Ten days in. Is anyone surprised?
Well, the new president has hardly had the time to finalize the security arrangements at Tromp Tower, but here we are. And it’s everything his supporters could have wished for. No messy policy wonkery, just policy bombs. Hurling monkey wrenches into the machinery of government is going to be the theme of this administration: The Screw You Deal.
The Executive Directive on the affordable Care Act (screw it up to the extent possible) didn’t generate enough Reality TV level outrage. So he had to fling excrement at the press (“the most dishonest human beings”); it’s what non-hominid primates do. Even that didn’t have enough WOW factor. (The Republicans have been repeating this lie for years, how does one more clown repeating it cause a general panic?) For pure brazen lying (probably the greatest of the great talents of this minimally talented president) the speech before the CIA should should get a lifetime acting award. (That would show Meryl!) Only a very practiced liar, one surrounded his whole life by yes-men, could tell the CIA that he didn’t call them liars and (get this) Nazis, something he did only the week before. He used the occasion once again again stress a fact that few if anyone else would: “Trust me. I;’m like a smart person.” In what respect he is “like” a smart person, he did not explain. Perhaps they are similar to him because they say things he doesn’t understand.
None of this, however, could deliver what his most fervent supporters wanted: Some that really causes pain to people not only unlike them but also unable to fight back. This is the central core belief of Trumpism: Pull wings off flies and say you are studying biology. And so for the most dramatic step so far, he issued an “order” banning travel from seven countries. The action is called “temporary” because it only expressly lasts for four months for six of the countries. But there is no termination for travelers from Syria. By its terms it applied to persons with permanent residence status in the U.S. The blowback over that outreach has since caused the Secretary of Homeland Security (soon to be renamed Heimatschutzministerium) to deem green card holders not a threat to national security (at least not now). This maneuver has all the hallmarks of Trump as we learned during the campaign: brutal, lacking in human decency, pure right wing theater, and, above all, not attended with even a minimal of thought. As a result, confusion reigned at the nation’s airports, our closest allies are shocked, left holding the bag, spontaneous protests arise, and Trump announces how “beautiful” the plan is in its implementation.
If anyone believes that this “approach” to governing (it can’t actually be called governing) will be smoothed out when this presidents becomes more experienced, he is indulging in the practice of putting hope above experience. Donald J. Trump has not learned anything since his days on the Apprentice. He there discovered a secret to his peculiar form of “popularity”—a buffoonish ogre-like persona, unrestrained by any principles and unleashed without warning, brutally if at all possible. Given that at least the buffoonery is a comfortable mesh with his conduct for his entire adult life, he is unlikely 70s to give it up. Moreover, Trump has never been one for accumulating information. He doesn’t have the patience, desire or need (“I’m like a smart person”).
Before any successful opposition can arise, it’s necessary to confront this reality: Trump is interested in minimally planned theatrical effects. He really has no interest whatsoever in policy. He is now a right-winger because the reactionaries are the party that celebrates rudeness, cruelty, minimal thought and spectacular destruction. If there were the equivalent of the Khmer Rouge in this country, he would probably be equally comfortable there (provided he were in charge).
Not since the dangerous days of Watergate (played out against a potential U.S.-Soviet confrontation in the Middle East) has there been so much discussion about whether the president is psychologically fit for the office. And we are not even two weeks in.