really smart” and a “very stable genius”

Tell your attorney general not to recuse himself from overseeing an investigation into your campaign, then when he does anyway, call it “a terrible thing”

.. Falsely claim that your predecessor failed to contact the families of fallen soldiers, and then exploit the death of your chief of staff’s son to defend yourself

.. Threaten to take away a TV network’s broadcast license for reporting on your deliberations about the nation’s nuclear arsenal
.. Threaten to use federal tax law to punish a professional sports league for letting its players express political opinions

Tell reporters that “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it”

Warn American citizens in Puerto Rico, only weeks after a catastrophic hurricane, that the federal government can’t help them out “forever,” even as you tell victims of a hurricane in Texas, “We are with you today, we are with you tomorrow, and we will be with you EVERY SINGLE DAY AFTER, to restore, recover, and REBUILD!”

.. Spend one-third of the first year of your taxpayer-funded presidency visiting your own golf courses or properties
.. While debating policy with lawmakers on live television, accidentally agree to a deal that is the opposite of what your party wants, get corrected by the House majority leader, and then release an official White House transcript that omits the exchange

.. Say that your former White House adviser and campaign chief has “lost his mind,” after another former adviser and campaign manager is indicted on money laundering and other federal charges

.. Claim that a new tax bill you support will “cost me a fortune,” even though it will probably save you millions, but who knows since you refuse to release your tax returns

.. Take credit for the fact that no one died on a domestic commercial airliner during your first year in office

.. Continue to mock foreign leaders by implying that they are, among other things, “short and fat”

.. Try to stop the publication of a book that says critical things about you and your administration
.. Accuse an F.B.I. agent of treason without evidence
.. Watch four to eight hours of cable television a day, mostly the channel that feeds you self-serving propaganda
 .. Choose for federal judgeships nominees who cannot identify or explain basic legal concepts, and who were rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association
.. Falsely claim that you have signed more legislation than any first-year president, when in fact you have signed less than any post-World War II president
.. Taunt a foreign leader who claims he has nuclear weapons by saying your “nuclear button” is “a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
.. Criticize a law that your party firmly supports, then, two hours later, reverse yourself
.. Pick nominees to the federal bench who call a sitting Supreme Court justice a “judicial prostitute” and refer to transgender children as part of “Satan’s plan”
.. Campaign hard for a Senate candidate; then when he appears likely to lose, say “I might have made a mistake” and later delete your tweets supporting him .. Behave so erratically and irresponsibly that senators of your own party resort to saying you’re treated like someone at “an adult day-care center” to keep you from starting World War III
.. Spend one of every three days as president visiting at least one of your own properties
.. Publicly and privately humiliate your own attorney general for recusing himself from an investigation into your campaign
.. Say nothing when a foreign leader’s bodyguards brutally attack peaceful protesters in the streets of Washington, D.C.
.. Tweet GIFs of yourself violently attacking the media and your former political opponent
.. Encourage police officers not to be “too nice” when apprehending criminal suspects
.. Help draft a misleading statement about the purpose of a meeting between your son, other top campaign aides and representatives of a rival foreign power intent on interfering in the election

Deliver a speech to the Boy Scouts of America that includes mockery of a former president and winking references to sexual orgies, and then lie by claiming that the head of that organization called and told you it was the best speech ever delivered in Boy Scout history

Hang a framed copy of a fake Time magazine cover celebrating your business acumen in your golf clubs around the world

Mock a female television anchor’s appearance, saying the anchor was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” at a holiday gathering at your private resort

Force your cabinet members to take turns extolling your virtues in front of television cameras

Welcome into the Oval Office a man who threatened to assassinate your predecessor, whom he called a “subhuman mongrel,” and who referred to your political opponent as a “worthless bitch”

Continue to deny that Russia attempted to influence the presidential election, despite the consensus of the American intelligence community — and yet also blame your predecessor for not doing anything to stop that interference

Grant temporary White House press credentials to a website that, among other things, claims that Sept. 11 was an “inside job” and that the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax

.. Pardon a former sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to obey the law

