Andrew Sullivan on the Madness of Kind Donald:
[T]here is the obvious question of the president’s mental and psychological health. I know we’re not supposed to bring this up — but it is staring us brutally in the face. I keep asking myself this simple question: If you came across someone in your everyday life who repeatedly said fantastically and demonstrably untrue things, what would you think of him? If you showed up at a neighbor’s, say, and your host showed you his newly painted living room, which was a deep blue, and then insisted repeatedly — manically — that it was a lovely shade of scarlet, what would your reaction be? If he then dragged out a member of his family and insisted she repeat this obvious untruth in front of you, how would you respond? If the next time you dropped by, he was still raving about his gorgeous new red walls, what would you think? Here’s what I’d think: This man is off his rocker. He’s deranged; he’s bizarrely living in an alternative universe; he’s delusional. If he kept this up, at some point you’d excuse yourself and edge slowly out of the room and the house and never return. You’d warn your other neighbors. You’d keep your distance. If you saw him, you’d be polite but keep your distance.
I think this is a fundamental reason why so many of us have been so unsettled, anxious, and near panic these past few months. It is not so much this president’s agenda. That always changes from administration to administration. It is that when the lynchpin of an entire country is literally delusional, clinically deceptive, and responds to any attempt to correct the record with rage and vengeance, everyone is always on edge.
There is no anchor any more. At the core of the administration of the most powerful country on earth, there is, instead, madness.
Josh Marshall says the Dems are not following the example of the Tea Party. They are following their own example: “We are hearing again now that the repeated protests and aggressive questioning at Republican town halls is Democrats taking a page from the Tea Party playbook of 2009 and 2010. People have short memories. The real reference is to 2005 when Democrats turned out at Republican town halls to protest President Bush’s plan to partially phaseout Social Security. Those protests (or in many cases simply turnout) helped kill the plan by scaring off congressional Republicans. They also presaged the Democratic blowout in the 2006 midterms. It was 2005 that Tea Partiers (and the GOP pressure groups organizing them) explicitly referenced in 2009.”
Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker on Trump’s radical anti-Americanism:
Within two weeks of the Inauguration, the hysterical hyperventilators have come to seem more prescient in their fear of incipient autocratic fanaticism than the reassuring pooh-poohers. There’s a simple reason for this: the hyperventilators often read history. Regimes with an authoritarian ideology and a boss man on top always bend toward the extreme edge, because their only organizational principle is loyalty to the capo. Since the capo can be placated only by uncritical praise, the most fanatic of his lieutenants end up calling the shots. Loyalty to the boss is demonstrated by hatred directed against his enemies.
Yet what perhaps no one could have entirely predicted was the special cocktail of oafish incompetence and radical anti-Americanism that President Trump’s Administration has brought. This combination has produced a new note in our public life: chaotic cruelty. The immigration crisis may abate, but it has already shown the power of government to act arbitrarily overnight—sundering families, upending long-set expectations, until all those born as outsiders must imagine themselves here only on sufferance of a senior White House counsellor.
Some choose to find comfort in the belief that the incompetence will undermine the anti-Americanism. Don’t bet on it. Autocratic regimes with a demagogic bent are nearly always inefficient, because they cannot create and extend the network of delegated trust that is essential to making any organization work smoothly. The chaos is characteristic. Whether by instinct or by intention, it benefits the regime, whose goal is to create an overwhelming feeling of shared helplessness in the population at large: we will detain you and take away your green card—or, no, now we won’t take away your green card, but we will hold you here, and we may let you go, or we may not.
This is radical anti-Americanism—not simply illiberalism or anti-cosmopolitanism—because America is not only a nation but also an idea, cleanly if not tightly defined. Pluralism is not a secondary or a decorative aspect of that idea.
A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that just three weeks into President Trump’s administration voters are already evenly divided on the issue of impeaching Trump with 46% in favor and 46% opposed. Support for impeaching Trump has crept up from 35% 2 weeks ago, to 40% last week, to its 46% standing this week. Trump’s approval rate is now 43% to 53%.
Dana Milbank at The Washington Post asks What are Republicans going to do about Obamacare?
What Republicans don’t seem to have come to terms with is that, as a political matter, they already will be held responsible for whatever happens to health-care markets, even if they don’t introduce a replacement soon. An executive order Trump signed relaxing enforcement of Obamacare, and the constant talk of repeal, have injected a debilitating uncertainty into the health-care market — essentially beginning the unraveling of Obamacare with nothing to replace it.
