A Plan for That

Something is up. Someone has a new slogan. Obama’s Slogan was “Yes we can!” that wrapped up everything he was up to in three words. And that was enough. That felt right. John McCain had no slogan. There was nothing to feel, and four year later, Mitt Romany had no slogan anyone remembered. Obama still had his. Even after Obamacare, or because now there was Obamacare, there was work to do, still, to make things better for everyone, to keep things rolling. The old slogan still worked. That could be done. “Yes we can!” What was Romney offering? He was offering a question. “What about the rich people and corporations?”

That was the wrong question. That’s always the wrong question, but Donald Trump fixed that. He felt the same way but his slogan disguised that. His slogan was short and sweet – “Make America Great Again!”

There was no need to talk about worthy rich people and the undeserving poor. Things were awful. Things had been awful since 1953 – or 1927 – or 1858 – no one quite knows when. But he could fix it, whatever it was, and he alone could fix it – and those four short words were everything. Those four short words ended all argument. There was nothing more to say. Hillary Clinton, of course, never settled on a slogan. She was a policy wonk. She had ideas. She had deep legislative experience and even deeper diplomatic experience. She knew most of the world leaders. Yes, she was shrill and unpleasant, but she had all that – and Donald Trump had those four words. She was doomed.

And now Donald Trump may be doomed. He still has his four words, but now they sound like he hasn’t kept his promises. It’s been four years. America isn’t great yet? He needs new words.

Donald Trump may come up with the obvious – Keep America Great – but that seems a bit passive and more than a bit defensive. And he faces what he has not faced before, a simple deadly slogan, from a woman he despises. Elizabeth Warren has her slogan. She didn’t plan it. She just kept saying the words when she got excited – “I have a plan for that!”

That was just her enthusiasm. She thought nothing of it. Then people joked about how she kept saying that. Then people decided that was pretty cool. Trump never has any plans. He always said they’d come later, but they never came – but Warren is all plans. She’s thought about what to do and how to pay for it, for almost everything.

This might be a good thing. Others seem to think so. The Washington Post’s Isaac Stanley-Becker reports on what was once unthinkable:

Tucker Carlson of Fox News spent nearly three minutes of his opening monologue on Wednesday quoting verbatim from the economic plan unveiled this week by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential aspirant.

But his intention was not to disparage it. Hardly. He told Republicans – who are the lion’s share of his viewers – that they were voting against their own economic interests by backing candidates who did not speak like the consumer protection advocate and former Harvard Law School professor.

“She sounds like Donald Trump at his best,” Carlson said, in a striking show of support for the liberal firebrand who recently accused him of propagating hate.

But it’s not as if he likes this woman:

Carlson had no shortage of criticism for other aspects of Warren’s candidacy. Still, their agreement on certain fundamental questions about the economy revealed something about each of them – and about the inchoate political realignment that has made it unclear to which party causes from free trade to privacy protection belong.

For Carlson, who recently refused to apologize after the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America surfaced old recordings of him making racist and sexist remarks, the endorsement of Warren’s vision exemplified his efforts to distance himself from Republican orthodoxy at the very moment his network cleaves closer to the president. He has cast himself as a Trump-era populist truer to the creed than is the president himself, willing to speak hard truths to his own tribe, namely the Republican elite.

For Warren, the endorsement was a sign that her brand of economic populism – which is similar to that of a Democratic competitor, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – has resonated with not just any exponent of the Make America Great Again agenda but the self-appointed spokesman of those drawn to Trump’s protectionist message.

And now she’s free:

Last month, Warren broke with other Democrats, including Sanders, in declining an invitation to appear at a presidential town hall hosted by Fox. She then proceeded to post images on Instagram of Carlson and other hosts behind an all-caps appeal to stop their “HATE-FOR-PROFIT FOX NEWS RACKET.”

Yet she is making a play for parts of the country as deeply associated with the president as is the network, the most watched on American cable. She drew applause recently in Kermit, W.Va., in a county where 4 out of every 5 voters voted for Trump in 2016. “I liked being in Kermit,” the senator said as she drove away.

At the same time, she hardly shies away from attacking the president. At an MSNBC town hall on Wednesday, Warren, who was the first presidential candidate to call for Trump’s impeachment, received a wave of applause when she claimed that he would be “carried out in handcuffs” if he were “any other person in the United States.”

And she hooked in Tucker Carlson:

While she was speaking on MSNBC, Carlson was on the rival network offering a “thought experiment” to demonstrate Warren’s appeal.

“What if the Republican leadership here in Washington had bothered to learn the lessons of the 2016 election?” asked the Fox host. “What if they’d understood, and embraced, the economic nationalism that was at the heart of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? What would the world look like now, two and a half years later?”

One feature of such a world, he said, would be Republican leaders in Congress regularly “saying things like this.”

He proceeded to read, word for word, whole portions of “A Plan for Economic Patriotism,” Warren’s agenda for “aggressive intervention on behalf of American workers,” which she unveiled on Tuesday. The plan would create a new, cabinet-level Department of Economic Development and funnel $2 trillion into environmentally friendly industries, among other measures.

He was on a roll:

Carlson dwelt on her rhetoric. He quoted broadsides against American brands that host their production overseas. “Sure, these companies wave the flag, but they have no loyalty or allegiance to America,” the plan states.

It is just as harsh on politicians who enable outsourcing. “Politicians love to say they care about American jobs,” Carlson said, still quoting from Warren’s statement. “But for decades, those same politicians have cited ‘free market principles’ and refused to intervene in markets on behalf of American workers. And of course, they ignore those same supposed principles and intervene regularly to protect the interests of multinational corporations and international capital.”

Finally, the plan states that a change in priorities is required. “We can navigate the changes ahead if we embrace economic patriotism and make American workers our highest priority, rather than continuing to cater to the interests of companies and people with no allegiance to America,” the document notes.

“End quote,” Carlson concluded.

The host asked his viewers to consider whether they disagreed with any part of what he had just read. “Was there a single word that seemed wrong to you?” he mused. “Probably not.”

And then he dropped the bomb. That was Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. And this was close to an endorsement:

Carlson neglected to mention the emphasis Warren was placing on climate-friendly manufacturing, or the fact that the senator has, in addition to backing reparations for black Americans, put forward plans to address income inequality that experts say would narrow the racial wealth gap.

Nevertheless, Carlson said he was convinced by her pitch. Put simply, he said, her “policy prescriptions make obvious sense” – from her suggestion that the government should buy American products to her proposed investment in research and development.

“She sounds like Donald Trump at his best,” he said. “Who is this Elizabeth Warren, you ask? Not the race-hustling, gun-grabbing abortion extremist you thought you knew.”

She kept saying she had a plan for that, and for that other thing too, which Carlson noted was more than all of the Republicans for the last ten years have had about anything. He was impressed.

On the the other side of things, the Democratic side of things, Farhad Manjoo argues that Warren is more amazing than Carlson knows:

Elizabeth Warren is running the most impressive presidential campaign in ages, certainly the most impressive campaign within my lifetime.

I don’t mean that the Massachusetts senator is a better speaker than anyone who has ever run, nor a more strident revolutionary, nor as charismatic a shaper of her public image. It’s not even that she has better ideas than her opponents, though on a range of issues she certainly does.

I’m impressed instead by something more simple and elemental: Warren actually has ideas. She has grand, detailed and daring ideas, and through these ideas she is single-handedly elevating the already endless slog of the 2020 presidential campaign into something weightier and more interesting than what it might otherwise have been: a frivolous contest about who hates Donald Trump most.

In fact, she may be the only one with ideas:

Warren’s approach is ambitious and unconventional. She is betting on depth in a shallow, tweet-driven world. By offering so much honest detail so early, she risks turning off key constituencies, alienating donors and muddying the gauzy visionary branding that is the fuel for so much early horse-race coverage… yet, deliciously, Warren’s substantive approach is yielding results. Her plans are so voluminous that they’ve become their own meme. She’s been rising like a rocket in the polls, and is finally earning the kind of media coverage that was initially bestowed on many less-deserving men in the race.

But those days are gone:

Warren’s policy ideas are now even beginning to create their own political weather. Following her early, bold call to break up big technology companies, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are dividing up responsibilities on policing tech giants, and lawmakers in the House are planning a sweeping inquiry into tech dominance. Warren’s Democratic opponents are now rushing to respond with their own deep policy ideas; Joe Biden’s staff seems to be pulling all-nighters, cutting and pasting from whatever looks good, to match Warren’s policy shop.

Manjoo is impressed:

Whatever your politics, pull out your phone, pour yourself a cup of tea, and set aside an hour to at least read Warren’s plans. You’ll see that on just about every grave threat facing Americans today, she offers a plausible theory of the problem and a creative and comprehensive vision for how to address it.

This week, she unveiled a $2 trillion plan that combines industrial policy, foreign policy and federal procurement to tackle the existential threat of climate change. She also has a plan for housing affordability, for child care affordability, and for student debt and the crushing costs of college. She knows what she wants to do to stem opioid deaths and to address maternal mortality. She has an entire wing of policy devoted to corporate malfeasance — she wants to jail lawbreaking executives, to undo the corporate influence that shapes military procurement, and to end the scandal of highly profitable corporations paying no federal taxes. And she has a plan to pay for much on this list, which might otherwise seem like a grab-bag of expensive lefty dreams: She’ll tax ultra-millionaires and billionaires – the wealthiest 75,000 American households – yielding $2.75 trillion over 10 years, enough to finance a wholesale reformation of the American dream.

So something is up, because this is really quite new for the nation:

For a moment, it almost felt like I was living in a country where adults discuss important issues seriously. Wouldn’t that be a nice country to live in?

This race could have been about so much less. These days, all politics seem to narrow upon the orange pate of a single narcissistic man, and some Democrats have been keen to keep pounding that drum. To paraphrase a famous quip, there are only three things Joe Biden mentions in a sentence: A noun, a verb, and Donald Trump.

The only way to liberate ourselves from Trumpism is through politics that rise above Trumpian silliness. For that, for now, we have Elizabeth Warren to thank.

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick agrees, but adds other context:

The photos were all over the internet on election night of 2016. They went viral in the bad way, and they all looked something like this: Women, standing in a crowd of other women, hands over their mouths, tears on their cheeks, as they realized that Hillary Clinton had lost to Donald Trump, the man who bragged about treating women like garbage. Those photos had come immediately on the heels of the other photos, also inescapable, taken earlier that day: Women posed outside of public schools, and churches, and rec centers, wearing pantsuits and beaming into the camera with elated looks that said, I just voted for the first woman to be president of the United States! That whiplash? That immense distance between the two sets of photos, between the historic, thrilling high of the morning and the gut punch of the night that followed? It’s a feeling millions of women have been processing ever since.

