Thursday, February 21, 2019

Look, the Emperor Has No Balls Walls!

Illustration by Nurul Hana Anwar for The Nation, January 2018

While Trump devotes his time to getting Scavino to put together evidence like this that he's accomplished things he hasn't actually accomplished, his ability to influence, or even monitor what the government does is sinking into the swamp, as Jonathan Bernstein notes at Bloomberg:

First: “Although President Donald Trump tweeted that he had ordered his administration to cut off disaster aid to wildfire victims in California, federal officials confirmed on Wednesday that they never received any such directive.” Political scientist Brendan Nyhan gets it right: “Weakest president in contemporary times. ‘Ordered’ likely means he said something to a staff member who ignored him.” 
Second: “Bowing to bipartisan concerns in Congress, President Trump retreated Tuesday from his plan to create an independent ‘space force’ in the Pentagon, proposing instead to consolidate the military’s space operations and personnel in the Air Force.” Kevin Drum at Mother Jones explains: “So now it’s just a branch of the Air Force, which is more-or-less what it already is since the Air Force Space Command already exists. It’s just going to get a little bigger now.”

Then there was the case of his having no knowledge of an initiative that had been credited to him, at an Oval Office press availability yesterday:

This campaign, run by Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany (who is the admimistration's highest-ranking gay official), seemed more designed as a vehicle for denouncing Iran than anything else, but apparently nobody had told him about it, and he looked pretty startled. If he'd known, I bet he would have objected.

Bernstein comments with a reference to Richard Neustadt's 1960 Presidential Power, which he's written about before:
a president who develops a reputation for being easy to defeat will in fact become increasingly easy to defeat. So one thing that wise presidents do is avoid losing fights. If they do have to engage in them, they’ll try to keep their losses from being obvious to professional president-watchers, a group that includes by necessity virtually everyone who must deal with the president.
In fact it's been possible for staffers to ignore Trump's policy desires from the beginning, at least some of the time, as we've learned from so much court-gossip reporting by the Times crew and by Bob Woodward, and as usual I'm not going to clutch my pearls over this affront to constitutional government, because the biggest affront to constitutional government is the fact of its being run by a Pennsylvania Avenue hotelier as a loss leader to steer business to his joint, and while I'm sure some of the officials are taking advantage of the absence of a boss to profit themselves (Hi, Wilbur Ross!), I'll just hope they all get caught, but whatever the staffers do to mitigate or cancel the effects of Trump's whims should be counted as a good thing.

It's also imaginable that this public impotence will become humiliating enough that Senators will start noticing (that's a possible reason for Mitch McConnell consenting to join in the plot to get Trump to sign a no-wall appropriations bill and avert a second shutdown), even as the news of Trump's criminality gets harder and harder for them to ignore. This would be the one-two combination, if he looks like a criminal and like a loser, that could really lead to his downfall.

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