14 Reasons Why

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Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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  1. Avatar and so on says:

    A small point really, but I am afraid that it is not only Trump’s policies that will have a long term effect on our welfare, but his naked and blatant disregard for norms. Not all norms are good of course, and a transformative presidency that “shakes things up” is going to break a few, but sooo many of them are really good things. Like the norm that the Justice Department should operate apolitically, or that the White House counsel defends the Office of the Presidency and not the president, or that its improper for the President of the United States to call people names in public, or to instigate violence, or to castigate the free press as the enemy of the people. And so on.Report

    • Avatar Mike Siegel in reply to and so on says:

      Yes, I agree. That was one of the things I pushed under behavior, though. But one of the things I’m learning during the Trump era is just how important norms are. We can have laws and a Constitution, but they are only words on paper if we don’t have a culture that encourages adherence to them.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Mike Siegel says:

        The problem with using “norms” as a basis for governing is that they only work when all sides feel that they are getting something from them. If a group feels that the other side is defecting against them, and it doesn’t matter if it is real or just perception, then the “norm” is eroded. If this happens for too long, all pretense that this is a “norm” dissolves.

        If, say, the SCOTUS hearing was a formality only, then the procedure against Bork was an erosion of that norm. A defection. Some may think that was important enough to change the norm, but there is always going to be consequences. Indeed, that becomes the new norm. One can pick from any number of norms that were changed by both sides in our political history, and there will be someone, somewhere who will think that change was good and necessary.

        Long story short, there is a lot of F-You-ism in politics, and trying to paper over it with a fiction norm is probably as flimsy as the paper it was writen on.Report

    • Avatar Catchling in reply to and so on says:

      Norm-breaking is also really thorny to combat after the fact. Like, suppose the next president, whatever party they may represent, presses some valid criminal charges against Trump-associated people. That instantly becomes even more “political” than it would have been.

      Similarly, the next Democratic president should seriously wrestle with the question of whether to pack the Supreme Court, because even though that breaks norms, not doing it would amount to a giant concession to the previous norm-breaking that got the Court where it is now. (The ideal long-term solution is changing the lifetime appointments to staggered terms, but that’s a pipe dream.)Report

  2. Avatar pillsy says:

    I think I largely agree with this piece (and the individual bullet points are well-chosen), and what I the general issue is one where W was wrong within what we see as normal parameters, but when we’re talking about a position with the power of Presidency, being wrong within normal parameters can have an immense human cost.

    Bush had more than his fair share of serious failures, but the failures themselves are not unprecedented in US history. Contrary to a lot of arguments on both the right and left, it’s not like the US has been particularly shy about torture throughout its history, though it was usually a half-step removed from our direction. And the Iraq War was a catastrophic failure, but in terms of both direct costs and knock-on effects in terms of “destabilizing the region”, Vietnam was at least as bad.

    My memory is not kind to W, and I doubt history will be kind either, but the assessment that he was poor but not one of the very worst strikes me as plausible. (Certainly he was no Buchanan, nor was he forced from office in disgrace.)

    And he’s also not Trump.Report

  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I honestly had never heard of PEPFAR until today. Clearly he doesn’t get enough credit for that.Report

    • I knew of it but had either forgotten or overlooked the name of it. To grab a point @pillsy was making about how history judges presidents, I think history will be kind to George Bush because as time goes on, the policy points recede from memory and the character and personality of the man comes forward. Bush, to his own detriment politically to be frank, was militant about the perception of his stewardship of the office. Not political success, but how he represented the office and the country personally. We are already seeing it, as the Trump presidency is throwing into contrast Bush’s decency as a man if nothing else. I had a lot of issues with his policies, but I did not, and still do not, question that he thought and strived to do what he thought best for the country. Wrong sometimes, but not maliciously so.Report

    • I had heard of it, because a few years back, Bono praised him for it, and I was kind of “signs and wonders, what strange times we live in, that Bono should praise W”

      I had NO IDEA of what was coming.

