Tuesday, August 29, 2017


One thing mainstream and conservative journalists seem to share is the curious idea that Trump is making a big mistake by "alienating" Congress.

The MSM pitch it as inside baseball for their cognoscenti readers, who will be titillated by the prospect of a Trump Administration collapse: "Conflict between Trump and Congress escalates as difficult agenda looms," harrumphs the Washington Post"Trump Widens Rift With Congress as Critical Showdowns Loom," says The New York Times.

Conservatives are more likely to see it as threat to their agenda, since that is, ostensibly, what they and the outsider President share: "Trump will need Republican friends in Washington if Russia probe heats up," warns W. James Antle III at the Washington Examiner; "It’s All Fun and Games until Trump Gets Impeached," says Rich Lowry at National Review; "...the survival of his presidency will depend on the support of people within his own party who have come to hate his guts."

A few of the dumber conservatives, like Conrad "I'm rich, give me a column" Black and The Stupidest Man on the Internet, think Trump will roll over Congress because he is all-powerful. They're closer to the truth, but only accidentally and in a meaningless way. Trump is not going to lose to Congress because Trump is not in conflict with Congress. In fact, he's not on the same planet as Congress, or as nearly anyone else.

I don't mean that he's nuts. It's funny-sad that so many people talk about the mental problems they imagine the President has -- dementia, narcissistic personality disorder, what have you -- as if his behavior could only be explained by an illness. I've never approved of distance diagnosis of Presidents, and I haven't changed my mind.

By his own lights, Trump is behaving rationally. He knows people hate the Democrats -- and they hate the Republicans. Their specific reasons for hating each only interest him insofar as they direct his exploitation of each.

He shows his opposition to the Democrats by appealing to white voters' racism and uneducated voters' resentment of the professional class -- and by stirring the Democrats to show their opposition to him. He distances himself from the Republicans by publicly insulting them -- and by stirring their opposition as well, wimpy though it may be. (Whatever you think of Sheetcake Tina Fey, she's right about Paul Ryan and everyone knows it.)

That way, no matter whom the voter despises, there's a good chance he or she will remember that Trump despises them too and, if they're dumb enough, count it as a point in his favor.

What about blowback? The Democrats Trump doesn't have to worry about. The Republicans do have the power to harm him, but they're not idiots. His harsh words mean nothing to them. They just want their agenda passed.

So this Trump does lavishly: He supports every feature of the conservative agenda -- from tax breaks from the wealthy to persecution of the underprivileged -- and enables the looting of the federal government by Republican donors to an unprecedented degree.

As with his gross properties, he lays it on absurdly thick. Trump is not a traditional politician who horse-trades on a per-horse basis; he doesn't withhold some little bauble as a way of tempting his adversary to put up an equally modest bauble of his own. The ideal situation for most dealmakers is to come out ahead on a trade, but Trump's ideal to get something without paying for it. And he gets things without paying for them by giving the impression of endless largesse available to you if you play ball. He runs his White House grift like a luxury hotel. He keeps the goodies coming -- room service, dry cleaning, concierge perks, etc., all comped -- and leaves it to you to decide whether you want to risk having it all taken away.

Previous Presidents, no matter how scummy, were not capable of these innovations because, whatever their failings, they believed in governance and public service and merely sought to shake the machine enough to bring down some loose change without breaking it. Trump, on the other hand, doesn't give a shit whether he breaks it -- or about anything else. It's no skin off his ass; like his absurd Secret Service overcharges, it's someone else's money.

The reason is that, so far as he's concerned, he's not President. Oh, he has the title, and he famously tells everyone, ad infinitum, how stupendous his 2016 victory was. But he doesn't tell them that because he's proud of being President -- he doesn't care about that, no matter what armchair psychologists tell you about his ego (I mean, a psychologist, armchair or otherwise, is woefully insufficient to address his ego -- you would need a tragic poet). In his mind, Trump has always been something greater than President: He has been Donald Trump.

No, he tells them that because it's a way to extract fealty, or bribes, or to get the press to act as if he's President -- you know, like when Glenn Thrush says this hurricane represents for Trump a "Chance to Reclaim Power to Unify." Their willingness to play along -- that excites him, because it plays into his grift.

But the Presidency itself? He doesn't care. And I think his behavior become much easier to understand, and even less frustrating, when you stop assuming that he does. Think of him instead as a tyrant who somehow took over the apparatus of government, and who has none of the traditional ties to the citizens who normally elect Presidents. It's close enough to the truth.

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