Sunday, April 30, 2017
One-hundred days after Trump became President of the United States,
about the best you can say is that he could have done even worse than
he did. People make fun of him for only appointing a few dozen of the
thousand-plus presidential appointees, but he's hit most of the top
positions, including one Supreme Court justice, and he's picked some
of the worst nominees imaginable -- in fact, a few way beyond anything
rational fears imagined. But one of his worst picks, former General
Michael Flynn as National Security Director, has already imploded,
and another notorious one, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, looks like
he's been consigned to the dog house.
Despite having Republican congressional majorities, Trump has yet
to pass any major legislation -- although he's proposed some, and/or
bought into Paul Ryan's even more demented schemes. So thus far the
main thing Trump has done has been to sign executive orders -- dozens
of the things, nearly all aimed at undoing executive orders Obama had
started signing once he realized he wasn't going to get any help from
the Republican-controlled Congress. While Trump's orders are truly
disturbing, that's not so much what they do -- even the ones that
aren't promptly blocked by the courts -- as what they reveal about
the administration's mentality (or lack thereof).
Trump has also had a relatively free hand when it comes to foreign
policy -- especially the prerogatives that Congress has granted the
president to bomb other countries. His first acts were to escalate
American involvement in Yemen, although he's followed that up with
attacks against America's usual targets in the Middle East: Syria,
Iraq, and Libya. But while nothing good ever comes from America
flexing its military muscles in the Middle East, a more dangerous
scenario is unfolding with North Korea, with both sides threatening
pre-emptive attacks in response to the other's alleged provocations.
By insisting on an ever-more-constricting regime of sanctions, the
US has cornered and wounded North Korea, while North Korea has
developed both offensive and defensive weapons to such a point
that an American attack would be very costly (especially for our
ostensible allies in South Korea).
There are many reasons to worry about Trump's ability to handle
this crisis. There's little evidence that he understands the risks,
or even the history. On the other hand, he's spent eight years
lambasting Obama for being indecisive and weak, so he's come into
office wanting to look decisive and strong. Moreover, when he
ordered an ineffective cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base
he was broadly applauded -- a dangerous precedent for someone so
fickle. Maybe he has people who will restrain him from ordering a
similar attack on Korea, but he often resembles the "mad man" Nixon
only feigned at. Nor does Kim Jong Un inspire much confidence as a
well-grounded, rational leader (although see
Andrei Lankov: Kim Jong Un Is a Survivor, Not a Madman).
First, some 100-day reviews:
Sasha Abramsky: Trump's First 100 Days: Workers Get Pummeled, People
Jill Abramson/Kate Aronoff/Moustafa Bayoumi/Steven W Thrasher: 'Will
we survive 1,361 more days?': Our panel's verdict on Trump's first
100 days: I especially take exception to Bayoumi's "If this doesn't
kill us, it'll make us stronger." I'm afraid I've fallen into the habit
of referring to predators (as in "predatory capitalism"), but an older
term is perhaps more apt: parasites. Well-evolved parasites mastered
the knack of draining without killing you, and victims of parasites
rarely come out stronger.
Peter Dreier: Relax, Donald: After 100 Days, You've Already Done So
Bridgette Dunlap: After 100 Days of Trump, America's Gotten Corruption
Jonathan Freedland: The lesson from Donald Trump's first 100 days:
resistance is not futile
Will Kane: This land is your land: American reflections on Trump's
first 100 days
Gary Legum: Donald Trump's administration after 100 days: A second-rate
salesman surrounded by con men and losers
Ran Lenz/Booth Gunter: 100 Days in Trump's America: From Southern
Poverty Law Center, focus on "white nationalists" -- a key part of the
Trump entourage, although I doubt they're very influential.
Nancy LeTourneau: 100 Days, 100 Horrors: Kinda schematic, but
consider she was too lazy to read the critical Clinton campaign book
Shattered before writing an article about how she couldn't
bother to read it
I'm Not Interested in Being "Shattered" -- by the way, I checked
link to Kevin Drum she described as "a good job of challenging
the book's assertion that Clinton ran a particularly horrible campaign"
and found no compelling data or argument, just: "My horseback guess
is that when you put it all together, she was about average as a
candidate and her campaign was about average as a campaign").
