Sunday, January 22, 2017


I was amazed at the size and energy of the anti-Trump outpouring yesterday. However, I've seen movements before that were big, energetic, and global, but struggled to attain their goals. We don't even have to go back to the prolonged battle to stop the Vietnam War -- we didn't prevent the Iraq War (although I think we eventually turned much of America against it, as well as one of our major parties), and in the 1980s the nuclear freeze movement didn't succeed at all.

Reagan-era protest is an interesting comparison because the president then, as now, styled himself as a radical, yet he didn't have a great depth of policy knowledge. But the difference between Reagan and Trump is that Reagan's people were generally pros who know how to stay on a course once it was set. Trump doesn't have a lot of appointees in place, and the advisers he's chosen are clearly at odds with one another on a lot of issues. They don't seem to know how presidenting works. For Trump's first full day as president, they watched him go to CIA headquarters and deliver a bizarre and inappropriate speech. In the press secretary's first interaction with the press, he lied about Trump's inaugural crowd size. Reagan's people, by contrast, were masters at crafting lines of the day and experts at pressuring the media to portray Reagan in just the way that was most advantageous to him.

I don't want to be overconfident. I assume the Trumpers will get better at this, and they have the power of unified GOP government. But this New York Times story suggests not that the wheels are coming off the bus, but that they haven't even found a bus with all its wheels, or decided who'll drive it once it's ready, or even settled on the use of a bus at all:
President Trump plans to take executive action on a nearly daily basis for a month to unravel his predecessor’s legacy and begin enacting his own agenda, his aides say....

But in a reflection of the improvisational style that helped fuel his rise, he has made few, if any, firm decisions about which orders he wants to make, or in which order. That is a striking break from past presidents, who have entered office with detailed plans for rolling out a series of executive actions that set a tone for their presidencies and send a clear message about their agendas.

It was plain that Mr. Trump had devised no such strategy by his first day in office, as advisers expressed doubt until the last moments about whether he would issue any directives on Friday. “It’s going to be a game-day decision,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters that afternoon.

Then, around 7 p.m., reporters were suddenly summoned to the Oval Office. After sprinting from the briefing room, they watched Mr. Trump sign a directive to federal agencies to begin scaling back parts of the Affordable Care Act.

“There are a number that are being looked at, but it’s just a question of which ones he feels like doing, and when,” Mr. Spicer had said of executive orders earlier on Friday. In recent days, he had said that Mr. Trump’s top aides were still deciding on the “sequencing” of the unilateral actions.
I continue to think that there's a battle for Trump's brain, and it's being fought between the GOP establishmentarians (Reince Priebus, Mike Pence) and the populist/nationalist bomb-throwers (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miler), with Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner moving between the two camps as it suits them. This Politico story, which I've cited before, is a guide to the internal battles.

Yesterday I mocked James Hohmann of The Washington Post for asserting that the inaugural address suggested that Trump will challenge Republicans as well as Democrats. I now see that this is conventional wisdom -- Hohmann's colleague Dan Balz wrote something very similar, as did Jonathan Martin of the Times. Martin writes:
One topic has dominated conversations among elected Republicans since President Trump’s stunning victory: Will he actually pursue his campaign agenda of big-government nationalism, all but obliterating the liberal-conservative distinctions that have defined America’s political parties for a century?
But Martin, to his credit, recognizes the pull of the establishmentarians, although I think he underestimates it:
... some of his advisers suggested that he would slip back into a more conventional Republican approach....

As in his campaign, he faces an array of obstacles {including] advisers who hope to nudge him back toward conventional Republicanism....
I suspect that the establishment cabal is in charge, mostly because they actually know how to knuckle down and get to work. They know how to sweat the details. I don't just think Trump is incapable of that, I think Bannon is, too.

The executive orders we've had so far -- raising the price of a home purchase, attacking but not gutting Obamacare, freezing regulations -- are pure GOP establishmentarianism. If, like most insider journalists, you think Trump's popular appeal comes from his deviations from GOP orthodoxy, you should be wondering why there's been no grand gesture toward building the wall or getting a massive infrastructure plan under way. This, for instance, has a lot more Paul Ryan than Donald Trump in it:

So there's an internal battle that's making the administration seem halting and indecisive. No one is stepping in to prevent Trump or one of his subordinates from looking like an idiot. (Also on TV this morning, Conway described Spicer's lies about the inaugural crowd size as "alternative facts," an Orwellianism that's already leading the trends on Twitter.) And as advisers fight among themselves, the non-populists seem to be winning.