In all the soul searching that came in the months after November 2016, it didn’t take long for that feeling to turn into a question: Would it be insane to run a woman – any woman – against Donald Trump in 2020? As my friend Michelle Goldberg put it six months after Trump had won, “many American women want to break the male lock on the presidency, but they also want to save the republic, and it’s all too possible that those two goals are at odds.” We had all just witnessed a highly qualified woman lose the presidency to a carnival barker.

Why, with the stakes growing ever higher, would we even consider trying it again?

Elizabeth Warren is why:

A few months ago I started to notice a boomlet of sorts, women who were willing to fall in love with Warren – just as they had with Clinton – and women who feel that Warren alone can redeem the insult Clinton sustained. To be clear, Elizabeth Warren is not Hillary Clinton. Comparing them distorts and diminishes their unique accomplishments and formidable skills. And yet: Even taking into account the late-breaking Comey effect and the years of Clinton family baggage, it has always been utterly obvious that part of Clinton’s loss was due to misogyny – a misogyny that, if anything, has only become more apparent in the years since.

But now there may be hope:

At a mid-May campaign event in Fairfax, Virginia, I watched as Warren jogged out onto the stage and wheezed through the first few moments of her remarks. She has a big, forced window-washer wave, and as she launched into her prepared autobiography she referred to her father, over and over again, as “Daddy.” (I am not quite sure how we are supposed to be throwing off the patriarchy if we are still referring to our fathers as “daddies” into our late 60s.) But here is the part that is striking: Warren absolutely came alive when she started taking questions from her audience. Explaining incredibly complex policy problems in a perfectly coherent way turns out to be Warren’s superpower. And while I went in dubious that Warren’s policy-minded campaign could ever compete with the charisma-driven, Father-Knows-Best performances of presidential candidates from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, let alone the supercharged persona of Donald Trump, I realized that I was completely confused about the nature of political charisma itself.

It seems that Warren does have that:

Warren has been generating a constant stream of news, thanks to her capacity for releasing a detailed new policy initiative nearly every week and her willingness to, for instance, call Fox News “a hate-for-profit racket.” She took a strikingly strong stand on Trump and impeachment, linking him to the same system-wide corruption with which she had cudgeled Fox. And as one state after another passed abortion bans that were retrograde and cruel, Warren rolled out comprehensive abortion reforms that would bolster reproductive rights nationwide, even if Roe v. Wade were overturned by the Supreme Court.

Warren is, in brief, almost painfully serious precisely because she is banking on public seriousness, running on the notion that bread and circus have had their day, and it is time now to save the republic. Warren is hoping voters are willing to engage with a persona that is competent and sober, qualities they persistently say they value when speaking to pollsters but tend to reject in favor of charisma at the ballot box. But she is proof that competent and sober does not have to mean cold and impersonal on the trail.

And there may be something charismatic about “competent and sober” after all:

At the Fairfax campaign stop, Warren tells some thousand people who have shown up to hear her, a crowd visibly dominated by women, that her lifelong dream was to be a teacher – a dream she lived up to as a special education teacher and a law professor before becoming a United States senator and, now, a candidate for president. This is something some of the Warren think pieces tend to miss: Warren is an extraordinary educator. We misread her as a detached wonk when she’s actually a brilliant translator of complex ideas. Watching her on the stump, you come to realize that it’s not so much the fact that she knows a lot of technical and complicated things that truly excites her fans, it’s that she can explain them to you.

That’s a rare skill, but there’s more:

She isn’t trying to please the Unknowable American Electorate of 2020. She is just trying to answer whatever the questioner is asking in the moment. She knows how to subordinate her own narrative to that of the interlocutor, but she also knows how to use her narrative to empathize with a questioner’s individual concerns. Warren knows what it’s like to be poor. She knows what it’s like to be a paycheck away from insolvency. She knows what it’s like to have family members serve in the military. She knows what it’s like to love someone addicted to opioids. She understands how it feels to almost lose your house to foreclosure. This isn’t “I alone can fix it” stuff. It’s “let me help you fix it.”

That should worry Donald Trump. What’s he going to do, call her Pocahontas again? She may not care anymore:

Warren doesn’t seem to care much about being loved. She cares a lot about explaining where things fell apart. So her campaign goes to tiny blue-collar towns in tiny red states she cannot hope to win, and she talks about opioid addiction with Trump supporters who have never met a presidential hopeful and may never meet one again. The labor here is about connecting the dots more than lighting crowds on fire.

And that can be deadly:

Women are often told they react emotionally to candidates, while men are meant to admire and appreciate complex policy. Warren is disrupting that paradigm. She leans less on charisma or charm, or even emotion, than on that elaborate PowerPoint she keeps stowed in her head. It’s a different approach from the men out in front of her. A warm and effusive Joe Biden has been crowned the favorite without having to break a sweat. Bernie Sanders has long had some of the most loyal supporters around, in part because he is so unabashedly “himself.”

But the women who come to these early Warren rallies like being addressed by an adult as adults. At a time when America has devalued teachers, empathy, expertise, and planning for the future, Elizabeth Warren serves as one reminder of what we have lost.

But all of that can be fixed:

Elizabeth Warren can explain it, and has a plan for it, and believes she can fix it. It’s not glittery, and it may not make your heart beat faster in a stadium. But in a world of noise and bluster, her clarity has its own sort of charm.

And it’s possible that may take the country by storm. Donald Trump should be worried. She has a plan for that.

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When History Disappears

It was 1954 – the French Far East Expeditionary Corps versus the Viet Minh communist revolutionaries at Dien Bien Phu – the decisive battle where the French were going to draw out the Vietnamese and destroy them with superior firepower. They tried. That wasn’t going to work. That took up most of March and May and ended with the French leaving all of French Indochina. They lost. They had asked for America’s help and Eisenhower had said no, diplomatically, but sent in the bombers and the aerial gunships to cover the French retreat – but it was still a loss.

But he sent no troops. He’d been Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and had planned and executed D-Day ten years earlier, but this was different. This battle couldn’t be won. Or the price of winning was too high. What’s the point? What does the United States get if the  United States “wins” here? This wasn’t the world facing Hitler.

And that was that. Eisenhower would go on to warn Kennedy not to get bogged down in a land war in Asia. And then Kennedy was gone and Johnson had to carry on with no advice. We got bogged down in the land war in Asia. That peaked at a bit more than seven hundred thousand of our troops over there – and riots in the streets here. And there was, back then, the draft. College students got deferments. Teach somewhere as soon as possible after college or grad school – teachers got deferments. Those who didn’t go to college got drafted. Poor kids got drafted. Black kids got drafted.

This was class warfare mixed with an overlay of angry white racism, as many on the left pointed out, but there wasn’t much that could be done about it. No one wanted to go to Vietnam. Some had to go. Some found tricks to fool the system – the doctor who would, for a fee, diagnose a medical condition that was disqualifying, or whatever. Everyone knew what has going on.

But now things have changed. The draft dodger has to speak inspiring words about D-Day on D-Day and honor what he avoided. CNN’s Zachary Wolf reports on how odd that is:

President Donald Trump, who is in Europe to commemorate D-Day, felt completely comfortable explaining his own lack of service in Vietnam because he didn’t like that war, though at the time he said it was bone spurs. Trump said Wednesday he’s making up for it by giving the military lots of money now – taxpayer money, that is.

All of this is in Trump’s interview with the British journalist Piers Morgan:

The interview was conducted in the underground bunker where Winston Churchill led the British government during the Blitz and World War II.

“Do you wish you’d been able to serve? Would you have liked to serve your country?” Morgan asked.

Trump replied by questioning Vietnam, mirroring some of the anti-war sentiment of the ’60s and ’70s.

“Well I was never a fan of that war. I’ll be honest with you. I thought it was a terrible war. I thought it was very far away. Nobody ever – you’re talking about Vietnam at that time and nobody ever heard of the country,” Trump said, adding the non sequitur that, today, the government of Vietnam has been successful negotiating in global trade.

He went on to say that he wasn’t active in protesting the war as a young man, but he didn’t think the US should ever have taken part.

And he wrapped up with this:

“But, uh, nobody heard of Vietnam and the, say, well what are we doing. So many people dying. So I was never a fan of – this isn’t like I’m fighting against Nazi Germany. I’m fighting – we’re fighting against Hitler. And I was like a lot of people. Now I wasn’t out in the streets marching. I wasn’t saying, you know, I’m going to move to Canada, which a lot of people did. But no, I was not a fan of that war. That war was not something that we should have been involved in.”

What? Trump had to clarify that:

 Trump said he’s making up for his lack of military service by being President.

“Would you have liked to have served generally – perhaps in another (way)?” Morgan asked.

“I would not have minded that at all. I would have been honored. But I think I make up for it now. I mean look, $700 billion I gave last year and then this year $716 billion and I think I’m making up for it rapidly because we are rebuilding our military at a level that it’s never seen before.”

That was generous, but he is taking personal credit for spending taxpayer money, but he must be seen in context:

Three of the last four US presidents – Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Trump – had no military service at all. George W. Bush was a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard – his way around Vietnam.

Two other politicians who were of military age during Vietnam are running against Trump as Democrats. They also deferred military service or sought to be exempt. All three are in their 70s, which makes it likely this is the last presidential election in which a Vietnam-era politician will be featured.

Joe Biden, the former vice president also running for President, received five Vietnam deferments for education and was later disqualified because of asthma.

Trump also received multiple education deferments and he has also said he obtained a letter from a doctor for heel spurs, a condition that no longer afflicts him. By the time there was a draft lottery, determined by birth date, in 1969, his birthday of June 14 was not called.

He lucked out there, but so have many others:

Two other politicians who came of age during Vietnam are running in the Democratic primary. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee received a student deferment and had a high draft number for his birth year, as did former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Plenty of Vietnam veterans have sought the White House, including Medal of Honor winner Bob Kerrey, who did not get very far. Several Vietnam veterans got their party’s nomination, including Al Gore, John Kerry and John McCain.

Since the election of Bill Clinton over decorated former military pilot and wartime president George H. W. Bush in 1992, American voters have shown that avoiding service during Vietnam is not a deal-breaker.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who is running for President as a Democrat, applied to be a conscientious objector during Vietnam. The application was ultimately rejected, but he was too old to be drafted at that point. In 2015, he said during a CNN debate that he’s no longer a pacifist.

And so on and so forth. There are no soldiers left, but Dana Milbank sees Trump as a special case:

World leaders have assembled on the English Channel this week, on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, for two days of ceremonies recalling the unrivaled bravery and sacrifice of Donald Trump.

