Tuesday, January 09, 2018


The New York Times has three conservative op-ed columnists who identify as anti-Trump, and judging from his latest column, David Brooks -- who's generally believed to be the most moderate of the three -- is the one likeliest to end 2018 as an unabashed Trump backer.

Ross Douthat still thinks it would be appropriate to remove Trump from office by means of the 25th Amendment, although he knows that's politically impossible; Bret Stephens wants the 25th invoked to head off a nuclear war. Brooks? He assures us that Trump isn't debilitated at all, or, y'know, not really.
Let me start with three inconvenient observations, based on dozens of conversations around Washington over the past year:

First, people who go into the White House to have a meeting with President Trump usually leave pleasantly surprised. They find that Trump is not the raving madman they expected from his tweetstorms or the media coverage. They generally say that he is affable, if repetitive.
If you approach him with deference, I'm sure he's quite affable. We already know he can be affable when he's not being challenged. Besides, a lot of people with cognitive impairment are affable. Repetitive? That's not a concern? Michael Wolff says Trump is known for telling the same three stories every ten minutes. If that's true, are you saying we shouldn't be concerned?

Brooks continues:
He runs a normal, good meeting and seems well-informed enough to get by.
"Well-informed enough to get by." Is the bar low enough, David?
Second, people who work in the Trump administration have wildly divergent views about their boss. Some think he is a deranged child, as Michael Wolff reported. But some think he is merely a distraction they can work around. Some think he is strange, but not impossible. Some genuinely admire Trump. Many filter out his crazy stuff and pretend it doesn’t exist.
So here are our four choices: deranged child, minor obstacle, "strange" moderate obstacle, or admirable guy who's also nuts. I feel better already!

But we shouldn't worry, because the staff has it all under control:
... the White House is getting more professional. Imagine if Trump didn’t tweet. The craziness of the past weeks would be out of the way, and we’d see a White House that is briskly pursuing its goals: the shift in our Pakistan policy, the shift in our offshore drilling policy, the fruition of our ISIS policy, the nomination for judgeships and the formation of policies on infrastructure, DACA, North Korea and trade.

It’s almost as if there are two White Houses. There’s the Potemkin White House, which we tend to focus on: Trump berserk in front of the TV, the lawyers working the Russian investigation and the press operation. Then there is the Invisible White House that you never hear about, which is getting more effective at managing around the distracted boss.
Hey, maybe having a deranged president is actually a good thing:
I sometimes wonder if the Invisible White House has learned to use the Potemkin White House to deke us while it changes the country.
Maybe all of our presidents should be deranged! That'll make America great again!

The real problem right now, according to Brooks, isn't Trump -- it's us:
I mention these inconvenient observations because the anti-Trump movement, of which I’m a proud member, seems to be getting dumber. It seems to be settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information.
Is Brooks saying that we don't think the Trump administration has been effective in any area? We know the administration has been extremely effective in pursuing policies that despoil the planet, purge America of brown immigrants, hollow out critical government agencies, and pack the courts with extreme-right judges. No one's disputing that.
The movement also suffers from lowbrowism. Fox News pioneered modern lowbrowism. The modern lowbrow (think Sean Hannity or Dinesh D’Souza) ignores normal journalistic or intellectual standards. He creates a style of communication that doesn’t make you think more; it makes you think and notice less. He offers a steady diet of affirmation, focuses on simple topics that require little background information, and gets viewers addicted to daily doses of righteous contempt and delicious vindication.

... anti-Trump lowbrowism burst into full bloom with the Wolff book.

... This isn’t just a struggle over a president. It’s a struggle over what rules we’re going to play by after Trump. Are we all going to descend permanently into the Trump standard of acceptable behavior?
This is the big point Brooks wants to make: If we're excited about what Michael Wolff wrote, it's a sign that we've slipped into moral degeneracy. Dude, it's one book. We know it's not completely trustworthy (although we've been told by respectable people that a great deal of it is accurate). We're prepared to alter our beliefs when more reporting on Trump is published.

Just allow us this moment. We're just having a little fun. We're not destroying America. Trump is.


UPDATE: Yastreblyansky's paraphrase of the Brooks column is hilarious. Read it even if you can't bear to read the original.

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