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.

Fraudulence of the Fiscal Hawks

In 2011, House Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, issued a report full of dire warnings about the dangers of budget deficits.

.. Citing the horrors of big deficits, Republicans refused to raise the federal debt ceiling

.. How big were these horrifying deficits? In the 2012 fiscal year the federal deficit was $1.09 trillion. Much of this deficit, however, was a direct result of a depressed economy

.. If anything, we should be using this time of relatively full employment to pay down debt, or at least reduce it relative to G.D.P.

.. They are providing more stimulus to an economy with 4 percent unemployment than they were willing to allow an economy with 8 percent unemployment.

.. Republicans weren’t just vehemently opposed to fiscal stimulus; they were also vehemently opposed to monetary stimulus. Basically, they were against anything that might help the economy on President Obama’s watch.

.. imposing austerity in a depressed economy, then running up the deficit when we’re already near full employment