The week we’ve had
(1) I voted for Clinton, but when Trump won, I wanted the best. The best looked something like this: an unorthodox president with a strange combination of qualities that would let him stand up to the Republican party, and stand up to the Democratic party, and push for reforms that are needed but that everyone else got used to rejecting as unrealistic. There would be things Dems wouldn’t like, but a lot of things could be done on a bipartisan basis — tax reform, infrastructure, and even healthcare. That would have been Donald Trump, the surprise “deal” president.
(2) It hasn’t turned out that way. Not even close. Instead there’s been an unnecessary crisis at almost every turn, even when it came to phone calls with foreign leaders. Each crisis — from the travel ban to the headlines today — is its own entire universe of problems and debates and strife, and we can debate a lot of them, but as a country we weren’t in need of more debates; we needed solutions to the problems we already faced. It’s horrifying to think the FBI and the CIA and all these other agencies — which are responsible for keeping us safe — have to deal with this much distraction.
(3) After the leak to Russia this week, basically anyone who wants to give us sensitive information might pause to weigh the possibility that it might get to Russia (or anyone else for that matter). It’s not hard to see how that would dry up sources of intelligence, especially given Russia’s cooperation with autocratic regimes that are trying to find our sources. Anyone with any experience in intelligence will tell you this is deeply worrying. Fixing our credibility with human intelligence sources should now be a top national security priority, but it’s hard to see how this administration could do it.
(4) It’s sad to see the talent and credibility of people like Rosenstein and McMaster — who have spent their entire lives in public service — focused and spent on trying to justify the President’s erratic behavior. The thing that’s lost in all this news is that these people actually have really important jobs to do — jobs that help keep everyone safe. At the same time it’s great to have people like Mueller, who through their careers and conduct and relationships have demonstrated that it’s possible to serve your country with honor and distinction even in the face of political disagreements.
(5) Lawfare has a post — authored in part by prominent Republicans — assessing the merits of an obstruction of justice grounds for impeachment: https://lawfareblog.com/another-bomb-drops-initial-thoughts-trump-asking-comey-kill-flynn-investigation. Ross Douthat has an op-ed advocating removal on the basis of the 25th Amendment (for removing a president if he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”). Time will tell what the President has gotten himself into. But putting these options aside, this has been one of the worst starts to a modern American presidency, if not the worst, and at this point it requires incredible — and unearned — faith and trust to think it will get better. That’s one thing if we’re talking about the CEO of a company. But we’re talking about the guy steering the entire ship.
(6) To conservatives worried about media bias, it’s a reasonable concern. The media operates businesses and they make money off of clicks and subscriptions, and they’ve basically learned that people will click anxiously on any piece of news that gives us the latest mistake made by the Trump administration (and of course there are “conservative” news outlets that have learned that certain audiences will click on anything that compromises particularly disdained liberals as well; all of these outlets are playing, in a sense, to their customer’s desires). Demand for this kind of news is high, and Trump has been great for a lot of media companies from a business perspective. But part of being President is managing these relationships. You can’t be an effective President if you antagonize everyone and create a frenzy of concern about your temperament and conduct.