We might beat these bastards, or it might be that they'll just beat themselves.


debg said...

Steve, I'm actually more worried about the Admin's determined attempts to undermine all news media. My RWNJ dad is already convinced that newspapers don't tell the truth. It would take a lot for him to start doubting Fox News veracity. But TTB (True Trump Believers) already "know" that the media have it in for Trump. If they're fed a daily diet od "you can't trust anything the media says," where will this lead?

Jimbo said...

Reality is not fake; reality is, well, real. The GOP, whether the "Establishment" or the pseudo-radicals of Trump's mob may say they are creating their own reality (Reagan/Bush) or that they have "alternative facts" but that doesn't mean that Ryan's and the "Freedom Caucus's" plans for reforming the ACA and other popular parts of the social safety net won't have real life, nasty and hugely costly consequences because they will. As for Trump's agenda, there really is only one thing he is interested in and that is Making Trump Great; he's never going to pivot; he's never going to do anything that isn't about glorifying himself. And because the shitstorm of his and the GOP's actions will be hugely unpopular very quickly, expect him to walk away from the job sooner rather than later.

DTR said...

Trump is completely ignorant and uninterested in governing. Most of his appointees are likewise, idiots. His top 3 agenda items are making sure people show adoration, pursuing his ongoing vendetta against Obama and enriching his family. He won't resolve 1 and 2. He is, as Tony Schwartz has said "a black hole". No amount of adoration will quench his need. Obama will always be smarter, more respected, more dignified and continue to be relevant going forward. The "contest" is being acted out very publicly; Lincoln bible, replica cake, # of appearances on Time cover, inauguration crowd size, the singular focus on undoing everything Obama.

He's severely mentally ill and is decompensating quickly. The lies are bigger, he is vehement in his insistent the lies are true, he's clearly paranoid and the grandiosity is constant. He is becoming increasingly dangerous. Policy wise, he's unpredictable except for his pathological focus on dismantling Obama's work. That's not about policy, its driven by mental illness. He has no actual policy positions. His statements are for effect, period.

I see very little upside to this horror show. Apparently, there is no rule of law that can combat his unrestrained use of the position of POTUS to enrich his family or to force ethical positions on mega rich appointees and full on wingnuts ( Sessions, Flynn). Neither the House or the Senate has any power against him nor his gang of viscous GOP ideologues and white supremacists. The 3rd branch, the Supremes are quickly going to be brought to heel also. I marched yesterday and it felt good, but I'm left with a sinking feeling that the autocracy to which we are headed can crush that resistance. There are many examples in the world today.

Victor said...

"Alternative facts?"

Even UpChuck Toad recognized this bullshit for being bullshit!

rclz said...

Diane, do you really think one seat, a seat I might add that was held by the repugnant Antonin Scalia is going to bring them to heal. I have faith that at least the SC will go with the good guys when we can get Kennedy to swing our way. Now if RGB or anyone else on our side retires you've got a point.

I'm right there with you on the rest of it.

One thing I do wonder though is if he wants to be popular bad enough with more than his base if he will realize that doing everything the GOP way isn't going to get him there. Liberals need a way to manipulate his ego to get what we want. It's sad that this is actually an idea worth giving some thought to but that's who he is.

DTR said...

@rctz. Kennedy is most concerned with being the most important vote, driven by ego. I think he is mercurial in his decisions and thus not predictable. Perhaps Roberts will, on occasion, come through on the right side of history, if he weighs his legacy against his ideology. He's not stupid and he must see the direction of the majority of the country on social issues, even if they didn't vote. I think either Kennedy or Roberts are thin threads.

I suspect Trump's mental illness will prevail over any effective manipulation. Manipulation might work for 5 minutes at a time. He's fast coming to the point of a total break with reality. The stress of the job is enormous and he has no pertinent skills. The character disorders combined with his lack of intelligence makes him quite dangerous. He will lash out, eventually at just about everyone.

I sincerely hope your faith in the good guys prevails.

CF2K said...

Who is this cautiously optimistic poster, and what has he/she done with Steve M?