The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.
.. He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen.
.. Half the president’s tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn. “It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their president.”
.. “The Republicans never discuss how good their health care bill is.” True, but neither does Mr. Trump, who seems unsure of its content. In just the past two weeks, of the press, he complained: “Every story/opinion, even if should be positive, is bad!” Journalists produce “highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting.” They are “DISTORTING DEMOCRACY.” They “fabricate the facts.”
.. It’s all whimpering accusation and finger-pointing: Nobody’s nice to me. Why don’t they appreciate me?
.. His public brutalizing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn’t strong, cool and deadly; it’s limp, lame and blubbery. “Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes,” he tweeted this week. Talk about projection.
.. John J. Pitney Jr. of Claremont McKenna College writes: “Loyalty is about strength. It is about sticking with a person, a cause, an idea or a country even when it is costly, difficult or unpopular.” A strong man does that. A weak one would unleash his resentments and derive sadistic pleasure from their unleashing.
.. The way American men used to like seeing themselves, the template they most admired, was the strong silent type celebrated in classic mid-20th century films—Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Henry Fonda. In time the style shifted, and we wound up with the nervous and chattery. More than a decade ago the producer and writer David Chase had his Tony Soprano mourn the disappearance of the old style: “What they didn’t know is once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings they wouldn’t be able to shut him up!” The new style was more like that of Woody Allen. His characters couldn’t stop talking about their emotions, their resentments and needs. They were self-justifying as they acted out their cowardice and anger...His inability—not his refusal, but his inability—to embrace the public and rhetorical role of the presidency consistently and constructively is weak... “It’s so easy to act presidential but that’s not gonna get it done,” Mr. Trump said the other night at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio. That is the opposite of the truth. The truth, six months in, is that he is not presidential and is not getting it done. His mad, blubbery petulance isn’t working for him but against him. If he were presidential he’d be getting it done—building momentum, gaining support. He’d be over 50%, not under 40%. He’d have health care, and more... He seemed to think this diarrheic diatribe was professional, the kind of thing the big boys do with their media bros. But he came across as just another drama queen for this warring, riven, incontinent White House. As Scaramucci spoke, the historian Joshua Zeitz observed wonderingly, on Twitter: “It’s Team of Rivals but for morons.”
It is. And it stinks from the top.
Meanwhile the whole world is watching, a world that contains predators. How could they not be seeing this weakness, confusion and chaos and thinking it’s a good time to cause some trouble?
Summing up his life lessons, he encouraged the students to lean in: “Everything I’ve done in my career, and everything that most of you have done to this point, is to take risks.”
.. During an interview on CNBC the day of his appointment, Mnuchin said his top priorities were tax reform and rolling back the Dodd-Frank Act – not exactly what all those voters demanding the return of lost industries in middle America were clamoring for.
.. Seeing China as an economic paper tiger (or dragon as the case may be), he also believes that the Beijing government is weaker than it seems and susceptible to pressure and coercion. Hence he is supportive of retaliatory tariffs and other measures designed to “level the playing field.”
.. The plan has four pillars: “tax cuts, reduced regulation, lower energy costs, and eliminating America’s chronic trade deficit.” But trade is their real passion: They honed in on the entry of China into the World Trade Organization, which they said “opened America’s markets to a flood of illegally subsidized Chinese imports, thereby creating massive and chronic trade deficits” and “rapidly accelerated the offshoring of America’s factories
.. “Either you believe in markets, or you believe in government,” Kudlow has said.
.. Something’s got to give. How to square deregulation with abiding by environmental standards, as Cohn favors? How to square tariffs on imports designed to boost domestic production (Navarro and Ross) with the free flow of capital (Kudlow)? How to balance deconstructing Obamacare without price gouging and chaos in the health-care system that will surely hurt the working class that supported Trump? How to balance punitive tariffs with affordable goods? How to start mini-trade wars without the costs falling on, say, Walmart shoppers? How to juxtapose tax cuts that will benefit the 1% with the need to boost wages and employment for millions of disgruntled workers and unemployed who see Trump as a best last chance to turn things around?
The answer is that you can’t. If Trump’s goal is to create tension and conflict and see who emerges bloodied but victorious from the fighting, he’s setting up one hell of a battle.
.. Faced with competing and irreconcilable voices, it will be up to Trump to play the referee. That can take the form of active deliberation with his advisers, or passively waiting it out until someone emerges on top of the bureaucratic scrum. It’s certainly a recipe for a White House of conflict; whether it’s a recipe for sound and coherent economic policy is entirely another matter.