Continue to repeat, with admiration, a false story about an American military general committing war crimes

Mock the mayor of a world city for his careful, sober response to a terrorist attack

 .. Admit to trying to intimidate a key witness in a federal investigation
.. Profit off the presidency, accepting millions of dollars from foreign government officials, businesses, politicians and other supporters who pay a premium to patronize your properties and get access to you — while also attempting to hide the visitor lists at some of those properties from the public
.. Promise to drain the swamp, then quietly grant ethics waivers to multiple former industry lobbyists who want to work in your administration
.. Call for criminal investigations of your former political opponent, seven months after winning the election

Appoint your family wedding planner to head a federal housing office

Shove aside a fellow head of state at a photo-op

Accuse a former president, without evidence, of an impeachable offense

.. Employ top aides with financial and other connections to a hostile foreign power

.. Call the media “the enemy of the American people”

Demand personal loyalty from the F.B.I. director

Threaten the former F.B.I. director

.. Allow White House staff members to use their personal email for government business

Claim, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally

Fail to fire high-ranking members of your national security team for weeks, even after knowing they lied to your vice president and exposed themselves to blackmail

Refuse to release tax returns

Hide the White House visitors’ list from the public

Vacation at one of your private residences nearly every weekend

Use an unsecured personal cellphone

Criticize specific businesses for dropping your family members’ products

Review and discuss highly sensitive intelligence in a restaurant, and allow the Army officer carrying the “nuclear football” to be photographed and identified by name

.. Hire relatives for key White House posts, and let them meet with foreign officials and engage in business at the same time

Promote family businesses on federal government websites

.. Compare the U.S. intelligence community to Nazis
.. Share highly classified information with a hostile foreign power without the source’s permission

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.

 

Everyone in Trumpworld Knows He’s an Idiot

It’s not Trump’s motives that are scary; Wolff reports that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were “increasingly panicked” and “frenzied” about what Comey would find if he looked into the family finances, which is incriminating but unsurprising. The terrifying part is how, in Wolff’s telling, Trump sneaked around his aides, some of whom thought they’d contained him.

.. “In presidential annals, the firing of F.B.I. director James Comey may be the most consequential move ever made by a modern president acting entirely on his own.” Now imagine Trump taking the same approach toward ordering the bombing of North Korea.

.. We learn that the administration holds special animus for what it calls “D.O.J. women,”

.. most of all, the book confirms what is already widely understood — not just that Trump is entirely unfit for the presidency, but that everyone around him knows it.

.. One thread running through “Fire and Fury” is the way relatives, opportunists and officials try to manipulate and manage the president, and how they often fail.

.. the people around Trump, “all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.”

.. According to Wolff, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, called Trump an “idiot.” (So did the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, though he used an obscenity first.)

.. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, compares his boss’s intelligence to excrement. The national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, thinks he’s a “dope.” It has already been reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” which he has pointedly refused to deny.

.. Wolff takes a few stabs at the motives of Trump insiders. Ivanka Trump apparently nurtured the ghastly dream of following her father into the presidency. Others, Wolff writes, told themselves that they could help protect America from the president they serve

.. Some of the military men trying to steady American foreign policy amid Trump’s whims and tantrums might be doing something quietly decent, sacrificing their reputations for the greater good.

.. But most members of Trump’s campaign and administration are simply traitors. They are willing, out of some complex mix of ambition, resentment, cynicism and rationalization, to endanger all of our lives — all of our children’s lives — by refusing to tell the country what they know about the senescent fool who boasts of the size of his “nuclear button” on Twitter.

.. Maybe, at the moment, people in the Trump orbit feel complacent because a year has passed without any epic disaster, unless you count an estimated 1,000 or so deaths in Puerto Rico

.. A guy falls from a 50-story building. As he flies by the 25th floor, someone asks how it’s going. “So far, so good!” he says.

Eventually, we’ll hit the ground, and assuming America survives, there should be a reckoning to dwarf the defenestration of Harvey Weinstein and his fellow ogres.

.. His enablers have no such excuse.