The Man Who DIDN’T Know Too Much

From Talking Points Memo, some of the things he didn’t know:

February 26th: “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

April 12th (conversation with President Xi of China): “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy. You know I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power over [North Korea]. But it’s not what you would think.”

April 23rd: “They had a quote from me that NATO’s obsolete. But they didn’t say why it was obsolete. I was on Wolf Blitzer, very fair interview, the first time I was ever asked about NATO, because I wasn’t in government. People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right? So they asked me, Wolf … asked me about NATO, and I said two things. NATO’s obsolete — not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO — NATO is obsolete.”

April 23rd: “I’m saying to myself, “You know, this is more than just like, 79 (sic) missiles. This is death that’s involved,” because people could have been killed. This is risk that’s involved, because if the missile goes off and goes in a city or goes in a civilian area — you know, the boats were hundreds of miles away — and if this missile goes off and lands in the middle of a town or a hamlet …. every decision is much harder than you’d normally make. (unintelligible) … This is involving death and life and so many things. … So it’s far more responsibility.”

April 27th: “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

the man who knew too much

100 Days


First, the good news from the New York Daily News: After first 100 days, a President Trump impeachment seems like a safe bet.

What a relief! (Tip of the hat to Vasari, for sharing.)

Another good read for this very special day: 100 Days, 100 Horrors. And here, for your delectation, are a few selections from The 100 most Donald Trump quotes about his first 100 days:

“I really just see the bigness of it all, but also the responsibility. And the human responsibility.” (AP)

“I thought it would be easier.” (Reuters)

“I’d give us an A.” (Washington Examiner)

“Not since Harry Truman has anybody done so much. That’s a long time ago.” (Washington Examiner)

In The Pond-Skater Presidency David Brooks enlarges on the theme that Trump is far too incompetent to be an effective fascist. That’s right, as far as it goes, but David Remnick in The New Yorker provides a fuller picture:

Trump has never gone out of his way to conceal the essence of his relationship to the truth and how he chooses to navigate the world. In 1980, when he was about to announce plans to build Trump Tower, a fifty-eight-story edifice on Fifth Avenue and Fifty-sixth Street, he coached his architect before meeting with a group of reporters. “Give them the old Trump bullshit,” he said. “Tell them it’s going to be a million square feet, sixty-eight stories.”

This is the brand that Trump has created for himself—that of an unprincipled, cocky, value-free con who will insult, stiff, or betray anyone to achieve his gaudiest purposes. “I am what I am,” he has said. But what was once a parochial amusement is now a national and global peril. Trump flouts truth and liberal values so brazenly that he undermines the country he has been elected to serve and the stability he is pledged to insure. His bluster creates a generalized anxiety such that the President of the United States can appear to be scarcely more reliable than any of the world’s autocrats. When Kim In-ryong, a representative of North Korea’s radical regime, warns that Trump and his tweets of provocation are creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment,” does one man sound more immediately rational than the other? When Trump rushes to congratulate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for passing a referendum that bolsters autocratic rule in Turkey—or when a sullen and insulting meeting with Angela Merkel is followed by a swoon session with Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the military dictator of Egypt—how are the supporters of liberal and democratic values throughout Europe meant to react to American leadership?

Trump appears to strut through the world forever studying his own image. He thinks out loud, and is incapable of reflection. He is unserious, unfocused, and, at times, it seems, unhinged.

In sum, folks, our fellow citizens have given the world’s most difficult job to a person with a serious mental illness. It does not take Nostradamus to predict that this will not turn out well.

And apart from that, I hope you and Mrs. Lincoln are enjoying the play.


Trump Will Accomplish Little, Because You Can’t Do Business with Him


Even if your negotiating partner is a bad actor, sometimes you can do business with her, because some of her interests may coincide with some of your interests. There may well be a basis to do a deal, even if there is little mutual trust or mutual respect.

On the other hand, there are some folks that you just can’t do business with.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo sometimes goes for the capillary instead of the jugular. At other times he writes masterfully. Today, in How Trump’s Religion of ‘Winning’ Is Sabotaging His Presidency, Marshall allows as how,

Yes, Trump made his threat [on Obamacare and on the Mexican wall]. Then he caved. But while threatening and caving he was here and there un-threatening and un-caving. It wasn’t just bluster followed by fail in some normal linear fashion. It was impossible to now what Trump and the White House were doing or about to do. It was and is impossible to know what was trying to do. So congressional Republicans seem simply to have stopped trying.

As of last night, they were simply negotiating a deal to keep the government open and largely ignoring the President. In a sense, Trump has brought back the actual give and take of legislating by dint of his inability to act like a grown up or even a President.

As with every new White House and administration, we see a constant effort to see who at the White House is calling the shots, who is really speaking for the President or which one of the President’s advisors is screwing things up. Who really speaks for the President out of conflicting advisors who sometimes make contradictory statements or signal lesser or greater levels of confrontation?

