Goodbye to the Scaramouch

In his total absence of dignity and decorum, his violence and his vulgarity, he was the emblem par excellence of the Trump White House. That reports of his wife filing for divorce surfaced during his brief apotheosis completed the picture. Fast-talking and fatuous, self-important and servile, he embodied the “commedia dell’arte” of Trump’s dysfunctional crew.

..  Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to Trump, who recently told the BBC that, “The military is not a microcosm of civilian society. They are not there to reflect America. They are there to kill people and blow stuff up.”

..  The Scaramouch was just a stand-in for the president he professed to love. The real “braggart and poltroon” sits in the Oval Office.

.. What but some profound sense of inadequacy could explain the neediness and the nastiness, the pout and the pettiness, the vanity and the vulgarity, the anger and the aggression? This president gets off on the humiliation of others. He is inhabited by some deep violence to which self-control is a stranger. It is almost painful to watch the degree to which he pursues self-aggrandizement. He confounds masculinity with machismo. As J.K. Rowling put it in a tweet: “You tiny, tiny, tiny little man.”

.. The transgender decision .. was, in the words of Stephen Burbank, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, “an engine of malice.” It illustrated how, “In the realm of moral leadership, President Trump is leading a race to the bottom.”

..  The police department in Suffolk County also pushed back; it would not tolerate brutality.

.. But this is the president we have: turbulent, chaotic, boastful, cowardly and violent.

On the Comey Firing, a Race to the Bottom

Yet, the manner of the firing was ham-handed: The president’s bodyguard was dispatched to deliver the termination documents to what turned out to be an empty office, the White House having failed to check on the director’s whereabouts (he was on FBI business in California). And, as has become ever clearer over the last few days, the justifications for the action from the White House have been deceptive.

.. In a nutshell, Trump wanted to be rid of Comey but deflect responsibility for removing an FBI director less than four years into a ten-year term. So he directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein to prepare a memo explaining the grounds of termination. Then, his team spun the firing as if it were the Justice Department’s idea, occurring now only because Rosenstein just started on the job. (Sessions has recused himself from aspects of the Russia inquiry, though the scope of the recusal is uncertain.) The White House tried to make it appear as if the president were merely concurring in the decision. Only when Rosenstein reportedly protested did Trump own up.

.. He also, disturbingly, said that he was thinking of Russia when he made the decision, contradicting everyone in the White House who said that had nothing to do with it.

.. It is understandable that Democrats are screaming bloody murder about events of the last few days — certainly Republicans would be doing the same if a Democrat were in the White House and axed an FBI director the way Trump has. But the analogies to Watergate — ubiquitous in the media — are overwrought

.. The objective of a foreign counterintelligence investigation is not to gather evidence of a specific violation of law in order to build a prosecutable criminal case against a suspect. It is to determine the actions and intentions of foreign powers to the extent they bear on American interests.

.. There have been reports that the FBI has been scrutinizing business dealings former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had with Kremlin-connected Ukrainian politicians between 2005 and 2014, and business conducted in Russia by Carter Page, whose connection to the Trump campaign — which listed him as an adviser — appears remote. Trump’s shady longtime crony Roger Stone has boasted of a relationship with WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange, and there are suspicions he may have had prior knowledge that WikiLeaks would publish e-mails hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta

.. In short, it may be that this investigation really does have nothing to do with Donald Trump directly. That makes his petulant and self-destructive response to it all the more mystifying — except against the backdrop of his entire adult life, which has involved bullying and blustering his way to fame and fortune.

.. The more he complains and lashes out, the more the opposition turns up the heat. The race to the bottom may have just begun.