President Trump, staying at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London, was up early Wednesday morning and already thinking deep and profound thoughts on the theme of the day: himself.

“Washed up psycho @BetteMidler was forced to apologize for a statement she attributed to me that turned out to be totally fabricated by her in order to make ‘your great president’ look really bad,” he tweeted.

It was 1:30 a.m.

And it was already absurd:

As the world’s focus turned to the legendary World War II battle, Trump’s attention remained fixed on the commemoration of Trump. In this great and noble undertaking he had the support of Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who said the D-Day anniversary “is the time where we should be celebrating our president.”

The morning’s tweeting continued.

“This trip has been an incredible success for the President,” he declared, quoting Fox News’s Laura Ingraham.

“If the Totally Corrupt Media was less corrupt, I would be up by 15 points in the polls based on our tremendous success with the economy, maybe Best Ever!” he wrote.

And then there was that interview:

On the morning of the remembrance in Portsmouth, England, Britons woke to Piers Morgan’s interview with Trump.

“I know so much about nuclear weapons.”

“I’m running on maybe the greatest economy we ever had.”

“I knocked out ISIS.”

“I had an inauguration which I have to say was spectacular.”

“We had a big election-night win.”

“I have all the cards.”

“I have a good relationship with many of the leaders.”

“I have a very good relationship with the people in the United Kingdom.”

“We have tremendous support,” Trump proclaimed.

He and his wife were the “only people at a special ceremony for the new emperor.”

He paused the self-adulation long enough to ask: “How am I doing?”

He seems worried about that, but he was with a friend:

Morgan, the 2008 winner of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” showed why he earned the sole TV interview with Trump. He asked what Trump’s late mother would think of her son.

“She would have been very proud,” allowed Trump, who reported that the queen herself “was very honored” to learn his mother was a fan of Elizabeth’s.

What greater honor was there ever for the Queen of England to have once had the approval of Donald Trump’s mother? But there’s more:

Does he see similarities between himself and Winston Churchill?

“I would be ridiculed” for saying so, but “I certainly would like to see similarities.”

Churchill’s “swashbuckling style? His fearlessness?” Morgan prompted. “He was polarizing.”

“Well, that’s true,” Trump admitted.

In a nod to the day’s solemnity, Trump described D-Day as a “really incredible” battle, maybe “the greatest battle in history.” The best!

And it got more absurd:

At Portsmouth, Trump read the D-Day prayer of a man nearly as great as himself: Franklin D. Roosevelt. “Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion and our civilization,” he read.

The dignitaries applauded politely – though, inexplicably, not as much as they did for the French president. After brief visits with veterans and leaders, Trump flew to Ireland to spend the night at his golf club. He opted to sleep there on both nights of the D-Day commemoration, because, he said of the 400-mile detour, “it’s convenient.”

The Irish prime minister, declining Trump’s invitation to meet him at the Trump International Golf Links in Doonbeg, instead met Trump at the airport. There, Trump reported, among other things, that he had “an incredible time” at the D-Day ceremony, that America’s air “has gotten better since I’m president” and that of the millions of Irish Americans, “I know most of them because they’re my friends.”

This man has issues, but Roger Cohen is not laughing:

How small he is! Small in spirit, in valor, in dignity, in statecraft, this American president who knows nothing of history and cares still less and now bestrides Europe with his family in tow like some tin-pot dictator with a terrified entourage.

To have Donald Trump – the bone-spur evader of the Vietnam draft, the coddler of autocrats, the would-be destroyer of the European Union, the pay-up-now denigrator of NATO, the apologist for the white supremacists of Charlottesville – commemorate the boys from Kansas City and St. Paul who gave their lives for freedom is to understand the word impostor. You can’t make a sculpture from rotten wood.

It’s worth saying again. If Europe is whole and free and at peace, it’s because of NATO and the European Union; it’s because the United States became a European power after World War II; it’s because America’s word was a solemn pledge; it’s because that word cemented alliances that were not zero-sum games but the foundation for stability and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

Of this, Trump understands nothing.

In fact, he misses the whole point of why the allies were fighting at all back then:

He cannot see that the postwar trans-Atlantic achievement – undergirded by the institutions and alliances he tramples upon with such crass truculence – was in fact the vindication of those young men who gave everything.

As Eisenhower, speaking at the Normandy American Cemetery, last resting place of 9,387 Americans, told Walter Cronkite for the 20th anniversary of the D-Day landings: “These people gave us a chance, and they bought time for us, so that we can do better than we have before.”

That was a solemn responsibility. For decades it was met, culminating with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Doing better, however, is not rising nativism, xenophobia, nationalism and authoritarianism given a nod and a wink by the president of the United States. It’s not Brexit, Britain turning its back on the Europe it helped free.

But that’s what we have now and one makes do:

My impression here is that Europe has gotten used to Trump to the point that it is no longer strange that the American president is a stranger. In less than two and a half years Trump has stripped his office of dignity, authority and values.

His foreign policy increasingly consists of a single word, “tariffs.” His contempt for allies undermines American diplomacy, or whatever is left of it, from Iran to North Korea, from Venezuela to China. His trampling of truth is so consistent that when he says in London that Britain is the largest trading partner of the United States – it’s nowhere near that – the impulse is to shrug.

Cohen is unhappy:

America is much better than this, much better than an American president who probably thinks the D in D-Day stands for Donald and spends the night of the commemoration trashing Bette Midler on Twitter.

As for the Republican Party, don’t get me started. To recover its bearings the GOP would do well to recall one of its own, Eisenhower, who in that same 20th-anniversary interview said that America and its allies stormed the Normandy beaches “for one purpose only.”

It was not to “fulfill any ambitions that America had for conquest.” No, it was “just to preserve freedom, systems of self-government in the world.” It was an act, in other words, consistent with the highest ideals of the American idea that Trump and his Republican enablers seem so intent on eviscerating.

Cohen is not a fan, but Maggie Haberman and Mark Landler describe the basic contradictions here:

The president arrived in Europe embracing a number of positions that are anathema to many of the people he encountered. But he pivoted abruptly when he found resistance, underscoring that his approach is less ideological than transactional and situational, and sowing confusion about what, exactly, is Mr. Trump’s bottom line.

He insisted that Britain’s public health system needed to be part of any trade negotiation with the United States, but then swiftly took it off the table. He likened the idea of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, after Brexit, to his border wall with Mexico, but then agreed with Ireland’s leader, Leo Varadkar, that there should be no wall dividing north and south.

At heart, Mr. Trump’s instincts are contrary to the multilateral spirit of the European Union. But his salesman’s desire to please made him curiously solicitous of leaders whose views he might otherwise condemn.

In short, he knows what he hates and he’s not afraid to say it, anytime, anywhere, but he really wants to please others. There may be no way to resolve that, so, as Peter Baker reports, expect more of this:

Since early in his tenure, President Trump has sought to stage a military parade through the heart of Washington, only to be thwarted. So now he has settled on the next best thing: He will take over an existing patriotic display in the capital.

The Trump administration has ordered major changes in the traditional Fourth of July celebration that draws hundreds of thousands of people to the National Mall each year — with Mr. Trump personally taking a starring role as no other president has in modern times.

The mayor’s office in Washington said on Wednesday that it had been informed that Mr. Trump intended to address the assembled crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial; his speech would presumably be televised to the nation.

This will not go well:

Critics said the move would transform what has for decades been a nonpartisan, unifying event into a political rally for a divisive president.

“He can’t resist injecting partisan politics into the most nonpartisan sacred American holiday there is: the Fourth of July,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat from suburban Virginia who represents many of those who typically attend the Independence Day events in the capital. He called it “part of a pattern of driving wedges between Americans and making himself the subject of attention.”

Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the delegate who represents the District of Columbia in the House, said she worried that the president’s presence would so politicize a family event that it could trigger anti-Trump protests.

“People are going to be angry,” she said. “This is going to be the angriest July 4 ever. People are going to be so incensed that a political figure would take over the Fourth of July that you will find many who believe they will have to find a political expression of their disgust.”

But this was coming sooner or later:

Mr. Trump has been captivated by the idea of a patriotic display in the capital that he could lead since even before he was sworn in as president. His inaugural committee reportedly explored using military equipment in the traditional parade held on the day he took the oath of office, only to reject the idea.

Undeterred, Mr. Trump became even more captivated by the notion in July 2017 when he visited Paris as the guest of President Emmanuel Macron for the annual Bastille Day military parade and repeatedly declared that he wanted something similar in Washington. Local and military officials managed to stymie his plans by emphasizing that it would cost tens of millions of dollars, and the president finally gave up last year.

By February, however, he came up with another way – essentially taking over the annual Fourth of July event in Washington. In a message posted on Twitter, he announced a “Salute to America” on Independence Day, featuring a “major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!”

This is a deeply insecure man, and this is the tradition:

The Fourth of July, marking the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was not made a holiday until 1870, and the federal government did not deem it an official holiday until 1938.

In the decades since, the celebration on the Mall has become a popular event for residents and tourists, who pack the space between the Capitol and the monuments, setting out blankets for picnics, throwing Frisbees and enjoying music by bands like the Beach Boys.

A parade down Constitution Avenue usually includes marching bands, fife and drum corps, floats, drill teams and lots of flags. The National Symphony Orchestra traditionally plays Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” complete with cannon fire, just before the fireworks start around 9 p.m., broadcast live across the nation since 1947. In addition to the hundreds of thousands usually gathered on the Mall, many others watch from rooftops across the region or from boats on the nearby Potomac River.

Presidents typically have stayed away, instead leaving town or hosting guests in the White House or on the South Lawn, where they could watch the fireworks.

But now we have a celebration of Donald Trump, one month after the D-Day (Donald Day) anniversary ceremonies in France – also a celebration of Donald Trump. History disappears. And that’s how it ends.

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Reading the Room

People come to Hollywood to make it big. Those of us who live in Hollywood watch them come and go, and most of those dreamers are gone soon enough. They didn’t have the one skill that’s necessary out here. Read the room. Know when the audience drifts away. Sense their unexpected hostility and work with it. When they’re with you, ride that wave. When they’re not, change on a dime. Know what’s working. Or better yet, anticipate all of this. Know what’s not working immediately, or sooner. Read the room, instinctively. If you have to think about any of this it’s too late.

That’s what stand-up comics know. The best of them develop a sixth sense for what works and what doesn’t – and they move on from the Laugh Factory down on the corner here, or the Comedy Store just down the street, to their own late night show. That’s where they read the country – what Johnny Carson and David Letterman and Jay Leno did for years. Know what works. Know what people want to hear and give it to them, and don’t give them anything else. They’ll love you.

