Friday, January 12, 2018


Jonathan Chait has wriiten an amusing post titled "David Brooks Picked a Bad Week to Say Trump ‘Runs a Normal, Good Meeting’":
Four days ago, David Brooks broke the news in the New York Times that President Trump is actually a sober-minded and competent public servant. “People who go into the White House to have a meeting with President Trump usually leave pleasantly surprised,” he reported. “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. He runs a normal, good meeting and seems well-informed enough to get by.”

It is safe to say that this column has not aged well in the short time since its publication.
As Chait notes, shortly after the column ran, Trump tweeted his angry opposition to a surveillance bill that was actually supported by his administration, which reportedly led to a phone conversation in which Paul Ryan spent a half hour explaining to Trump the difference between domestic and foreign surveillance. Then came Trump's "shithole countries" remark and a disturbing Wall Street Journal interview. Left unmentioned by Chait was the midnight tweet in which Trump announced that he's canceling his trip to London, citing President Obama's "Bad deal" decision to move the U.S. embassy there (the move was actually initiated by George W. Bush).

But give David Brooks this much: He at least published his column before the alarming events of the latter half of this week. By contrast, this Marc Thiessen column went live this morning at 8:50 A.M. Eastern time, and no one -- not Thiessen and not his editors -- was sufficiently embarrassed by it to request that it be withdrawn:
In one key meeting, Trump destroyed his critics’ credibility

This week ... American television viewers were invited into the White House Cabinet Room, where for nearly an hour they watched as President Trump effectively led a bipartisan meeting in which he and congressional Democrats made real progress on immigration reform.

... The reason for the rare public display of presidential leadership was the release of a new book by New York media gossip columnist Michael Wolff that portrays Trump as mentally unfit to be president. Wolff describes Trump as being like a child who “could not really converse ... not in the sense of sharing information, or of a balanced back-and-forth conversation.” In just 55 minutes, Trump completely discredited Wolff’s thesis.

In true reality-TV fashion, Trump let the American people watch as he conversed, shared information and held a “balanced back-and-forth conversation” with his most vehement critics. He was charming.... He was substantive.... And he challenged both sides to think bigger....

... If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an hour-long video of the president at work is worth more than 50,000 words of gossip and innuendo. Trump effectively asked the American people, “Who are you going to believe: Michael Wolff or your own lyin’ eyes?”

... the Wolff book has discredited Trump’s media critics who embraced Wolff’s conclusions that Trump did not have the mental capacity to be president.
Yes, Thiessen wanted us to believe as he finished the column and pressed SEND, no one ever again should say that Trump is too ignorant, too mentally impaired, or too emotionally unstable to be president, because that televised meeting put all such questions to rest, and nothing Trump does in the future could possibly raise those questions again.


Even more embarrassing, Thiessen ended his column by speculating on the future -- a future that, by 8:50 this morning, was already abundantly clear:
The president is now at a crossroads. It was he who let the media stay in the room for the meeting, and it worked. So, what does he do next? Does he build on this success by delivering a substantive bipartisan State of the Union address, and use the power and trappings of the presidency to expand his base of support? Or does he go back to the tactics that made those questioning his fitness for office seem even remotely credible?

His opponents have overreached and given him an opening. The question is: Will he seize it or squander it?
Everyone in the world knew the answer to this question by the time the column was posted. Thiessen should have begged his editors to give the column a quiet mercy killing.

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