Jim Newell: Trump's Biggest Mistake of His First 100 Days Was Embracing
Paul Ryan's Cartoonishly Plutocratic Agenda: Retitled "Trump Could
Have Broken the Democratic Party." The idea is that had Trump stuck to
his populist program -- had he actually followed through and promoted
American jobs while safeguarding the safety net and backing away from
the foreign entanglements that have saddled us with wars and refugees --
he would break through the party divisions and become singularly popular.
Still, that was never going to happen: the Republican Party these days
doesn't allow that sort of heterodoxy, so he gave up any claim to
independent thought when he joined. Admittedly, he thinks so little
that wasn't much of a sacrifice. He thinks so little he didn't have
a better idea anyway. So it didn't take long for Republicans to work
out a satisfactory modus vivendi: they get him to front their agenda,
and he and his family get their graft and perks. That's all he ever
cared about in the first place.
Charles Pierce: The 100 Days: Who Can Stop an Unfit President*?
Pierce has picked up the habit of adding an asterisk every time he
refers to Trump as president, something those of you who don't remember
Ford Frick may have trouble parsing. He focuses on the transcript of
Trump's recent AP interview with its dozens of "(unintelligible)"
notations, inserted for sections that don't even rise to the level
of "[sic]." Casey Quinlan read the same interview, and concluded:
Donald Trump doesn't know anything about the health care bill he's
Ryan Koronowski: Trump broke 80 promises in 100 days
William Rivers Pitt: Trump, the GOP and the 100-Day Dump Truck
Daniel Politi: Trump's 100-Day Speech Mimics His Presidency: Rambling,
Lies, and Egomania
William Saletan: You Don't Have to Hate Donald Trump to See He Is Bad
at His Job: Well, maybe not hate, but you do have to be able to
look at him critically (or skeptically), and if you have that skill
set you probably didn't care for him even before he got elected. The
author is one of our most notorious political centrists, so after
the jump he retitled his article "The Moderate's Case Against Trump."
It's probably worth extracting his ten points -- note that there is
much more detail in the article and the links -- even if some are
things that only a "moderate" would think he promised, much less to
hold him to:
- He promised to fight for working people against the establishment.
- He said he would repeal Obamacare and replace it with something
better. He has done neither.
- He promised to strengthen our borders and "get smart" about keeping
out terrorists. He hasn't.
- He said he would stand up to our enemies and competitors. He hasn't.
- He ran against the national debt. Now he's running it up.
- He promised to work for "the forgotten man and woman." Instead,
he has focused on himself.
- He promised to make America great. Instead, he has isolated and
- He said he would "drain the swamp." He hasn't.
- He preached "America First." But he has put his friends' business
interests before the national interest.
- He said he would honor the military. Instead, he has disparaged
Of course, most of his supporters are still convinced that his
shortcomings are the fault of insidious liberal elites continuing
to manipulate the system despite his election. It's not like they
let facts or reason get in the way of voting for him in the first
Matthew Sheffield: Polling at the 100-day mark shows President Trump's
policies are widely unpopular
Tessa Stuart: 100 WTF Moments From Trump's First 100 Days
Stephem M Walt: The Worst Mistake of Trump's First 100 Days:
Plenty to choose from, but Walt says Asia, and I'd narrow that down to
Matthew Yglesias: Donald Trump's first 100 days have been a moneymaking
success story: "He's getting what he cares about."
Trump isn't failing. He and his family appear to be making money hand
over fist. It's a spectacle the likes of which we've never seen in the
United States, and while it may end in disaster for the Trumps someday,
for now it shows no real sign of failure.
Some more scattered links this week in Trump world:
Rosa Brooks: Donald Trump Is America's Experiment in Having No
Government: That's an amusing, if somewhat facetious, way of
putting it, but ever since Reagan made his little joke about the
most terrifying words in the language being "I'm from the government,
and I'm here to help" Republicans have been flirting with destroying
the organization which underpins law, order, and all private wealth.