None of this has anything to do with integrity, so this is a political skill too. Donald Trump, as the star of The Apprentice and then Celebrity Apprentice, gave America what it wanted to hear (and see) year after year. Kevin Drum’s 2015 explanation of the show still stands:

A bunch of C-list celebrities compete in teams each week at tasks given to them by Trump. At the end of the show, Trump grills the losing team in the “boardroom,” eventually picking a single scapegoat for their failure and firing them. As the show ends, the humiliated team member shuffles disconsolately down the elevator to a waiting car, where they are driven away, never to be seen again. This is the price of failure in Trumpworld.

Trump sensed that this made sense to people, as he read the room, the nation. This is what they wanted:

Picture in your mind how Trump looks. He is running things. He sets the tasks. The competitors all call him “Mr. Trump” and treat him obsequiously. He gives orders and famous people accept them without quibble. At the end of the show, he asks tough questions and demands accountability. He is smooth and unruffled while the team members are tense and tongue-tied. Finally, having given everything the five minutes of due diligence it needs, he takes charge and fires someone. And on the season finale, he picks a big winner and in the process raises lots of money for charity.

Do you see how precisely this squares with so many people’s view of the presidency? The president is the guy running things. He tells people what to do. He commands respect simply by virtue of his personality and rock-solid principles. When things go wrong, he doesn’t waste time. He gets to the bottom of the problem in minutes using little more than common sense, and then fires the person responsible. And in the end, it’s all for a good cause. That’s a president.

Obviously this is all a fake. The show is deliberately set up to make Trump look authoritative and decisive. But a lot of people just don’t see it that way. It’s a reality show! It’s showing us the real Donald Trump. And boy does he look presidential. Not in the real sense, of course, where you have to deal with Congress and the courts and recalcitrant foreign leaders and all that. But in the Hollywood sense? You bet.

That did work for Trump as he campaigned, and may have carried him through the first years of his presidency. He read the room masterfully, but Congress and the courts and recalcitrant foreign leaders were always going to be a problem. He hasn’t sensed their occasional unexpected hostility and worked with it. And now he’s “lost the room” and doesn’t seem to know it:

Republican senators sent the White House a sharp message on Tuesday, warning that they were almost uniformly opposed to President Trump’s plans to impose tariffs on Mexican imports, just hours after the president said lawmakers would be “foolish” to try to stop him.

Mr. Trump’s latest threat to impose 5 percent tariffs on all goods imported from Mexico, rising to as high as 25 percent until the Mexican government stems the flow of migrants, has prompted some of the most serious defiance in the Republican ranks since the president took office.

Republican senators emerged from a closed-door lunch at the Capitol angered by the briefing they received from a deputy White House counsel and an assistant attorney general on the legal basis for Mr. Trump to impose new tariffs by declaring a national emergency at the southern border.

“I want you to take a message back” to the White House, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, told the lawyers, according to people familiar with the meeting. Mr. Cruz warned that “you didn’t hear a single yes” from the Republican conference.

The exchange, in Hollywood terms, went something like this. Your jokes aren’t funny, get off the damned stage! Hey, my jokes are funny – no one at all is laughing at them anymore, but they’re still funny, damn it!

That, however, wasn’t the exchange:

Senators were mindful of the long-term stakes for their home states. Texas would be hit the hardest by the proposed tariffs on Mexican products, followed by Michigan, California, Illinois and Ohio, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A 25 percent tariff would threaten $26.75 billion of Texas imports.

“We’re holding a gun to our own heads,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.

This isn’t funny anymore:

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, said he warned the lawyers that the Senate could muster an overwhelming majority to beat back the tariffs, even if Mr. Trump were to veto a resolution disapproving them. Republicans may be broadly supportive of Mr. Trump’s push to build a wall and secure the border, he said, but they oppose tying immigration policy to the imposition of tariffs on Mexico.

“The White House should be concerned about what that vote would result in, because Republicans really don’t like taxing American consumers and businesses,” Mr. Johnson said.

That was a warning. Republicans were sticking together on this. They’ll stop the tariffs. They’ll override any Trump veto. But that’s not how Trump reads the room:

Mr. Trump, just hours before at a news conference in London with the British prime minister, Theresa May, said he planned to move forward with imposing tariffs on Mexican imports next week as part of his effort to stem the flow of migrants crossing the southern border.

“I think it’s more likely that the tariffs go on, and we’ll probably be talking during the time that the tariffs are on, and they’re going to be paid,” Mr. Trump said. When asked about Senate Republicans discussing ways to block the tariffs, Mr. Trump said, “I don’t think they will do that.”

He said, “I think if they do, it’s foolish.”

He’s saying that he’s read the room. He’s read the country. Everyone agrees with him. Everyone loves him. But that may only be Lou Dobbs:

Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs tore into Senate Republicans Tuesday night for opposing President Trump’s plans to impose tariffs on Mexico, calling the GOP lawmakers “traitors” to their country who are threatening to destroy it.

“The Republican Party in the Senate appears, to me, to be on the verge of committing absolute suicide,” the Trump-boosting conservative host exclaimed, just hours after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) acknowledged that there’s “not much support” in the GOP caucus for the president’s tariffs, which many believe will only hurt U.S. businesses.

To Dobbs, however, disagreeing with the president is apparently nothing short of an existential crisis.

“The tragedy is they may well take this great Republic down with them,” he said.

Without these tariffs Mexico takes over the continental United States and Alaska and Hawaii too? Lou is an excitable fellow:

“This is, I think, one of the darkest moments that I have seen in our capital for a long time,” he declared. “This is an abject betrayal on the part of Mitch McConnell.”

Blasting the GOP Senate leadership, Dobbs insisted it was “an absolute shame” that Trump had to “put up with such Lilliputians.”

“They’re telling every American who voted for this president, ‘Go to hell!'”

He’s read the room. Everyone loves Trump. Everyone loves these tariffs. He knows. Trump knows. Trump teleconferences Dobbs into most cabinet meetings and smaller policy meetings. And if Lou says the people out there love Trump and tariffs then that must be so.

But it’s not that easy. The Washington Post looks at just who is reading the room right these days:

It was an uncomfortable spectacle for an American president – thousands of protesters greeting his arrival in London for a state visit with the queen.

For President George W. Bush, the moment called for a direct response.

“The last noted American to visit London stayed in a glass box dangling over the Thames,” Bush said at Whitehall Palace in November 2003, referring to a recent stunt by illusionist David Blaine. “A few might have been happy to provide similar arrangements for me.”

And that did the trick:

Bush’s stab at self-deprecation did not spare him – in Britain or elsewhere – from withering criticism over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that year. But his response to the public dissent – acknowledging that the war was unpopular and attempting to rebut his critics – stands in sharp contrast to President Trump’s reaction to thousands of demonstrators who have taken to the streets during his three-day state visit to London this week.

Trump went the other way:

“I heard there were protests,” Trump said during a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday. “I said, ‘Where are the protests?’ I don’t see any protests. I did see a small protest today when I came – very small. So a lot of it is fake news, I hate to say.”

It wasn’t fake news, but what Trump said sounded familiar:

Trump’s efforts to minimize opposition to his presidency on the first stop of a week-long tour of three European nations represented his latest attempt to misrepresent his public standing and rewrite perceptions about the popularity of his agenda – an effort that began on his first week in office, when a White House spokesman argued, against evidence, that the president had the largest inauguration crowd in history.

The president’s claims in London were just as easily proved false. After the news conference, CNN aired footage of the demonstrators, including a giant Trump robot sitting on a toilet and repeating two of his catchphrases: “Fake news” and “witch hunt.” On social media, photos circulated of protesters holding signs reading “Trump climate disaster,” “Don’t attack Iran” and “Trump, you are a mind-bending [expletive] human being.”

Organizers estimated that 75,000 people turned out for the demonstrations.

And that was entirely expected:

Although Trump has expressed support for Britain’s decision to exit the European Union, his stances on Iran, climate change and other matters have been met with widespread opposition.

In Britain, 19 percent had a favorable view of Trump, while 68 percent viewed him unfavorably, according to an Ipsos MORI poll last summer. Fifty-three percent of the public said Trump had weakened the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain, while just 6 percent said he had made it stronger.

And yes, this is personal:

“The Bush protests were largely focused around Iraq, an ongoing war Britain was involved in,” said Thomas Wright, a Europe security expert at Brookings Institution. The opposition to Trump “is more generic. It’s not about a conflict or a particular policy. It’s a large array of policies and Trump himself.”

And he really doesn’t get it:

Trump delayed his first visit to Britain for months amid the threat of protests, and then held a working visit with May in July 2018 outside central London, far from the demonstrations of an estimated 100,000 Britons.

“Some of them are protesting in my favor,” Trump asserted in an interview with television host Piers Morgan on that trip.

Ah, no:

“It’s an open question of whether Trump actually understands the profound outrage that he engenders from foreign publics,” said Ned Price, who served as a White House national security spokesman under President Barack Obama.

Price noted reports that the White House asked the Pentagon to “minimize the visibility” of the USS John S. McCain during Trump’s visit two weeks ago to a naval base outside Tokyo.

“The staff goes to great lengths to pull the wool over his eyes,” Price said. “One can only imagine what other tactics they are using to provide him with sources of information that inflate his popularity overseas.”

There’s no need to imagine anything:

Since taking office, Trump has avoided visiting Mexico, where his approval ratings have remained in the single digits over his threats on immigration and trade. The White House canceled a visit to Ireland last year amid reports of potential protests, and then rescheduled it for this week in the tiny town of Doonbeg, where Trump owns a golf resort and enjoys more robust public support.

Trump also has expressed admiration for strict control on public expression in authoritarian countries, including China, where he marveled at a military honor guard performance during a visit to Beijing in 2017. Trump came away from his first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia in an ebullient mood, which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross credited to how well he was treated in Riyadh.

“There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere,” Ross said on CNBC, prompting anchor Becky Quick to point out that public protests are against the law in Saudi Arabia.

In London this week, Trump traveled mostly by helicopter, traversing even relatively short distances in Marine One.

That didn’t help matters:

“We’ve had anti-Americanism in Europe before,” said Molly Montgomery, a former State Department official who now is a vice president at Albright Stonebridge Group. “But it’s another level that this president, in traveling to the country with which we have the special relationship, feels the need to travel by helicopter everywhere to not be exposed to protests.”

And then there was that goofball cowboy:

To Peter Wehner, a former Bush speechwriter, the difference in how Bush and Trump responded to the protests speaks volumes. During his speech at Whitehall Palace in 2003, Bush noted that Britain’s “tradition of free speech is alive and well here in London.”