What seems clear with Trump is that the exercise is likely mistaken in itself. There’s no Trump viewpoint or thinking or goal to represent. There’s no actor at the center of the machine, at least not one who remains constant enough in any aim or view to matter. So there’s no point figuring our which advisor speaks for the President or represents his thinking. Because, fundamentally, there’s no thinking to represent. …

President Trump seems fundamentally different. He just want wins – virtually anything that is doable and his constellation of advisors and supporters at the moment can count as a win.

This may seem like it dramatically opens the opportunities to pass legislation: since Trump will sign basically anything that counts as a ‘win.’ In practice, just the opposite is the case. Since the President is only concerned with wins, there is no policy agenda or policy specificity, regardless of how malleable, for legislators to grab on to or work with. If they did, it’s just as likely it might change for any number of reasons. As we’ve noted, the presidency is the centripetal force of American politics. Without that force to wrap legislative strategies around it’s very difficult to operate. …

Trump’s winning-centric approach to the Presidency has been slapdash, erratic and impossible to predict. Hill leaders seem more likely to govern around him, if not necessarily in spite of him. Because there’s simply no there there to negotiate with or to follow.

Aardvark’s final word: one of life’s axioms is that if a thing cannot happen, then that thing will not happen.

You cannot do business with Trump.

Therefore, it follows as the night the day, that no business will be done.

Quick!! Look Busy!


Trump Is Writing Fake Executive Orders Because He Doesn’t Know How to Be President

From Jonathan Chait:

If Republicans wish to pretend that Trump is really making America great again by signing pieces of paper asking people who work for him whether they have any ideas how to make America great again, more power to them. I can think of worse outcomes for this presidency than a theater of pseudo-action.

To wit,

A closer look at Trump’s latest executive orders, which Jonathan Swan has obtained, shows that the effort proves the opposite of its intended message. One of the new orders will create an office at the Department of Veterans Affairs that will “identify barriers to the Secretary’s authority to put the well-being of our veterans first.” Another will “review prior monument designations [of federal lands] and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monument proclamations.” Another orders “a review of the locations available for off-shore oil and gas exploration.” And then there is “an interagency task force to examine the concerns of rural America and suggest legislative and regulatory changes to address them.”

These steps are not evidence of a government working productively. They are the kinds of steps that ought to have been taken two years ago by the president when he started his campaign. …  Trump has the vague idea that there are laws that are making life too hard for veterans, and fossil-fuel operators, and people in small towns, but he has no idea what those laws are. His “executive orders” are actually just using the government to start the process of designing his campaign platform for him.

And the Wall Came Tumbling Down

From the Washington Post:

In the face of fierce Democratic opposition to funding the wall’s construction, White House officials signaled Monday that the president may be open to an agreement that includes money for border security if not specifically for a wall, with an emphasis on technology and border agents rather than a structure.

Trump showed even more flexibility Monday afternoon, telling conservative journalists in a private meeting that he was open to delaying funding for wall construction until September, a White House official confirmed.

And from Politico: Congress set to deny Trump wall money.

Here’s a hint, numbnuts: don’t take a hostage unless you are prepared to pull the trigger. Because unless you are prepared to pull the trigger, you aren’t negotiating, you’re just shooting the shit.


Congratulations, France!

Belated congratulations to the people of France on Sunday’s election results. Hans reports that he has tossed his cup of hemlock down the sink. Meanwhile, Vasari, directs us to this column from David Leonhardt, remarking—possibly with tongue in cheek, or possibly not—that it’s nice to have the world explained in one column. Leonhardt writes,

The details are different in every country, but a theme cuts across much of the industrialized world. In France, Britain, Germany, Japan and the United States, the political left is struggling. It is struggling, in particular, to win over many working-class voters who were once its loyal supporters.

Yes, the French left — and much of the rest of the world, including me — is breathing a sigh of relief this morning, because Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, emerged from yesterday’s first round of the presidential election as an underdog to win. But Le Pen still has a path to victory, and that’s terrifying for many reasons.

She has a path partly because working-class French voters who supported the Socialist Party in past decades have drifted away from it. …

Beyond France, center-right parties have dominated politics recently in both Germany and Japan. The British Labour Party is so dysfunctional that it fumbled a chance to prevent Brexit, as Jonathan Freedland has explained in The New York Review of Books. One of the few exceptions to the left’s losing streak is Canada.

n the United States, of course, Democrats control neither the White House nor Congress. If you’re tempted to excuse this by noting that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, I’d point out that Democrats also hold only about one-third of state legislatures and governorships.

And an observation by yours truly, Aardvark, from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious: as return on capital increases globally and return on labor decreases globally, of course the working class will turn to tribalism and political charlatanism, unless and until the allegedly more responsible among the political class address the real economic concerns of the working class.

All that said, congratulations, France, on having dodged the bullet this time.