And although he's out to cut some parts of government, and to makes
others completely unproductive, it's not really "no government" that
he's pursuing. What he really wants to do is get rid of the "of, by,
and for the people" part.
Aviva Chomsky: Clinton and Obama Laid the Groundwork for Donald Trump's
War on Immigrants
William Greider: It's Groundhog Day in Washington, With Trump Peddling
the Same Old Reaganite Snake Oil: Trump's tax cuts for the rich,
err, tax reform, program.
Fred Kaplan: A Short Bus Tide to Nowhere: So Trump organized a
bus trip for 100 Senators "to the White House to tell them things
they already know about North Korea." Kaplan seems to think that
all the bluster and bluff ultimately signifies nothing:
In recent days, Trump has sent an aircraft carrier battle group and
a guided-missile submarine toward North Korea's shores. Vice President
Mike Pence has gone to the Demilitarized Zone and squinted through the
binoculars at the North Korean guards, so they can see his resolve.
Pence also declared, "The era of 'strategic patience'" -- President
Obama's policy of containment, as opposed to action, toward North
Korea -- "is over." . . .
This may be, in the end, a pragmatic acknowledgment of the realities
at hand, but it is no way to run a foreign policy. You don't issue
warnings and ultimatums, luring friends and foes to believe that you
might really use military force, possibly as a way of compelling them
to solve the problem themselves -- and then back off and say you'll
deal with it the way it's always been dealt with, somehow, at some
point. In the high-decibel run-up to this anti-climax, Trump has once
again shown these same friends and foes that they shouldn't pay attention
to anything he says -- that he doesn't necessarily mean it, that he and
his threats and his promises are not to be taken seriously.
On the other hand, there's a small chance that Trump and/or Kim
will blunder into something that kills millions of people and leaves
indelible scars, simply because they can't distinguish fantasies
Sarah Leonard: You Are Now Paying Internet Companies to Sell Your
Browsing History to Advertisers: Thanks to a repeal of FCC
privacy rules signed by Trump.
Caitlin MacNeal: Trump to Appoint Anti-Abortion Leader Charmaine
Yoest to Post at HHS: Actually, she's been bouncing back and
forth between Republican administrations, campaigns, and right-wing
think tanks since she got her start in the Reagan administration.
Chris Mooney/Juliet Eilperin: EPA website removes climate science site
from public view after two decades
Michael Paarlberg: How would Donald Trump's tax plan benefit him?
Let us count the ways; also
Bess Levin: Donald Trump Stands to Make Millions Off His Own Tax
Marcelo Rochabran/Jessica Huseman: Former Director of Anti-Immigration
Group Set to Be Named Ombundsman at US Immigration Agency: Another
candidate for Trump's most inappropriate nomination ever.
Matt Shulman: At NRA Conference, Trump Bathes Audience in Conservative
Shout-Outs: I suppose at some point in its distant past, the NRA
was just a lobby group of conservation-minded hunting devotees, a little
backward-looking but basically harmless. Then they were taken over by
the gun industry and jumped onto the law-and-order bandwagon, trying
to stampede terrified city folk to the gun shops with the pitch that
the only way to hold back the tidal wave of crime was by being armed --
and conveniently they tore down the legal barriers against criminals
obtaining guns. But now they're basically just an extreme right-wing
political cult, way beyond reasoning. In this atmosphere, the few
politicians who aren't intrinsically loathed by them can venture
into their den and throw them some red meat and hope to rally their
support. Democrats, even those who've long given up on any political
prospect of limiting gun proliferation, still aren't welcome, because
they've never been able to bridge the increasing chasm of gun lunacy.
But here Trump is, not because he's ever needed or wanted a gun but
because he's as fundamentally wacko as they are. And if you take them
seriously, not as a hobby group but as a political cult, consider:
Heather Digby Parton: Could the NRA's Wayne LaPierre Talk Trump Into a Violent War on the Left?.
