Sunday, August 25, 2019

Weekend Roundup

There are more than a few "Trump's gone nuts" moments below. Not the first time this has happened, but the count is definitely rising (and continuing as the G-7 articles arrive). The Fallows links below offer an extended opportunity to plot Trump's decline. Also see Steve M: Even if Trump is impaired, he won't go quietly. He cites Charles Pierce recalling the 1984 Reagan-Mondale debate as the occasion when he realized that Reagan exhibited clear signs of Alzheimer's. I recall watching that debate, and thinking I've never seen a more one-sided drubbing, yet Reagan went on to a landslide victory that November. On the other hand, I also came away very annoyed with Mondale, who scored many of his points by being more resolutely (recklessly even) anti-communist than Reagan -- whose own Cold War ardor was undoubted but, at least in person, tempered by his genial incoherence.

Trump's incoherence is less benign, partly because he projects a degree of menace (resentment and vitriol) Reagan never projected. But also Reagan was never his own man. He was the front guy, hired as the face and mouth, reading from prepared scripts, happy to be playing a role, while his evil "kitchen cabinet" called the shots. Trump has always been a one-man show, with few (if any) competent advisers, but with great faith in his ability to wing it. Early on, all presidents are dazed and overwhelmed at first, allowing their staffs to hold sway over the administration. However, deference and ego eventually favor the president, who eventually take charge of what matters most. It took GW Bush well into his second term to get out from under Cheney's thumb. Obama and Clinton evolved faster because they knew more, but in both of those cases early staff decisions did a lot of damage. Trump got saddled with a lot of hardcore GOP regulars early on, but most of them have been purged, allowing Trump to replace them with flunkies distinguished mostly by their sycophancy. The result is that when Trump wigs out, we no longer have the comfort of "adults in the room" to contain the damage.

I imagine you could plot two curves here. One shows the increased fragility of the administration (and really the whole country) as competent people are replaced with ones who are less so (and/or are too crooked to know better). The other would is the increasing likelihood that Trump himself will break down and blow something up. (Too early to call his performance at G-7, but it should be enough to give you a fright.)

The Democratic presidential campaign thinned out a bit, with Seth Moulton, Jay Inslee, and John Hickenlooper ending their campaigns. Meanwhile, Joe Walsh will offer Trump some token ultra-conservative opposition.

Some scattered links this week:

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