Rushed to publication because of the speed with which the Trump administration is already damaging the rule of law in the U.S., this David Frum piece in The Atlantic is a roadmap to Trump’s likeliest path to authoritarianism and self-enrichment — and therefore also a guide to what Americans of conscience need to do to protect democracy.
If Congress is quiescent, what can Trump do? A better question, perhaps, is what can’t he do?
Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, who often articulates Trumpist ideas more candidly than Trump himself might think prudent, offered a sharp lesson in how difficult it will be to enforce laws against an uncooperative president. During a radio roundtable in December, on the topic of whether it would violate anti-nepotism laws to bring Trump’s daughter and son-in-law onto the White House staff, Gingrich said: The president “has, frankly, the power of the pardon. It is a totally open power, and he could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anybody finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period.’ And technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”
That statement is true, and it points to a deeper truth: The United States may be a nation of laws, but the proper functioning of the law depends upon the competence and integrity of those charged with executing it. A president determined to thwart the law in order to protect himself and those in his circle has many means to do so.
By most standards, Spicer’s statement Saturday did not go well. He appeared tired and nervous in an ill-fitting gray pinstripe suit. He publicly gave faulty facts and figures — which he said were provided to him by the Presidential Inaugural Committee — that prompted a new round of media scrutiny.
Many critics thought Spicer went too far and compromised his integrity. But in Trump’s mind, Spicer’s attack on the news media was not forceful enough. The president was also bothered that the spokesman read, at times haltingly, from a printed statement.
Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements, and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment.
This story in the Washington Post — based on interviews with almost a dozen senior White House officials and and Trump advisors — paints a picture of an uneasy administration trying to stay in orbit around its hyper-sensitive leader and his insider cabal.
I got tired of reading about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016, especially when most pieces could be lumped in the For or Against piles. But Josie Duffy consistently managed to make me think and feel not just what I hadn’t thought or felt, but what I tried to avoid thinking and feeling. Her piece, “The Trouble With Liberal Argument Against 3rd Party Candidates …” is amazing in its scope. Josie is easily one of the most amazing young long-form essayists in the country. In between evocatively presenting autobiography and political analysis, she dropped three sentences that made music out of American Presidential noise. “Listen,” she wrote, “I am a firm believer that in a country like America you should vote for your opponent. Who do you want to fight against for the next eight years? Who do you want to push left?” The piece, like most of Josie’s writing, welcomes us in, cares for us and asks everything of us when we leave. I can’t share this piece enough. Read more…