      (The biggest thing for me about the current presidency is how it seems to be lowering the bar for ugliness and rudeness below where I thought it was possible to lower the bar, and I look around, and go, “if this is the kind of ‘sharp elbows’ world in which I am now expected to live, I wish to opt out and go join a commune or something” Even beyond all the environmental stuff and judicial stuff and all that, it’s just….everything is so mean and ugly. I mean, it always was, I guess, but this feels like Advanced Level Ugliness)Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to fillyjonk says:

        The difference is who is on the receiving end of the ugliness.

        George – one of the basket of deplorables who clings to guns and religion and who has been called a knuckledragging backwards hick misogynist racist Nazi almost daily for the past 15 years.

        A lot of that has been tribal virtue signalling by the coastal elites, especially the most guilt-ridden of them who went to Ivy League schools. They start from the premise that America is evil, and then try to get the benefits of self-confessing while casting blame on those other white people over there. “We’re the good white people who know how [other] backwards racist white people have sinned! We’re the sensitive, anti-racist, pro-feminist, highly educated experts who should be in charge of everything.” To be part of the in-crowd, people have to loudly echo the sentiment.

        What happened to bring Trump in is that most of middle America were seeing through the self-serving game. In word and deed the elites, especially in media, were seen as dumber and more incompetent than normal people. The prestige they’d worked so hard to build was ripped away, just as happened to the British Empire in WW-II when all of Britain’s colonies saw them getting embarassingly crushed by the Japanese.

        Suddenly everyone realized that Britain isn’t better than everyone else, that the King isn’t the apex of human society, culture, and breeding, and that British universities and British culture weren’t deserving of the high-regard the colonies had been bestowing. The British were just wankers like everyone else, and the Empire never regained its lost prestige and status.

        Trump is doing the same, giving our failed elites all the respect they deserve, which is basically none. Every time they open their mouths they sounded like well-spoken morons, and now they’ve dropped the well-spoken part, instead expressing spit-flinging outrage at every single thing Trump does, even down to his ice-cream selections. No matter how much they scream, they’ll never recover their lost prestige and status because once that’s gone, it’s gone forever.
        .Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

          There are several ways to react to pain.
          One is to want to visit that on everyone else, another is to stop and consider how others who have also felt that pain felt.

          Like, say, those people who were long derided as lazy immoral apes, loafing on welfare and breeding out of wedlock.

          I mean, seriously. For once white males are on the receiving end of someone’s scorn, and they want to blow up the world in a tantrum?Report

        • Avatar Phaedros in reply to George Turner says:

          tribal virtue signalling by the coastal elites, especially the most guilt-ridden of them who went to Ivy League schools. They start from the premise that America is evil, and then try to get the benefits of self-confessing while casting blame on those other white people over there. “We’re the good white people who know how [other] backwards racist white people have sinned! We’re the sensitive, anti-racist, pro-feminist, highly educated experts who should be in charge of everything.”

          That would explain Columbia Law School’s Mass Incarceration Project.

          The irony there is that “Mass Incarceration Project” can be read two ways, both of them true: First came the “get them in” variety, and now we’re in the “get them out” stage.

          Of course, individual prosecutors are *NEVER* motivated by race.
          The average conviction rate of 98.6% suggests they are much more willing to give a rubber-stamp of approval to whatever racism might occur elsewhere in the criminal justice system than to initiate their own.Report

    • I’d heard of PEPFAR but thought it was a breath mint.Report

  4. Avatar George Turner says:

    Republican ex-Presidents are always great and wise statesmen. Republican current Presidents are always Nazi monsters who are destroying the Republic. It is always so.Report

    • Yep. Although to be fair, GOP opinions of Dem president tend to improve once they’re out of office, too. I expect Obama will only gain popularity as time goes on.

      I’m always reminded of this quote from I, Claudius, with “out of office” in place of “dead”, in particular as it applies to Trump:

      Sejanus: Everybody’s loved when he’s dead.
      Livia: I wouldn’t count on that if I were you.Report

      • I’ll admit to being one of those (though I’m not GOP). I did not support President Obama on most things but I have been very impressed how he has conducted himself as an ex-president, especially at “state” type events. He may get more partisan as election time rolls around but I have been pleasantly surprised at his relatively low profile. His eulogy at the McCain service was very good. Times like now it is good to see him and President Bush getting along so well, some needed show of unity and larger than politics during these times.Report

      • They do?