Matthew Rosza: This week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interest: Who
says you can't cash in on public office?
Matt Taibbi: Man Trump Named to Fix Mortgage Markest Figured in Infamous
Financial Crisis Episode: Craig S. Phillips, formerly of Morgan
Stanley (head of their Asset-Backed Securities division). "More foxes
for more henhouses. Welcome to the Trump era."
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Amanda Erickson: Turkey just banned Wikipedia, labeling it a 'national
Thomas Frank: The Democrats' Davos ideology won't win back the
midwest: Like Frank, I have a soft spot for the midwest -- its
farms still productive even as the small towns and factories have
decayed and been depopulated. Still, the Democrats' problem isn't
regional. It's about class, something the Democrats regard as taboo.
Nore are they attracted to "Davos ideology" -- just Davos money, or
any money flexible enough to support a party which seeks to be all
things to all people while never really satisfying anyone. If they
ever want to come back, they have to settle on some vision they can
campaign on and deliver -- something that, if not revolution a la
Bernie, at least makes spreads the wealth Davos promises much more
broadly and equitably. Meanwhile, they're vulnerable to critiques
like this one:
Cornel West: The Democrats delivered one thing in the past 100 days:
Trevor Timm: Everyone loves Bernie Sanders. Except, it seems, the
Edward Helmore: Whole Foods Is Tanking -- High-Priced Luxury Foods Don't
Jibe With Our Times: I don't see much evidence that the analysis is
valid. In times of increasing inequality, there's certainly a niche
market selling high-priced food to the wealthy, and there's plenty of
evidence of that. Last couple times I was in New York I saw relatively
new high-end food stores everywhere. And we've had several, including
a Whole Foods, open here in the last couple years. Fresh Market closed,
but less for lack of customers than some corporate decision to reduce
their distribution area. Whole Foods hangs on -- my impression is with
fewer customers, but having gone there several times and walked out
empty-handed I rarely bother. Sure, their prices are a big part of
the problem, but I hardly ever find anything there I want, much less
that I can't find cheaper elsewhere. I really lamented the loss of
Fresh Market, but I could care less if these guys go under.
Amy Renee Leiker: More than 400 guns stolen from autos in Wichita
since 2015: A rather shocking number, I thought, when I read
this in our local paper -- especially given how cheap and easy it
is to legally buy a gun in this town. Seems to be a nationwide trend:
Brian Freskos: Guns Are Stolen in America Up to Once Every Minute.
Owners Who Leave Their Weapons in Cars Make It Easy for Thieves.
Conor Lynch: Obama's whopping Wall Street payday: Not a freat look
for the Democratic Party brand: After raising $60 million in
book advances, Obama "agreed to give a speech in September for the
Wall Street investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald. His fee will be
$400,000." Stephen Colbert's
comment: "Hillary wasn't able to continue Obama's legacy -- but
at least Obama was able to continue hers." Their interchangeability
may have once seemed like a political plus but is starting to look
like a curse. The more buckraking Obama does, the more tarnished he
will look to those of us who can't fathom their rarefied world, and
the easier it will be for Republicans to tar them. As Lynch writes:
As the Trump administration's recently unveiled tax plan reminds us,
the Republican Party is and always will be committed to serving
corporations and the billionaire class. Yet this hasn't stopped
Republicans from effectively portraying their Democratic opponents
as a bunch of snobby, out-of-touch elites over the past 30 years or
so. According to a recent Washington Post survey, this rhetoric has
paid off: Only 28 percent of respondents believed that the Democratic
Party is "in touch with the concerns of most people in the United
David Marcus: Marxism With Soul: Review of a new collection of
essays (Modernism in the Street: A Life and Times in Essays)
by the late Marshall Berman.
Jonathan Martin: At a 'Unity' Stop in Nebraska, Democrats Find Anything
But: An old friend of mine linked to this and tweeted: "Anyone
surprised that Bernie-O don't care about a woman's right to choose,
when it comes right down to it? Not me!" I'd be surprised if there
was any basis for this charge, but that would require several leaps
of imagination beyond even what the article claims. The back story
is that Sanders and Keith Ellison campaigned for Democrat Heath
Mello running for mayor of Omaha, and were attacked by the head
of NARAL Pro-Choice America because in Nebraska's state legislature
some years ago Mello had voted for several anti-abortion bills.