“We have that at home, too,” Bush said, adding that “they now have that right in Baghdad, as well.”

“There was no effort to hide or keep him away or pretend it didn’t exist,” said Wehner, whose book “Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump” was published Tuesday. “The effort was to try to make the case in a way that was dignified and had a touch of humor and grace where necessary.”

Don’t expect that from Trump. Expect this instead:

On this visit, another family opportunity surfaced: The Kennedys have long occupied the American political culture as the unofficial royal family, but this week, the Trumps appeared to present themselves as the 2019 version.

“He’s surrounding himself with his family in this kind of certainly royal family, prince-and-princesses way,” Gwenda Blair, the author of “The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire,” said in an interview. “Just as traditionally crowned heads surrounded themselves with their progeny, he has surrounded himself with his progeny.”

Privately, White House officials say that some of the Trump children, particularly those working in the White House, see themselves this way. One senior official, who did not want to speak publicly about internal planning, said that Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump in particular had grown more emboldened with their requests to be accommodated at official events.

Jared is next in line for the throne, then Ivanka – unless it’s Don Jr, and then Erik – and then Pence and then Pelosi, the Speaker of the House – or something. Visiting the royals seems to have given the whole Trump family some interesting ideas. But that’s what America wants, if Donald Trump is reading the room right.

He isn’t.

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The Irrelevant President

Foreign travel is always a challenge. Nothing is quite right – a good thing and the whole point of travel – because things there are “right” for over there. The traveler learns other ways of living and being in this world. But there always are those small “home” comforts – a Starbucks on almost every corner and a McDonalds here and there – and if you need socks or toothpaste or most anything in Paris, Monoprix is their Target – and everywhere. That’ll seem familiar, and watch The Simpsons on television there, dubbed in French of course, and you’ll get the hang of the language. You’ll be fine.

But things won’t be the same. That can be unnerving. Alex Ward notes how Donald Trump was unnerved:

Hours after arriving in the United Kingdom for three days of vital meetings, President Donald Trump complained about not having access to one of his favorite home comforts: Fox News.

The president first stopped to visit the American ambassador’s residence in London on Monday. While Trump is accustomed to seeing his favorite conservative commentators on television when he walks around the White House, he had no such luck at the diplomatic home.

Here’s why: CNN International airs in more than 200 countries and territories, including the UK. Viewers can watch Fox News in many nations too, but it’s not available in Britain.

21st Century Fox, the news channel’s parent company, took it off the UK’s airwaves in 2017 because it didn’t prove a commercial success. What’s more, the UK’s media regulator said that the conservative channel didn’t abide by the country’s impartiality rules.

Yes, Britain is a nation without Fox News. That might explain that nation’s distaste for Trump, but Ward notes that Trump had another immediate problem:

The core of Trump’s complaint right now seems to be something much more immediate and personal: He just wants to watch Fox News. It’d make him feel better.

That’s quite the insight into the president: Ahead of big diplomatic engagements – in this case with the queen and UK Prime Minister Theresa May, among others – Trump let the world know that all it takes to throw him off his game is to put CNN on TV and keep Fox News out of view.

One could imagine adversarial nations thinking of ways to ensure Trump only has access to CNN when he visits them.

Ward may be right, because the New York Times reported this:

President Trump on Monday floated the notion of a consumer boycott of AT&T, the telecommunications firm turned media colossus, an apparent attempt to punish the company for the news coverage produced by one of its subsidiaries, CNN.

“I believe that if people stopped using or subscribing to @ATT, they would be forced to make big changes at @CNN, which is dying in the ratings anyway,” the president wrote on Twitter, shortly after touching down in Britain for a state visit. “It is so unfair with such bad, Fake News! Why wouldn’t they act? When the World watches @CNN, it gets a false picture of USA. Sad!”

Mr. Trump, who had apparently been watching CNN during his trans-Atlantic flight, complained about the channel’s coverage in an earlier tweet: “All negative & so much Fake News, very bad for U.S.” He added: “Why doesn’t owner @ATT do something?”

AT&T, the telecommunications firm turned media colossus, did nothing, because everyone knows this guy:

Complaining about CNN is typical for Mr. Trump, who has vilified the network since his presidential campaign. And this was not the first time that he had attacked an American news organization while on foreign soil. In July, at a news conference in Britain with the Prime Minister, Theresa May, the president denounced CNN as “fake news” and refused to take questions from its correspondent Jim Acosta.

Still, Mr. Trump’s message on Monday was a notable public lashing of AT&T in the wake of its $85 billion acquisition of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, which catapulted the Texas-based telecom giant into the sharp-elbowed sphere of national media.

Representatives for AT&T and CNN declined to comment on Monday.

Others have done that for them:

Advocates of press freedom have raised alarms about Mr. Trump’s treatment of news organizations, particularly the signal it sends when he is abroad. Autocrats around the world have echoed Mr. Trump’s recitations of “fake news” in suppressing independent journalism.

Mr. Trump’s comments on Monday attracted attention from lawmakers back home. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democratic presidential candidate, wrote on Twitter that it was “Unbelievable” to see Mr. Trump “advocating boycotting an American company because the press isn’t covering him favorably.”

But of course there’s a backstory to all this:

The president’s animus toward CNN flared up in the buildup to AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, which was completed last year and placed the 24-hour news network – along with HBO, Turner Broadcasting and the Warner Bros. entertainment studios – under AT&T’s control.

Mr. Trump frequently impugned CNN and its journalists as his Department of Justice sued to block the deal, and White House advisers discussed the pending merger as a potential point of leverage over the news network. AT&T ultimately prevailed in court and placed the Time Warner properties in a new division, WarnerMedia.

Team Trump had a plan. These folks want this merger? The Department of Justice will approve that merger, if AT&T shuts down CNN – but the courts shot that down. Team Trump got only one win here:

The Trump administration’s handling of the AT&T merger contrasted with another major media deal, the Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of a majority of 21st Century Fox, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled parent company of the president’s preferred news network, Fox News. (Fox News stayed with the Murdoch family after that merger.) The Disney-Fox transaction received government approval six months after it was announced, an unusually short time frame.

But no one cares now:

The president’s call for a boycott did not appear to worry AT&T’s investors. Its stock price closed on Monday at $31.09 a share, up 1.7 percent.

Everyone ignored Trump and Matt Shuham adds more detail:

It appears Trump was still mad for CNN’s reporting that he’d called British royal Meghan Markle “nasty” in an interview – which he did, as audio of the exchange documented. Trump and his campaign raged against CNN reporting as much all weekend.

It’s hardly the first time Trump has called for a boycott – previously Apple, Megyn Kelly, Italy – nor even his first as President. He called for a boycott of Harley Davidson “if manufacturing moves overseas” in August last year, and tweeted “we should boycott Fake News CNN” in November 2017, in response to the network saying it would skip the White House Christmas Party.

But most of Trump’s targets are public figures or broadcasters accustomed to fielding insults. Going after a private conglomerate with major government contracts rings different ethics alarm bells, experts said.

That’s where things do get tricky:

Trump famously said during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would oppose AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner; AT&T’s lawyers attempted to use those statements against the Justice Department when the Trump administration sued to block the merger on anti-trust grounds in late 2017.

A judge ultimately approved the historic merger last June, but notably rejected AT&T’s effort to obtain records of the White House’s communications with the DOJ concerning similar mergers – an effort to prove “selective enforcement” against AT&T.

That would have been ugly, but this is ugly enough for now:

The New Yorker reported in March that Trump ordered his top economic adviser, then Gary Cohn, to pressure the Justice Department to block the merger before it did so; he also reportedly pressured then-White House chief of staff John Kelly on the same matter. Cohn and Kelly, reportedly, did not apply pressure to the DOJ.

Trump was having one of his many tantrums. They let him get that out of his system. And they ignored him. He was just venting. Or maybe he wasn’t:

Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, compared Monday’s tweets to Trump’s attacks against Amazon owner Jeff Bezos. Bezos also owns the Washington Post, and Trump has accused the paper of unregistered lobbying on its owners’ behalf. The President even reportedly urged the postmaster general to raise postage rates for Amazon.

He does have his tantrums. Are they dangerous? London mayor Sadiq Khan thinks so:

This is a man who tried to exploit Londoners’ fears following a horrific terrorist attack on our city, amplified the tweets of a British far-right racist group, denounced as fake news robust scientific evidence warning of the dangers of climate change, and is now trying to interfere shamelessly in the Conservative party leadership race by backing Boris Johnson because he believes it would enable him to gain an ally in Number 10 for his divisive agenda. Donald Trump is just one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat.

Kevin Drum, however, decides not to worry:

Although Khan is right, I don’t really agree with him. That is, Trump has done all that stuff, but I don’t think he’s much of a global threat.

Maybe my glasses are rosier than they should be, but I view Trump as authoritarian in the same way that I view five-year-olds as authoritarian: they yell, they cry, they whine, they demand that everything be about them, but in the end nobody pays them any serious attention. Who cares about a five-year-old’s routine tantrums, after all?

Now, it’s true that Trump can do more damage than a five-year-old, but not that much more.

After all, even his allies and supporters basically agree that he’s a buffoon. The only things they really wanted from him were a tax cut and a bunch of conservative judges, and they got that. Beyond that they mostly just humor him.

So everyone should relax:

If Trump weren’t so ignorant and unaware, he might be a serious danger. In the event, he’s not. It’s possible that his relentless race baiting has done some serious damage, but even there I suspect that his impact is fleeting. If we get rid of Trump in 2020, it will be like waking up from an outlandish dream. Within ten minutes it will all be forgotten and no one will ever again care about anything he says or does.

Fine, but some cannot wait that long:

Congressional Republicans have begun discussing whether they may have to vote to block President Trump’s planned new tariffs on Mexico, potentially igniting a second standoff this year over Trump’s use of executive powers to circumvent Congress, people familiar with the talks said.

The vote, which would be the GOP’s most dramatic act of defiance since Trump took office, could also have the effect of blocking billions of dollars in border wall funding that the president had announced in February when he declared a national emergency at the southern border, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

Aside from the fact that these are Republicans, things are a bit tricky here:

Trump’s plans to impose tariffs on Mexico – with which the United States has a free-trade agreement – rely on the president’s declaration of a national emergency at the border. But the law gives Congress the right to override the national emergency determination by passing a resolution of disapproval.

Congress passed such a resolution in March after Trump reallocated the border wall funds, but he vetoed it. Now, as frustration on Capitol Hill grows over Trump’s latest tariff threat, a second vote could potentially command a veto-proof majority to nullify the national emergency, which in turn could undercut both the border-wall effort and the new tariffs.