        What Democratic president from the 20th century does the GOP have one good word for, other than Truman?Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think both things can be true. Trump is absolutely the worst President in the history of the United States in my view. I think the damage he is doing can take decades to cure.

    However, this does not make Bush II a good President. Bush II took advantage of a terrorist attack to lead the United States into an unnecessary quagmire in Iraq. One that seems to be a perpetual war as we are still in Afghanistan and Iraq and it has been nearly 17 years since 9/11. His deregulation led to a fiscal crisis that caused tens of millions of younger Americans to graduate with more debt and fewer prospects to build equity and job security. I am not fond of Roberts and Alioto either.

    But considering that Trump’s loathsomeness is the gift that keeps on giving and it is seemingly impossible for Trump and his administration to hit rock bottom in terms of corruption, cruelty, incompetence, and stupidity. By that measure, Bush II and every other U.S. President (including Nixon, Harding, and Buchanan) are light years above Trump.

    Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Bob Woodward has a new book out about Trump’s White House. It appears to be a dishy book. The dish being that a lot of higher ups in the Trump admin seem to think that he is an absolute madman, asshole, and idiot. He doesn’t think very kindly of them either (and by implication also dislikes most of his base).

    But what does this say about the people who continue to serve under Trump despite the abuse and ill-will? Are they really trying to save the nation? Maybe some of them are but I think a lot of them put up with it to gain their own power/wealth (Wilbur Ross) or do things that no other admin would let them do (Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller)

    Report

    • I agree with your point there Saul, and I think there is a easy dividing line there. While it is not true in every case, starting with people whose whole lives have been public service such as the Mattis, Kelly’s, and professional diplomats and staff folks compared to those that are only their because they are affiliated with Trump. The former I’m more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to as doing it for greater good, as opposed to the later.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        There might be a small number of true public servants under Trump. Mattis strikes me as the sanest and most competent member of Trump’s cabinet even if I disagree with his policy positions. The other members are grifters like Trump and are in the administration so they can partake in acts or corruption or malicious people who stay with Trump because they could do things that not even a normally very conservative Republican administration would allow like family separation. The grifters seem to outnumber the malicious people.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I think the author of this astonishing anonymous New York Times op-ed thinks they’re a true public servant, but holy shit are they anything but:

          It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.

          The result is a two-track presidency.
          […]
          Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

          The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

          We’ve also allowed ourselves to allow an unfit president to remain in office while arrogating power for ourselves.

          Go us.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to pillsy says:

            I, Claudius was not an instruction manual!Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

            This strikes me as one hell of a double-edged sword.Report

            • Avatar George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

              As an aside, the currently accepted meaning of “double-edged sword” is completely mistaken, except everyone understands what is meant. But it once meant effectively attacking a problem from multiple angles. “Like a double-edged sword his tongue cut at the argument from both sides.”

              Nobody who uses a double-edged sword hits themselves with the back edge. In the writings of Master Joachim Meyer, in the mid 1500’s, most of the killing blows were delivered with the back edge.

              During blows the grip is shifted dynamically from an edge-aligned orientation (like a Katana) to a flat-aligned orientation, enabling the back edge to swing it at angles that the front edge couldn’t reach because of biomechanical limitations on the human arm.

              A video is worth a thousand words, so here are two.

              9 minute zwerchhau video lesson

              Very dynamic zwerchhau use

              So somewhere someone decided that Europeans just bashed each other back and forth like they were having a muscle spasm, and we got the “double-edged sword” phrase out of it.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

              Most people who hate Trump seem really unimpressed by this. Whether they are liberals or long time conservative Never Trumpers like Frum, the basic argument seems to be that if this is real rather than a ploy, the person who wrote this is a moral coward trying to protect their hide. The other observation is that rather than going through the proper constitutional methods for dealing with an incompetent President like impeachment or the 25th Amendment, Trump’s cabinet is staging a soft core coup d’etat.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

                There’s also the other factors.

                The author clearly thinks Trump is unfit for office, and a danger to the country. They decide not to pursue the Constitutional remedy (25th Amendment). They decide not to notify the public. They decide not to notify Congress.

