If He Only Had a Brain

Trump Needs a Brain, by Ross Douthat:

I do not mean a vat-grown cerebral cortex cooked up in some underground anti-aging lab funded by Silicon Valley immortalists … though I gather those may be soon available as well. I mean a brain in the sense that people (unkindly, but not inaccurately) used the term to describe Bill Kristol when he was the aide-de-camp to Vice President Dan Quayle 25 years ago: a person, or better a group of persons, who can tell Trump what specific policies he ought to support.

Because a core weakness of this White House, more devastating (for now) than the pugilistic tweets and permanent swirl of scandal, is the absence of anyone who seems to have thought through how one might translate Trumpism, the populist nationalism on which the president campaigned, into substantive policy on any specific issue except a temporary visa freeze.

The dearth of Trumpists in official Washington was always going to be a major problem for this administration, both in staffing the White House and in negotiating with Congress. But it’s been worse than anticipated, because Trump himself doesn’t know what he wants to do on major issues and there’s nobody in his innermost circle who seems to have a compelling vision that might guide him.

From David Brooks last night:

But the problem, the core problem here is still with Donald Trump. He doesn’t have a theory of what Trumpism is. And he doesn’t have a strategy for converting his populist campaign into some sort of legislative agenda.

You could pick a right-wing agenda and get people all on the right and push through a pretty Republican agenda. Or you could pick a populist center-left, and not worry about the Freedom Caucus.

But he’s managed to offend the right, the center and the left. And so how many people — how do you get to 50 percent of that? And you don’t. And so he — I assume that, if he — he will sometimes figure out and say, OK, I have got to be this kind of president or that kind of president.

But, right now, he’s no kind of president. There’s no — it’s not center-right. It’s not center-left. It’s not far-right. It’s just chaos.

And so, somehow, he’s got to figure out, OK, I have an actual strategy. He doesn’t have one right now.