In short, it all falls down, but they may have to do this:

Republican lawmakers aren’t eager to be drawn into a conflict with the president. But some feel they might have to take action following a growing consensus within the GOP that these new tariffs would amount to tax increases on American businesses and consumers – something that would represent a profound breach of party orthodoxy.

In short, this time the man asked too much of them. They’d had enough of this sort of thing:

Some White House officials are aware that lawmakers are considering the tactic, but they have not yet decided how to respond. Trump had hoped that threatening to impose tariffs against Mexican imports would lead to major concessions from the Mexican government. But White House officials have not articulated exactly what they want the Mexican government to do, leading to a growing fear among some lawmakers that the White House will push forward with the tariffs when they are scheduled to take effect on June 10.

No one down the street at the White House seems to have thought this through, so they offered their own thinking:

On Monday, lawmakers from both parties, including several top Republicans, warned that Trump was risking the destruction of a pending trade deal with Mexico and Canada by preparing to slap import penalties on Mexican goods.

The lawmakers urged Trump to abandon the planned tariffs. Otherwise, they said, the pending trade deal known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, will probably fail.

“I think this calls into question our ability to pass the USMCA, much less get it passed by Canada and by Mexico,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) told reporters Monday.

That was just a little friendly reminder. You guys down the street may have ruined everything, and there was this:

Aside from a resolution of disapproval, other lawmakers have argued that Congress should pass legislation that would claw back tariff authority from the executive branch. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) has introduced a bill that would require congressional approval before a president imposes tariffs under the auspices of national security, and again on Monday made a case for his legislation.

“As a general matter, I think Congress has shifted and delegated way too much power to the executive branch over decades,” Toomey said. “This is not an observation about Donald Trump. That’s a general thing that Congress has done, and now we’re seeing the consequences of that in ways that nobody expected, nobody anticipated and, frankly, I think, many members of Congress don’t agree with.”

Okay, it’s not Trump, exactly, but the tantrums did get to them, finally.

And there’s history too, which Paul Krugman covers here:

Donald Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on Mexican exports unless our neighbor does something – he hasn’t specified what – to stop the flow of asylum-seekers is almost surely illegal: U.S. trade law gives presidents discretion to impose tariffs for a number of reasons, but curbing immigration isn’t one of them.

It’s also a clear violation of U.S. international agreements. And it will reduce the living standards of most Americans, destroy many jobs in U.S. manufacturing, and hurt farmers.

Everyone but Trump knows better:

The actual history of U.S. tariffs isn’t pretty – and not just because tariffs, whatever the tweeter in chief says, are in practice taxes on Americans, not foreigners. In fact, it’s now a good bet that Trump’s tariffs will more than wipe out whatever breaks middle-class Americans got from the 2017 tax cut.

There’s a reason for that:

The more important fact is that until the 1930s, tariff policy was a cesspool of corruption and special-interest politics. One of the main purposes of the 1934 Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, which eventually became the template for the modern world trading system, was to drain that particular swamp by removing the capriciousness of previous tariff policy.

Trump’s erratic trade actions, unconstrained by what we used to think were the legal rules, have brought the capriciousness back, and good old-fashioned corruption ­ if it isn’t happening already – won’t be far behind.

But that’s not the worst of it:

Tariff policy is inextricably linked with America’s role as a global superpower. Central to that role is the expectation that the U.S. will be both reliable and responsible – that it will honor whatever agreements it makes, and more broadly that it will make policy with an eye to the effects of its actions on the rest of the world.

Trump is throwing all that away. His Mexican tariffs violate both NAFTA, which was supposed to guarantee free movement of goods within North America, and our obligations under the World Trade Organization, which, like U.S. law, permits new tariffs only under certain specified conditions. So America has become a lawless actor in world markets, a tariff-policy rogue state.

But wait, there’s more:

By deploying tariffs as a bludgeon against whatever he doesn’t like, Trump is returning America to the kind of irresponsibility it displayed after World War I – irresponsibility that, while obviously not the sole or even the main cause of the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and the eventual coming of World War II, helped create the environment for these disasters.

It is, I believe, pretty widely known that America turned its back on the world after World War I: refusing to join the League of Nations, slamming the doors shut on most immigration…

What’s less known, I suspect, is that America also took a sharply protectionist turn long before the infamous 1930 Smoot Hawley Act. In early 1921, Congress enacted the Emergency Tariff Act, soon followed by the Fordney-McCumber Tariff of 1922. These actions more than doubled average tariffs on dutiable imports. Like Trump, the advocates of these tariffs claimed that they would bring prosperity to all Americans.

They didn’t.

In fact, this happened:

U.S. tariffs were met with retaliation; even before the Depression struck, the world was engaged in a gradually escalating trade war. Making things even worse, U.S. tariffs put our World War I allies in an impossible position: We expected them to repay their huge war debts, but our tariffs made it impossible for them to earn the dollars they needed to make those payments.

And the trade war/debt nexus created a climate of international distrust and bitterness that contributed to the economic and political crises of the 1930s.

No one needs that again, but Krugman argues things are much worse now:

After all, while Warren Harding wasn’t a very good president, he didn’t routinely abrogate international agreements in a fit of pique. While America in the 1920s failed to help build international institutions, it didn’t do a Trump and actively try to undermine them. And while U.S. leaders between the wars may have turned a blind eye to the rise of racist dictatorships, they generally didn’t praise those dictatorships and compare them favorably to democratic regimes.

But that is what we have now. Kevin Drum says not to worry – no one ever really does what Donald Trump tells them to do – his staff and the rest of the Republicans humor him. Krugman, however, isn’t so sure. It may be time to worry. No one in the world trusts him anymore, or trusts us now. And right now, Donald Trump is stuck in London, missing his Fox News terribly.

He should get out more.

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Not Like Ike

This was the weekend to reread The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader – the Fred Greenstein book that demonstrates that Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t the detached but amiable old soldier who glided through eight years as president letting others run the show while he smiled and golfed and was no more than that a nice guy everyone liked. That was a calculated pose, employed in order to get things done, and Eisenhower was a master organizer and brilliant at directing large organizations in the direction he wished. Some of that was structural but much of that was his knowing how to draw people in and get them working on the same goal in spite of their giant egos. As Supreme Allied Commander in Europe he got the best out of that showboat George Patton and prissy Bernard Montgomery and even that oddball Charles de Gaulle. Eisenhower was smart as a whip but he hid it, on order to get everyone to buy in and follow his lead. He built effective teams that gladly worked together, because everyone knew what the point was at any given moment. And he never let his own ego get in the way. His folks were good people – he always said that – and he liked them. He didn’t just say he liked them – he did like them. And they liked him. And then they decided they liked each other – and the White House had never been more efficient, and hasn’t been that efficient since. The man who had organized and pulled off D-Day in 1944 did the same thing again. He pulled off the impossible. The government worked. Eisenhower knew how to run things. And he also knew how to win over the public. Be the good guy. Show you care about the little guy. Be the warrior for peace. And, above all, keep the nasty political stuff and the anger and the name-calling and back-stabbing hidden – no one should see that. No one needs to see that. Think of the young men he addressed on the eve of D-Day seventy-five years ago this week. He didn’t strut, and he didn’t whine. Do your best. This is the right thing to do. We will win. And in his pocket he had a note if everything went wrong. He was withdrawing our forces, and he alone was to blame for what had happened – because he was never going to blame anyone else for what he had decided to do.

Even those who disagree with his politics – Eisenhower was a conservative Republican not inclined to new ideas, and his overthrow of the government in Iran has since caused no end of trouble, and Operation Wetback was, at times, close to genocide – recognize Eisenhower as a man who knew how things worked, and how people work, who could get things done, and a man of honor, of responsibility. He was a decent man. No one ever turned down a chance to work in his administration. No one quit in a huff. After all, there was work to do.

Things change. Donald Trump in not Eisenhower, and, a few hours before he hopped on Air Force One for a state visit to England and then a hop over to France for the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day, Trump announced this:

Kevin Hassett, the White House’s top economist, will leave the administration, President Trump announced late Sunday, on the eve of his trip to Europe.

Hassett, who has served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers since September 2017, is leaving as Trump confronts an increasingly hostile trade war on two fronts – with China and with Mexico, which Trump threatened with tariffs last week if Mexico doesn’t do more to stem illegal migration.

Hassett, a longtime conservative economist, helped shape the 2017 Republican tax law and has been a staunch defender of the president’s policies on a number of other issues. Historically, he has been an advocate of open trade policies, though in recent months he has been put in the position of defending Trump’s most confrontational approach.

Kevin Hassett stepped away. He just couldn’t defend nonsense anymore. He’d leave that to someone else:

A top White House official said Sunday that President Donald Trump is “deadly serious” about imposing tariffs on imports from Mexico, but acknowledged there are no concrete benchmarks being set to assess whether the U.S. ally is stemming the migrant flow enough to satisfy the administration.

“We intentionally left the declaration sort of ad hoc,” Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, said on Fox News Sunday.

“So, there’s no specific target, there’s no specific percentage, but things have to get better,” Mulvaney said. “They have to get dramatically better and they have to get better quickly.”

He said the idea is to work with the Mexican government “to make sure that things did get better.”

So we are telling Mexico that we don’t really know what we want of them, but they’d better do something fast, or else. Then we’ll tell them that what they did was the right thing to do, maybe, or maybe not. We’re not sure what the right thing is, but they’d better do it:

On Monday, top officials from the two countries will start meetings in Washington. Mexican Economy Minister Graciela Marquez plans talks with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Two days later, delegations led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard will meet.

But Trump played down the effort. “Mexico is sending a big delegation to talk about the Border,” the president tweeted Sunday. “Problem is, they’ve been ‘talking’ for 25 years. We want action, not talk.”

Trump claims Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades but that the abuse will end when he slaps tariffs on Mexican imports next week in a dispute over illegal immigration.

“America has had enough,” he tweeted.

Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades? Who knew? But perhaps Trump was just angry and nothing will come of this:

Republicans on Capitol Hill and allies in the business community have signaled serious unease with the tariffs that they warn will raise prices for consumers and hurt the economy. Some see this latest threat as a play for leverage and doubt Trump will follow through.

GOP Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana called the tariffs a “mistake” and said it was unlikely Trump would impose them.

The president “has been known to play with fire, but not live hand grenades,” Kennedy said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

“It’s going to tank the American economy,” he said. “I don’t think the president’s going to impose these tariffs.”

Ah, no:

Mulvaney insisted that Trump’s threat is real. “He’s absolutely, deadly serious,” Mulvaney said.