                Instead, Trump’s own appointees — as admitted in this op-ed — literally usurp the powers of the President for themselves. In the name of “avoiding a Constitutional Crisis”. Which, among other things, means at least one senior administration official doesn’t know what a “Constitutional crisis” is if they think ignoring the Constitution in favor of breaching it is avoiding one.

                Of course the sub-text is even better, as this is clearly prep work to explain how Donald Trump was never a Republican, was not representative of Republican values or goals, and should in no way be associated with the party. And anything that he did that you like, only happened because Real Republicans did it despite Trump’s best wishes.

                I suspect I’d be absolutely horrified at what they’ve stopped, since I’m appropriately horrified at what they didn’t. And yet that pales in comparison to someone humble-bragging anonymously in the NYT about how self-sacrificing he is to usurp the Presidency.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to LeeEsq says:

                It also plays into Trump’s “Deep State” hands to such an extent that Trump would’ve written it if the anonymous author didn’t.

                It ranks up there with a hypothetical 1932 article in the German press from an “anonymous high-placed Jew” saying how he’s fighting from the inside to bring down the Weimar Republic to restore Jewish control of Germany.

                Yet the New York Times ran it.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to George Turner says:

                It also plays into Trump’s “Deep State” hands to such an extent that Trump would’ve written it if the anonymous author didn’t.

                The Deep State is comprised of the VP, Cabinet members, and other high level political appointees?

                “Senior members of the Administration” can only be describing political appointees. So either Mike Pence, or someone Trump personally appointed.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

                Here’s what “Senior” meant back in 2005 according to Slate:

                Since there are no hard and fast rules on attribution, reporters can punch up their stories by ascribing “senior” status to just about anyone. The only people who can’t be senior administration officials, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank told the Explainer, are the interns.

                Several Washington reporters said that “senior” officials in the White House must at the very least have “commissioned status.” Commissioned staffers include those from the top three ranks of the White House hierarchy. In descending order of importance, these are: assistants to the president, deputy assistants to the president, and special assistants to the president. The 80 or so commissioned staffers in the White House get special dining-room and parking privileges. In general, they also get higher salaries.

                In practice, reporters rarely use the term “senior” for anyone below assistant level. (Special assistant Blake Gottesman, who sits right next to the Oval Office and serves as the president’s personal aide, isn’t likely to get the title.) There are almost 20 assistants to the president, including familiar figures like Stephen Hadley, senior adviser Karl Rove, chief of staff Andrew Card, and press secretary Scott McClellan. The vice president is, of course, also a senior administration official. The most senior official of all—the president—rarely speaks on background. Bill Clinton’s press secretary tried (and failed) to work out a suitable attribution for presidential background briefings. Reporters deemed phrases like “someone close to the president” too misleading.

                Senior administration officials don’t have to come from the White House. Cabinet secretaries are undoubtedly senior, and some reporters extend the title to their deputies and undersecretaries. Even a few officials at the assistant secretary level might merit “senior” designation. Given these possibilities, the population of senior officials in the administration could number well over 100.

                (emphasis added)Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

                Each of them hand-chosen political appointees. Which means blathering about the “Deep state” is even stupider than normal. The Deep State literally can’t be “The people Trump brought with him into office”, which is the only set of people “Senior member of the administration” can describe.

                But you’re not placing “Senior” in context of what the op-ed claims was done. Most of those 100 would simply not be capable of out-arguing Trump, for instance.

                That narrows it down far more — you’re looking at Cabinet members, or top-level advisers. No one else would have both the title (“Senior members”) and the actual ability to talk Trump out of anything, or do any of the other things described in the piece.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Morat20 says:

                Its weird how the “Deep State” never existed before Jan 20, 2017.

                It was never mentioned, no one wrote about it, I doubt if one person in a million would have even known what the term meant prior to that.

                But now, yeah, its always existed, and we’ve always been at war with it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Wikipedia mentions this:

                Barack Obama’s alleged lack of success of his campaign promises relating to the Afghanistan war and civil liberties has been attributed by Tufts University professor Michael J. Glennon to what he calls the “double government”; the defense and national security network.Mike Lofgren felt Obama was pushed into the Afghanistan “surge” in 2009. Another major campaign promise Obama made was the closure of Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp, which he was unable to accomplish. This has been attributed indirectly to the influence of a deep state.