The executive order Trump signed directed federal agencies to do what they could to “minimize” the burdens of the act by exercising their authority “to waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay” parts of the law. Insurers have warned that the uncertainty is deterring them from participating in Obamacare. The head of Anthem told Wall Street analysts that he would be deciding about “extracting” his company from health-care exchanges if it doesn’t see stability.
This means that Republicans, while waiting for their alternative to “congeal,” have already set in motion the disintegration of the current health-insurance market.
Charles M. Blow at The New York Times says Trump’s Leading Rivals Wear Robes: “On Wednesday, while speaking to a gathering of police chiefs, Trump again lashed out at the court and the appeals process, reading a section of law and sniping, “A bad high school student would understand this. Trump should know. As a child, he got into so much trouble and became such an embarrassment to his parents that they sent him up the river, quite literally, to a military academy in the Hudson Valley for high school. This constant, lowbrow attack on the courts is not an insignificant thing and not without consequence. And it is a major break from the way modern presidents have related to and dissented from the opinions of the judicial branch.”
First Read: “Every president gets humbled in office, but never as early or the way in which all of the defeats and bad news piled up Thursday for Donald Trump.”
“The problem with this humbling coming so quickly for Team Trump is that opponents now smell blood in the water — just three weeks into the presidency. And that, plus the town-hall protests across the country we saw last night, suggest some potential trouble ahead on the GOP’s top priorities (tax reform, Obamacare overhaul). Trump and the GOP can certainly turn things around; we have learned NEVER to count out Trump. But a new president doesn’t want to see these kinds of defeats — all of which could have been prevented or mitigated — this early.”
David Brooks: “Donald Trump didn’t have to have an administration that was at war with everyone but its base. He came to office with a populist mandate that cut across partisan categories. He could have created unorthodox coalitions and led unexpected alliances that would have broken the logjam of our politics.”
“He didn’t have to have a vicious infighting administration in which everybody leaks against one another and in which backstairs life is a war of all against all. He doesn’t have to begin each day making enemies: Nordstrom, John McCain, judges. He could begin each day looking for friends, and he would actually get a lot more done.”
“On Inauguration Day, when Trump left his wife in the dust so he could greet the Obamas, I didn’t realize how quickly having a discourteous leader would erode the conversation.”
A new Politico/Morning Consult poll shows that just 34% of Democratic voters want their party’s elected officials to find ways to work with the new president. A 56% majority say Democrats in Congress should stick to their principles, even “if that means blocking all legislation or nominees for government posts.”
Politico: “GOP lawmakers are fretting that Trump’s spending requests, due out in a month or so, will blow a gaping hole in the federal budget — ballooning the debt and undermining the party’s doctrine of fiscal discipline.”
“Trump has signaled he’s serious about a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, as he promised on the campaign trail. He also wants Republicans to approve extra spending this spring to build a wall along the U.S. southern border and beef up the military — the combined price tag of which could reach $50 billion, insiders say. And that’s to say nothing of tax cuts, which the president’s team has suggested need not necessarily be paid for.”
Playbook: “Note to the White House: There is already serious concern in the Capitol that Congress will not be able to pass a spending bill to start construction on the border wall with Mexico. So if Trump wants a wall started, he needs to send legislation to Congress sooner rather than later.”
Paul Waldman at the Week: “There will come a moment when something awful happens, and Americans need to be ready for the Trump administration’s effort to exploit it.
In February 1933, an arsonist set fire to the Reichstag, the German parliament building. When a young communist was arrested for the crime, Adolf Hitler, who had become chancellor one month before, declared that it was part of a communist plot to overthrow the government. The next day, a law was signed essentially suspending all civil liberties, and Hitler quickly purged his political opponents from government and consolidated the Nazi Party’s grip on power.
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that President Trump is going to turn the United States into a genocidal dictatorship. But we should understand that eventually, there will be some kind of terrorist attack on U.S. soil — perhaps one that fails, or one that succeeds in killing a few Americans, or more than a few. While we have been remarkably safe from terrorism since September 11 — fewer than 100 of us killed by jihadi terrorists over those 15 years — such attacks do happen from time to time. And when the first one of Trump’s presidency occurs, he will probably move quickly to take advantage of it. In fact, I’d be surprised if Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller aren’t already working on a plan for what to do when they get the chance.”
More Josh Marshall: “We should not think in terms of counter-intuition or 12 dimensional chess. Trump wants to be President and he wants to win and be the best. But he is generally unpopular, has a policy agenda which has great difficulty achieving majority support and a temperament which makes effective governance profoundly difficult. That mix makes the praise and affirmation he craves as President extremely challenging to achieve. Like many with similar temperaments and personalities he has a chronic need to generate drama and confrontation to stabilize himself. It’s that simple. It won’t change. It won’t get better.”