The Thinker

Four weeks in, a Trump update

At four weeks into the Trump Administration things are about as bleak as I expected them to be. And yet there are signs of hope. The Trump Administration so far has proven staggeringly inept. Moreover, the protests arising to his administration are passionate, largely organic and growing in intensity.

Trump’s stubbornness and dogged determination to prefer loyalists to insiders has had the predictable result of causing confusion and chaos, which amounts to little of his agenda getting worked on. You might say his ship of state is still in dry dock. A number of cabinet nominees have been approved. One was rejected, and one approved only due to an unprecedented vote in the Senate by his vice president. His administration is clearly divided given the crazy number of leaks coming out of the place. One of my guilty pleasures is reading the @RoguePOTUSStaff Twitter feed. Is this really one or more people inside the White House close to Trump? There is no way to know for sure but comparing the posts with events just some hours later, it has the whiff of being the real deal.

The more outrageous our president becomes, the more ineffectual and hated he becomes too. It’s proving to be his Achilles Heel. In some ways the best way to get rid of Trump is to let Trump be Trump. I’d hand him an anvil but he doesn’t seem to need one. This approach works provided he does not do something that seriously jeopardizes our national security while he is in office. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if he is or has, but it’s clear our intelligence agencies are leery about conveying too much to Trump, particularly their sources and methods. This reportedly has Trump irate and his CIA director proclaiming they are not doing this. Given that Trump said during the campaign that his campaign was in touch with the Russian government and that he approved of their hacking of the DNC, it’s completely reasonable to think he may be facilitating espionage, which is a crime BTW.

Just the other day six staffers were escorted out of the White House for failing to clear a background investigation. Trump would definitely fail one but none is required if you win the presidency. Meanwhile, Trump thinks that making war with the press is a good thing, when it simply makes the press dig in their heels more. It doesn’t take much press digging with leaks sprouting all over the place. These leaks paint a picture of an administration that is deeply dysfunctional and riven with political intrigue. Anyhow, to make himself feel better Trump scheduled a campaign event tonight in Florida. “Campaign event?” you might reasonably ask. Yes. He filed for the 2020 nomination the same day he was sworn in. I guess you can see where his priorities lie.

All this has congressional Republicans pretty miffed but for the moment they are largely sitting on their hands. They have been chomping at the bit to exercise power again but instead they are busy on other things, like endless hearings for nominated officials. That makes it hard to do things like repeal Obamacare. Meanwhile, protesters are busy making their feelings about the ACA and other things known to their legislators, going all Tea Party-ish, just in a leftward direction this time. Legislators are fleeing public events so they don’t have to deal with their anger. To the extent they meet with people it’s only with people they know are on their side. The ruckus though is enough to give some legislators pause, particularly many in the House who are forced to run for reelection every two years. Their tightly gerrymandered districts don’t look as safe anymore. Midterm elections usually favor the party out of power, although with so many Senate seats in Democratic hands up in 2018 the dynamics might not work out in the Senate. But clearly there is visceral anger on the left and for a change it’s pretty effective. It’s making some rethink the idea of repealing Obamacare, at least without a “replace” option that Republicans seem unable to create.

Still, it’s a period of high danger for the country. We have a new EPA administrator who wants to get rid of pollution laws and his agency and a new Secretary of Education who never attended a public school and who is so controversial she has to travel with U.S. marshals. And that’s just on the domestic side. No one can read the foreign policy tealeaves. Trump doesn’t want Israel to build more settlements but doesn’t want a two-state solution with Palestine. He’s been working the phone with China although he called them our biggest enemy. Oh wait, that’s the press. It’s so hard to keep up with it all. And most surprisingly, it’s apparently okay have ad hoc meetings on dealing with a North Korean missile test in his resort’s dining room at Mar-a-Lago.

Despite high profile appointments, a lot of these lofty goals will simply not be realized as long as Democrats retain forty-one seats in the Senate. That means the EPA and the Department of Education won’t be abolished, or really any other agency for that matter. These agencies can certainly be reorganized to be much less effective but they won’t be going away. Appropriation bills are the vulnerable spot since in the Senate they are not subject to filibuster. We can hope that the dynamics of dysfunction continue so that Republicans spend much of their energy fighting with each other instead of the country.

I doubt Trump will see out the end of his term. It seems likelier to me now than it did that if necessary Republicans in Congress will find ways to bring Trump down, particularly if it looks like he will be toxic to the party’s chances in 2018. There are plenty of paths to Trump’s impeachment and removal and doubtless more will surface. With only 39% of Americans approving of Trump, it may begin sooner than we think.

 

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