                The page also mentions Edward Snowden and what he claimed was going on.

                So while the term only dates back (in English, anyway) to 2016 or so, the concept does go back to Obama in the modern use of the term. (If you want to get broader, you can get all Illuminati, of course. But in the narrow sense, I’ve seen deep-state adjacent arguments given as to why Obama couldn’t close Guantanamo, for example.)Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                No the concept you are talking about goes back much earlier, to at least the Military Industrial Complex mentioned by Eisenhower, or even earlier, to Truman who complained that he was the most powerful man in the world, but had to spend his day just kissing ass and pleading with the Cabinet heads to act.

                But then we could also refer to the permanent government bureaucracy instituted as part of civil service reforms in the early 20th century, which were deliberately meant to insulate government bureaucracies from political interference.

                Because the whole point of civil service reform to was make the enactors of policy independent of the crafters of policy. We very much want the rank and file diplomats and generals and agency heads to NOT be “loyal” to the president but to carry out policy as set by Congress and the Executive branch, and ratified by the courts.

                What Trumpists are complaining about is that the civil servants and members of the Department of Justice aren’t behaving like at-will employees of a single man.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

                But you’re not placing “Senior” in context of what the op-ed claims was done.

                Oh, that’s true.

                I was only looking at who gets the title applied to them according to important journalists like those at the NYT.

                Or, more precisely, who got it in 2005.

                Maybe it means something different today.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m pretty sure it means an official who is 65 or older.

                Yeah. That’s it.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to pillsy says:

            I think this letter is an elaborate troll or an attempt to mitigate midterm election damage rather than an admission of softcore coup d’état. My evidence is that the war on immigration, Trump’s signature issue, continues despite the alleged softcore coup d’état. This seem to suggest that Trump is running the show no matter how chaotic.Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to pillsy says:

            What a curious thing; I’m honestly perplexed by the reasoning of the person who wrote it… if what they say is true (and it confirms all my priors so it must be), to what possible good end would you publish such a thing? Now? If Trump is as bad as they say (and I believe), and as unhinged and mercurial as they say (and I believe)… then the only time to write such a thing is after Trump is either impeached or leaving office. It strikes me as profoundly poor judgement to write an op-ed in the NYT(!) about the impotence of Trump. Nothing good will come of this.

            I get the theory that it is a mid-term strategy doc, and that makes some sense… if expecting a bloodbath and congressional turnover they assume Trump will be further constrained (and therefore their jobs somewhat easier) and they want to save the Republican brand… but… it makes me question their judgement as “adults in the room” and quite possibly strikes me as the umpteenth practical failure of the NeverTrump faction. Never have I seen such political incompetence from so many insiders in such a short span of time. Unless, of course, the goal is boots on the ground “somewhere” ™ … in which case, brilliant but evil.

            TLDR: Only an idiot or a genius would write such a thing; I’m leaning towards idiot.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Marchmaine says:

              I’m leaning towards idiot myself, but Vikram Bath (on Twitter) suggested that this is a ploy to provoke a Trump meltdown that really does make his Presidency untenable in front of Congress and the world.

              It seems farfetched, but somehow strikes me as the kind of clever-but-actually-completely-stupid plan that the author of the piece would dream up.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to pillsy says:

                To what end? To try to reduce his popularity so that the 25th would stick? Then its not much of a Republican Mid-Term strategy… you’d do that after the midterms… so can’t be both.

                Also, provoking Presidential blow-ups are not the actions of sober public servants protecting us from Presidential blow-ups.

                If it wasn’t the NYT, I’d seriously question the whole “Senior Administration Official” sourcing… or maybe they are practicing a Jesuitical mental reservation and witholding the “BFF of an Aid to a…”

                Part of me thinks when this person is exposed and removed from their position that we’ll all go, huh, maybe Senior was a courtesy title.