For more background on Mello, see
DD Guttenplan: Why Was Heath Mello Thrown Under the Bus? The
upshot is that Mello had moved away from his early anti-abortion
stance, much like Hillary Clinton's VP pick, Tim Kaine, had done.
Even if he hadn't, it's not like I've never supported a Democrat
I didn't see eye-to-eye with. It wouldn't bother me if NARAL, as
a single-issue lobby, endorsed a Republican candidate with a much
better track record on abortion, but those are few and far between
out here, and as I understand it local pro-choice people are fine
with Mello -- so who's NARAL trying to impress? I suspect that's
the anti-populist faction of the national party, which could hardly
care less about losing in Nebraska but regards Sanders as a threat.
(Remember that the DCCC didn't lift a finger to help a pro-Sanders
Democrat run for Congress here in Kansas, even though he had an
impeccable pro-choice record which featured heavily in Republican
hate ads.) And it's yet another leap of imagination to imply that
the reason Sanders supports Mello has anything to do with his lack
of interest in abortion rights.
DD Guttenplan: Why Was Heath Mello Thrown Under the Bus?: I've
seen several complaints from Hillary Democrats about Bernie Sanders
supporting Heath Mello's campaign for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska. The
charge is that Mello is anti-choice
Steve Phillips: Democrats Can Retake the House in 2018 Without Converting
a Single Trump Voter: The trick is mobilizing their base, while Trump
voters get bored or lazy or disenchanted: "there are 23 Republican
incumbents in congressional districts that were won by Hillary Clinton
in November. There are another five seats where Clinton came within 2
percent of winning." Phillips is author of Brown Is the New White:
How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority,
so one of those guys who thinks Democrats can ride a demographic
backlash against Republican racism without actually having to come
up with populist positions. That strikes me as unlikely until they
establish some credibility, which was something the Clinton-Kaine
ticket had little of in 2016. Along these lines, see the John Judis
interview with Ruy Teixeira, an early proponent of The Emerging
Why the Left Will (Eventually) Triumph. He attributes Trump's
win to "the declining group, the white non-college voters," who
suddenly lunged away from the Democrats in 2016. Asked why:
They do not have any faith that the Democrats share their values and
are going to deliver a better life for them and their kids, and I
think Hillary Clinton was a very efficient bearer of that meme.
Whether she wanted to or not, the message she sent to these voters
is that you are really not that important and I don't take your
problems seriously, and frankly I don't have much to offer you.
And that's despite the fact that her economic program and policies
would have actually been very good for these people. There was a
study of campaign advertising in 2016 that showed Hillary outspent
Trump significantly and that almost none of her advertising was about
what she would actually do. Almost all of it was about how he was a
Voters were fed up with stagnation and with the Democrats and they
turned to someone who thought could blow up the system. The way the
Democrats and the left could mitigate that problem is to show these
voters that they take their problems seriously and have their interests
in mind, and could improve their lives.
Matthew Rosza: Sam Brownback pushed for concealed carry in Kansas -- now
the governor wants to spend $24 million to ban concealed weapons from
hospitals: The 2013 law was written to make it prohibitively expensive
for any institution to exclude guns from its premises. Turns out that
includes psychiatric hospitals, and turns out Brownback finally decided
that wasn't such a great idea. Of course, it doesn't help that Brownback's
Laffer-inspired tax scheme has forced across-the-board spending cuts
while leaving Kansas in a huge fiscal hole.
Joe Sexton/Rachel Glickhouse: We're Investigating Hate Across the US.
There's No Shortage of Work. Also:
Ryan Katz: Hate Crime Law Results in Few Convictions and Lots of
Clive Thompson: Gerrymandering Has a Solution After All. It's Called
Started this Saturday afternoon (the intro), and the hits just kept