Economists and business groups are sounding alarms over the tariffs, warning they will hike the costs of many Mexican goods that Americans have come to rely on and impair trade.

But Mulvaney played down those fears, saying he doubts business will pass on the costs to shoppers. “American consumers will not pay the burden of these tariffs,” he said.

If the tariffs add two thousand dollars to the cost of a Chevy or Ford – given sixteen percent of what is in each car or truck is a component made in Mexico – General Motors or Ford will surely eat that cost and accept much lower profits or actual losses per unit. They’d never pass higher costs on to their customers. They’d never raise prices to stay in business.

Mulvaney lives in an interesting world, and Trump does not run the White House like Eisenhower:

President Trump pushed ahead with plans to impose tariffs on Mexico over the objections of several top advisers, including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, opting to side with hardline officials who were advocating the move, according to multiple administration officials and people briefed on their plans.

For several weeks, Mr. Trump’s top economic advisers have been urging the president not to use tariffs to punish Mexico for failing to stop the flow of migrants into the United States. Mr. Kushner, along with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Robert Lighthizer, Mr. Trump’s top trade negotiator, has warned the move would imperil the president’s other priorities, like passage of a revised North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

But in recent weeks, Mr. Trump, whose anger toward Mexico had steadily grown, suggested the idea of using tariffs, and the issue had been raised in a number of meetings on trade or immigration, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Trump is not the outwardly amiable and sunny Eisenhower:

His frustration had been building since January, when Democrats refused to fund his wall along the southwestern border. In March, Mr. Trump moved to cut off all foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and then threatened to close the border entirely, before being talked down by advisers who said the disruption in the flow of goods and people could have severe consequences for the economy.

This week, as headlines about Mr. Trump’s attempts to interfere in the special counsel’s Russia investigation once again swirled, the president’s irritation boiled over. In a meeting Wednesday night in the Oval Office, with Mr. Kushner dialing in from the Middle East, the president lost patience with aides he saw as slow-walking his request and decided tariffs would be going into effect.

Eisenhower got angry and hid it. Trump is Eisenhower inside-out:

The president on Saturday again insisted the tariffs were necessary, repeating his assertion in a series of tweets that Mexico has facilitated drug and human trafficking across the border and suggesting the economic punishment was deserved.

“They took many of our companies & jobs, the foolish Pols let it happen,” Mr. Trump said, “And now they will come back unless Mexico stops the travesty that is taking place in allowing millions of people to easily meander through their country and INVADE the U.S.”

This is not millions of people, and they’re asking for asylum. We do not have to grant asylum. We can listen to what they claim and say no. But that’s not an invasion. Trump is an excitable fellow:

The Trump administration considered imposing tariffs on imports from Australia last week, but decided against the move amid fierce opposition from military officials and the State Department, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

Some of President Trump’s top trade advisers had urged the tariffs as a response to a surge of Australian aluminum flowing onto the American market over the past year. But officials at the Defense and State Departments told Mr. Trump the move would alienate a top ally and could come at significant cost to the United States.

The administration ultimately agreed not to take any action, at least temporarily. The measure would open yet another front in a global trade war that has pitted the United States against allies like Canada, Mexico, Europe and Japan, and deepened divisions with countries like China. It would also be the end of a reprieve for the only country to be fully exempted from the start from steel and aluminum tariffs that Mr. Trump imposed last year.

Of course this was nuts:

Australia remains a relatively small supplier of aluminum to the United States, accounting for about 6 percent of total imports so far this year, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, and Peter Navarro, the director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, were among the backers of tariffs on Australia. But other senior administration officials, who have cultivated ties to Australia, favor prioritizing other elements of the relationship.

For one thing, Australia has emerged as an important ally – perhaps the most critical one – in helping Washington constrain China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Australian officials have banned the Chinese company Huawei from the country’s online networks, and have investigated the Chinese Communist Party’s influence and interference in Australia. Washington is also relying on Canberra to compete with the Chinese for political clout in the Pacific islands.

Furthermore, a conservative party won a general election last month in an upset, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison intends to enact conservative policies. That means Washington and Canberra are growing even closer, as some American officials find more affinity with their Australian counterparts.

The Australian military has over the years joined important American campaigns. Notably, Australia sent soldiers to Iraq to be part of President George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing,” and to Afghanistan.

Ike would get this. Trump doesn’t. And now he’ll show up where Eisenhower was always a hero:

In Britain, a state visit doesn’t just mean dining with the prime minister or even tea with the queen. It means an extraordinary level of pomp and pageantry, plus a sleepover at Buckingham Palace.

At least, it normally does.

Britain is gearing up for this week’s state visit by President Trump as only Britain can do. There will be an official greeting ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a lavish banquet with the queen’s best china, a gun salute fired from Green Park and the Tower of London.

It will all be suitably over-the-top.

But there is also a sense that British officials are slightly less than enthusiastic about this particular round of state visit grandeur.

It’s the little things:

Some of the traditional trappings – such as staying over at Buckingham Palace, a royal welcome at the Horse Guards Parade and a gold carriage procession down the Mall – are notably absent.

“When extending a visit and making those plans concrete, you want to feel excited and joyful at the idea, and I think people have sort of seen it as something they have to get through,” said Leslie Vinjamuri, head of Chatham House’s Americas program.

That may be understating things:

Long-time Trump critic and London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called the US President “one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat,” in an explosive newspaper article published just hours before Trump’s first state visit to the UK.

Writing in the Observer newspaper on Sunday, Khan said it was “un-British” to be rolling out the red carpet for a President “whose divisive behavior flies in the face of the ideals America was founded upon – equality, liberty and religious freedom.”

“In years to come, I suspect this state visit will be one we look back on with profound regret and acknowledge that we were on the wrong side of history,” said the Mayor, who in the past has made no secret of his disapproval of the President.

Khan likened Trump to a number of far-right leaders – such as Marine Le Pen in France – who are “using the same divisive tropes of the fascists of the 20th century to garner support.”

Trump later said Sadiq Khan was just as stupid and useless as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, but just shorter, and so it goes:

Khan, the first Muslim to be elected Mayor of London, has previously criticized the US president for his proposed travel ban on citizens from several Muslim-majority countries.

Trump hit out at Khan for his handling of terror attacks carried out in London, seizing on them in his call for the travel ban.

This was expected. And then this wasn’t:

President Donald Trump inserted himself into the UK’s fraught politics ahead of his official state visit to the nation Sunday, suggesting the government should “walk away” from a Brexit deal with the European Union if British demands are not met.

“I would walk away,” Trump said in an interview with The Sunday Times. “If you don’t get the deal you want, if you don’t get a fair deal, then you walk away.”

Trump also criticized the sum the UK must pay the EU as part of its exit, roughly $50 billion.

“If I were them, I wouldn’t pay $50 billion,” the president said. “That is a tremendous number.”

That’s a contractual obligation. Trump says don’t pay it. In fact, the Brits should treat the EU just the way Trump is treating Mexico:

Outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated an exit deal with the European Union, but has failed to get Parliament to agree to the plan. Leaving the EU without a deal could cause the UK economic harm; President Trump, however, believes that no deal is better than a bad deal, and suggested it isn’t too late to get the EU to come back to the negotiating table – something EU officials have said they have no will to do.

Trump suggested the UK sue the EU to give the nation “ammunition” in its fight to leave, and also said the kingdom’s people would be wise to send Nigel Farage, leader of Brexit Party, to Brussels to renegotiate the separation deal. The Brexit Party recently took first place in the UK election for its European Parliament representatives, winning 29 seats.

“I like Nigel a lot,” Trump said.

Nigel will tell them. Do what we want or you’ll be sorry. And there was other advice:

The US president has had many kind words for Theresa May’s rivals; earlier, Trump said Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Theresa May’s former foreign secretary and a prominent Brexit campaigner, would make a great prime minister following May’s resignation. Johnson has said the UK should leave the EU by October 31 with or without a deal.

We don’t need Mexico. Screw them. The Brits don’t need the Europeans – so screw them. Nigel and Boris and Donald think alike. And there was that minor matter:

Trump is also facing criticism over a comment he made about the popular new duchess, Meghan Markle. Although the royal family stays away from commenting on politics, particularly foreign politics, Markle was critical of Trump during the 2016 election, back when she was a private American citizen.

When asked about Markle saying she’d move to Canada if he was elected, Trump responded, “I didn’t know she was nasty.”

The president took to Twitter to claim he’d never made that statement; however, as NBC News reports, audio seems to suggest he did, in fact, say those words about the duchess. Markle will not dine with the president along with the rest of the royal family because she’s on maternity leave.

Why not insult the royal family? What are they, snowflakes? And there’s this:

The US will want business access to the NHS [the British National Health Service] in any post-Brexit trade deal, the US ambassador has said, prompting anger from politicians and campaigners before Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK this week.

[US Ambassador] Woody Johnson, who is a close friend of the US president, said every area of the UK economy would be up for discussion when the two sides brokered a trade deal.

Asked if the NHS was likely to form part of trade negotiations, Johnson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think the entire economy, in a trade deal, all things that are traded would be on the table.” Asked if that specifically meant healthcare, he said “I would think so.”

The idea here is that, since the Brits will have no trade deal at all with the EU any longer, they can have one with us, as long as they privatize their National Health System – because that’s socialized medicine and thus quite evil and no one can make real money with that in place – which didn’t go over well:

His comments were met with alarm from opposition politicians. The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said the comments were deeply concerning.

“The ambassador’s comments are terrifying and show that a real consequence of a no-deal Brexit, followed by a trade deal with Trump, will be our NHS up for sale. This absolutely should not be on the table,” he said. “Nigel Farage and the Tories want to rip apart our publicly funded and provided NHS. Labour will always defend it.”

It may be too late for that already, but there is some resistance over there:

On Sunday Trump denied calling the Duchess of Sussex “nasty” for having previously criticized him. In a tweet after the Sun made the claim, he said he had “never called Meghan Markle nasty” and claimed the “Fake News Media” had invented his remarks.

The Sun posted a recording of the original interview to prove that its reporting was accurate.

This will not be a pleasant trip, and Anne Applebaum puts it in perspective:

Britain is in the grip of an unprecedented political meltdown, a crisis on a scale that was unthinkable even six months ago. The prime minister has resigned and is leaving office within days. Support for the two historic political parties, Labour and Conservative, is at an all-time low. In hastily planned European Parliament elections last week, the brand new Brexit Party came in first, while two anti-Brexit parties, the tiny Liberal Democrats and the even tinier Greens, came in second and fourth. The ruling Tory party finished a distant fifth.