                Either that or we’ll have to point out to a prematurely jubilant Donald Jr. that he doesn’t inherit the presidency too.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Marchmaine says:

                To getting him replaced with President Pence after he starts chewing on the Resolute desk, I’d think. It’s not a midterm strategy.

                As for “senior”, like @jaybird said, it covers a lot of ground.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to pillsy says:

                Not enough ground…

                A pool of 100 is not deep enough to remove the no-diving sign.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

                The argument that something was kinda clever on first glance then spectacularly dumb when really examined it but, really, when you get down to brass tacks is *REALLY* amazingly clever when you understand 14th dimensional chess is… well. I suppose it’s something that you can only judge when the refs announce that the game is over and name the person who won it.

                I was sure that Trump was a buffoon who was never going to get nominated and then I was sure that he was a buffoon who was going to win until I was sure that he was a buffoon who wouldn’t win and now I’m in a place where I have no idea how good of a judge I am of anything.

                That said, this op-ed strikes me as yet another thing that confirms the priors of everybody who reads it. Team Evil is able to yell “SEE!!! THERE’S A SHADOW GOVERNMENT AND IT’S WORKING AGAINST TRUMP!!!!” while Team Good is able to say… well, Team Good seems to be settling into “yeah, this was a bad idea and I don’t know what the NYT was thinking.”

                So maybe it doesn’t confirm everybody’s priors.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

                Wait… if I apply some half-understood mathematic principles to even less understood linguistic logic principles… then this comment means I’m on Team Good! I’ve never been on Team Good before. Let me bask in the moment. Have you checked your math?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

                I generally assume that if something appears dumb but is actually a fakeout that’s trying to be clever, it’s really dumb. This is partly because I rarely think back on things and think, “Wow, I’m really glad that complicated, counter-intuitive plan worked out exactly like I hoped it would.”Report

  7. Avatar Chad says:

    The responses to both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria should be included here.Report

    • Avatar Mike Siegel in reply to Chad says:

      I thought about that one, but it’s hard to compare the two, especially as we’re still assessing the damage from Maria. Both were bad but at least Bush didn’t try to pretend Katrina didn’t happen.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Mike Siegel says:

        Only for the first 48 hours or so.

        You know what’s really depressing? How many people still believe the BS news stories about the Katrina aftermath. It’s weird how many completely false stories about murder, rape, and theft worked their way into everyone’s minds as the “Heckava Job” Brownie sat there stunned for a few days.Report

  8. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    What has always made America and our First World peers different from the East Bloc and Third World dystopias was not just norms, but the respect for independent institutions, centers of power that were not connected or beholden to the ruling powers.

    The hallmark of those dystopian countries was that all centers of power were corrupted and bent to the will of the ruling powers. Churches, unions, universities, the police and military, all are extensions of whichever power is running the country.

    This is what I see in the Trumpian faction. He, and his followers hold the view that every organ of power should serve their interests, whatever it happens to be at the moment.

    This is why a “policy” analysis of Trump doesn’t really hit that mark- it isn’t like Trump is making good faith errors of judgement, or earnestly trying and failing.

    There is a corruption of intent, so regardless of the outcome, it is malign.Report

  9. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I’m in the “norms” camp but focused more on institutions than personal behavior.

    What made 20th century America and our postwar peer nations superior to the East bloc and Third world dystopian countries was that our institutions were free and independent power centers, and we had a powerful cultural norm to keep it so.

    In those dystopian societies, every institution and power center was corrupted and bent to serve the will of those in power, from churches to unions to sports and civic organizations. All the resources of government from the police to the utilities to the military reflected this mindset.

    This is the mindset I see in Trump and his supporters. He doesn’t follow some high minded and well intentioned political philosophy. Every institution from the Department of Justice to the NFL to churches are either groveling toadies or enemies.

    This is the corruption that really matters.Report

  10. Iraq had elections

    Until there’s an election where the people in power voluntarily step down peacefully, elections mean nothing.Report

  11. Avatar Dave says:

    Bush made the mess in 2008? News to me…Report

  12. We should probably do an above-the-fold post on yesterday NYT op-ed. It was startling. I understand where they’re coming from — using the 25th Amendment to remove a President with 40% support would cause riots. But the op-ed is only going to make thing worse.Report

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