Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Robert Reich believes he's found the key to Donald Trump's pathology:
After two years of Trump we may have overlooked the essence of his insanity: His brain sees only private interests transacting. It doesn’t comprehend the public interest.

... absent a public interest, there can’t be conflicts of interest.

So when lobbyists representing the Saudi government paid for an estimated 500 nights at Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel within a month of his election, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rented so many rooms at the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan that its revenues rose in 2018 after years of decline, Trump saw it as half of a private transaction.

The other half: Trump would continually go to bat for Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince, even after the Senate passed a resolution blaming the Crown Prince for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi....

So someone donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and subsequently received a $5 billion loan from the Energy Department. What’s the problem? Both parties got what they wanted....

Collusion means joining together in violation of the public interest. If Trump’s brain comprehends only private interests, even a transaction in which Putin offered explicit help winning the election in return for Trump weakening NATO and giving Russia unfettered license in Ukraine wouldn’t be collusive.
I think that's an accurate assessment of what motivates Trump. His business interests. His ego. Not the national interest.

But how different is that from the thinking of ordinary Republican officeholders who haven't been CEOs? Trump cares about himself, and about the Trump Organization, which he regards as an extension of himself. Republicans care about the Republican Party -- not as a vehicle through which to govern America effectively, but as a path to power, and to even greater wealth for the rich people who fund them.

Paul Krugman writes:
... on Friday, Reed O’Connor, a partisan Republican judge known for “weaponizing” his judicial power, declared the [Affordable Care Act] as a whole ... unconstitutional. Legal experts from both right and left ridiculed his reasoning and described his ruling as “raw political activism.”

... the Republican assault on health care is just the leading edge of an attack on multiple fronts, as the G.O.P. tries to overturn the will of the voters and undermine democracy in general.

... a growing number of positions in government agencies are being occupied by right-wing partisans who care nothing, or actively oppose, their agencies’ missions. The Environmental Protection Agency is now run by people who don’t want to protect the environment, Health and Human Services by people who want to deny Americans health care.

... Remember when the role of the Senate was supposed to be to “advise and consent”? Under Republican control it’s just plain consent — there is almost literally nothing Trump can do, up to and including clear evidence of corruption and criminality, that will induce senators from his party to exercise any kind of oversight.

... When Democrats threaten to win elections, they rig the voting process, as they did in Georgia. When Democrats win despite election rigging, they strip the offices Democrats win of power, as they did in Wisconsin. When Democratic policies prevail despite all of that, they use apparatchik-stuffed courts to strike down legislation on the flimsiest of grounds.

As David Frum, the author of “Trumpocracy,” warned a year ago: “If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.” That’s happening as we speak.
In 1987, Margaret Thatcher said, "you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first." It's been argued that the quote is less harsh when read in context, but context doesn't help. She believed in individuals, in families, and in charity. But she strongly implied that there's no public interest, no public stewardship that's the government's responsibility.

If you believe that, as most modern Republicans in America seem to, then why not destroy public institutions? It starts with the institutions of the welfare state, but after that, why assume that any long-standing institution meant to preserve the common good deserves not to be trashed?

Donald Trump doesn't care about the common good, in a way that seems pathological, but the reason he's risen from nowhere to become the leader of his party is that his philosophy doesn't differ very much from contemporary mainstream conservatism. There is no such thing as society. There is no such thing as the public interest. So take whatever you can grab.

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