But that’s not what it seems:

In total, votes for anti-Brexit parties outstripped votes for the Brexit Party, though the country remains committed to withdrawal from the European Union. Some polls show that if parliamentary elections were held tomorrow, the Liberal Democrats would be the overall winners.

So this is a mess, and she doesn’t see why Trump is dropping by:

Clearly, he’s not coming to town to conduct any important business, to do any deals or negotiate any treaties: There isn’t anybody to negotiate with. He might issue some threats – he reportedly plans to say he will cut off intelligence cooperation with Britain if it continues to do business with the Chinese company Huawei – but the British cabinet isn’t in a position to coordinate a response, so it hardly matters. Nor will his presence enhance the fabled, albeit somewhat shopworn, Anglo-American relationship. His last visit to Britain was a PR catastrophe. He insulted the prime minister, he embarrassed Queen Elizabeth II, and he even managed to annoy the Sun newspaper, a Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid that attacked him as “Fake Schmooze.” At the time of his last visit, 77 percent of Britons disapproved of the U.S. president, and there is no reason to think that those numbers have improved.

From London’s point of view, the visit makes no sense, either. British attempts to humor Trump, to engage him, have all failed. The soon-to-be-ex-prime minister Theresa May’s efforts to forge a relationship with Trump backfired, adding to her widespread unpopularity. Aware of his toxicity, the leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have said they will not attend a state banquet in his honor. The duchess of Sussex – the British royal family member formerly known as the American actress Meghan Markle – has also indicated that she will not meet the president of the United States.

But other members of the royal family have, it seems, no choice.

Applebaum, however, argues that is precisely why Trump is going there:

Trump will not accomplish anything, either for the United States or for Britain. But he will achieve something that is, for him, actually more important. He will be photographed with some uniquely recognizable, world-class celebrities: the queen, Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry. They will all be there, doing their duty, because they have to. And Trump’s compulsive, narcissistic need to be the center of attention will be serviced.

Of course, this is not the first time that American diplomacy and foreign policy have been bent and twisted to serve the obsessions of Trump. Remember: The bank of television cameras and the flash of lightbulbs were what most impressed him about his Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un. “Are you getting a nice photo,” he said to the cameramen at the summit. “So we look nice and handsome and beautiful and perfect?” Just recently, he used an equally pointless trip to Japan for the same purpose: He got to be the first foreign leader photographed standing next to Japan’s recently crowned emperor and empress. Other than that, he spent the entire trip tweeting about his political enemies back home.

So this is a different kind of president:

Everywhere he goes, Trump is bored by working meetings and rude to those who attend them. He can’t make deals or negotiate because he doesn’t know enough about the issues. But where there is empty pomp and circumstance – a French Bastille Day parade, or the Queens’ Guard standing at attention outside Windsor Castle – he is impressed and pleased. The logistics of this visit, like any presidential visit, are immense. The British state will spend 18 million pounds (about $22 million) on his security; the U.S. taxpayer will spend many multiples of that sum; hundreds of hours will have been wasted on planning. And all so that one man’s fragile ego can be boosted for another day.

Eisenhower would not understand this. He hid his ego. He hid his occasional anger. He hid the nasty political stuff. He smiled and said vague things, and got done exactly what he wanted to get done before anyone knew what had happened. Hell, he organized D-Day and got that done, and Donald Trump’s successes have been… nothing yet. It seems that Donald Trump got the idea of the presidency backwards. And so did the rest of the country. But there’s no going back now. Nothing is hidden now.

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Those Simple Solutions

“Every complex problem has a solution which is simple, direct, plausible… and wrong.”

And either Mark Twain or H. L. Mencken or Peter Drucker said that. Even attribution gets complicated – because simple solutions and easy answers are almost always useless. But it’s the thought that counts. Those who say the solution to some vexing problem is simple, really, are deluding themselves, or they’re up to something. Be skeptical. Wait.

That clarifies matters. Donald Trump said he had a simple solution to all healthcare issues in the United States – it was simple and direct and far better than Obamacare, and far cheaper too – which didn’t seem plausible. He said his plan was plausible. He was asked what that plan was. He said wait, it’s coming – but it never came. That was nonsense. That’s a habit. He tasked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to come up with the one big simple immigration plan that would fix everything forever. Jared presented that to a group of friendly Republican members of Congress but they asked questions – there was a lot he hadn’t thought through. Oops. It seems that there wasn’t a simple solution. As for Kushner’s final and simple and brilliant peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, and others in the region, the simple peace plan that his father-in-law said would cut through all the crap, because the whole thing was simple, really, there is no plan. The problems there are as hard and complex as they seem, and have seemed for the last seventy years. Young Jared isn’t going to stroll in and fix everything for everyone, for all time, and stroll out.

This must puzzle Donald Trump. After all, he was going to cut through all the diplomatic crap – the history and background briefings and all the low-level meetings to probe intentions and weaknesses, the initial agreements and the outstanding issues, and do what no president had done before. He’d sit down with that Kim fellow – no preparation – not knowing or caring about the issues that had simmered for years – and just make a deal with the guy. Give up nukes, get goodies. It was that simple. All the presidents and all the diplomats over all the years had made all this too complicated. He and Kim would talk man-to-man and do what no one else had ever done – end the Korean War and bring peace to that region forever. It was simple really. Trump said he’d win the Nobel Peace Prize, and unlike Obama, he’d deserve it. And then it all fell apart. Kim is testing missiles again, and Trump is saying Kim will come around and do what he promised – get rid of all his nukes and those missiles too – just wait. Everyone will see. He did pull it off. There was a simple solution. He and Kim love each other. It was that simple.

It wasn’t that simple. Trump keeps saying how much he admires Kim – such a strong leader and so young too – saying the two of them have so much in common – they get things done that others can’t quite do. The two of them understand each other, but Kim has simpler solutions than Trump:

North Korea has executed its special envoy to the United States on spying charges, as its leader, Kim Jong-un, has engineered a sweeping purge of the country’s top nuclear negotiators after the breakdown of his second summit meeting with President Trump, a major South Korean daily reported on Friday.

Kim Hyok-chol, the envoy, was executed by firing squad in March at the Mirim airfield in a suburb of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest daily, reported on Friday, citing an anonymous source. Mr. Kim faced the charge that he was “won over by the American imperialists to betray the supreme leader,” the newspaper said.

Four officials of the North Korean Foreign Ministry were also executed, the South Korean daily reported, without providing any hint of who its source might be or how it obtained the information.

Trump never thought of this. Trump just tweets his problem employees to (metaphoric) death and then has someone or other fire them. He may envy Kim now, although this news is a bit speculative:

The country remains the world’s most isolated, and outside intelligence agencies have sometimes failed to figure out or have misinterpreted what was going on in the closely guarded inner circles of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

But some signs in recent weeks have led analysts in South Korea to speculate that Mr. Kim may be engineering a reshuffle or a purge of his negotiating team in the wake of the summit meeting, held in February in Hanoi, Vietnam. The meeting was widely seen as a huge embarrassment for Mr. Kim, who is supposedly seen as infallible in his totalitarian state.

But not much speculation is necessary:

On Thursday, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, carried a commentary warning against “anti-party, anti-revolutionary acts” of officials who “pretend to work for the supreme leader in his presence but secretly harbor other dreams behind his back.”

“Such characters won’t escape the stern judgment from the revolution,” the North Korean newspaper said. North Korean state media has issued such warnings when it needed to engineer a political purge or warn against possible lagging loyalty among the elites, South Korean analysts said.

And thus this:

Chosun Ilbo, the South Korean newspaper, reported Friday that Kim Yong-chol, a senior Workers’ Party vice chairman who visited the White House as the main point man for diplomacy with the United States, had also been purged, sentenced to forced labor in a remote northern province.

Also sent to a prison camp was Kim Song-hye, a senior female nuclear negotiator who teamed up with Kim Hyok-chol in working-level negotiations ahead of the Kim-Trump summit, the South Korean newspaper said. North Korea even sent a summit translator to a prison camp for committing a translation mistake, it said.

So, Kim is a strong leader, who was angry:

During the Hanoi summit meeting, Mr. Kim demanded that Mr. Trump lift the most painful international sanctions against his country in return for partially dismantling his country’s nuclear weapons facilities. The meeting collapsed when Mr. Trump rejected the proposal, insisting on a quick and comprehensive rollback of the North’s entire weapons of mass destruction program before lifting sanctions.

Mr. Kim took a long train ride to Hanoi to meet Mr. Trump, and North Korean state media reported high expectations for the summit meeting. But Mr. Kim had to return home empty-handed, without the sanctions relief that he badly needed to help ease his country’s deepening economic isolation.

Outside analysts have since wondered whether Mr. Kim’s negotiating team had failed to prepare him for such a breakdown in the talks or considered how Mr. Kim might react.

That last bit is curious. Kim prepares for these things. He has a team that prepares him. Trump wings it. Trump has no one to execute.

But he still has traitors:

Attorney General William Barr said that he does not believe Obama-era Justice Department officials who oversaw the Russia investigation committed treason “as a legal matter.”

In an interview on “CBS This Morning,” Barr was asked if he believed senior officials in President Barack Obama’s administration committed treason while conducting the investigation, which President Donald Trump has repeatedly alleged.

“Not as a legal matter, no,” Barr responded, adding that he did still have concerns about how those officials conducted the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

“You know, sometimes people can convince themselves that what they’re doing is in the higher interest, the better good. They don’t realize that what they’re doing is really antithetical to the democratic system we have.”

Wait! They weren’t committing  treason? Barr is contradicting his boss, who said this was simple – hearing troubling things and seeing troubling things and then investigating the president is treason. That’s an attempt to overthrow the government. Case closed. Nothing is that simple:

The president contends that intelligence officials illegally conducted surveillance of his presidential campaign, repeatedly calling it “spying.” Barr told the Senate Appropriations Committee last month that he believed “spying did occur,” a word choice that’s been criticized because it’s not typically used to describe court-authorized monitoring by law enforcement.

“I guess it’s become a dirty word somehow; it hasn’t ever been for me,” he told CBS. “I think there’s nothing wrong with spying. The question is always whether it’s authorized by law and properly predicated, and if it is, then it’s an important tool the United States has to protect the country.”

Former FBI Director James Comey has said he never thought of “court-ordered electronic surveillance” as “spying.” Current FBI Director Christopher Wray said the word is “not the term that I would use.”

That’s a term Barr would use. That’s a term Trump would use. That’s a term Kim would use. The simple solution for Trump would to be to have his opponents charged with treason and tried and perhaps executed. The thought has occurred to him, as the Washington Post’s Philip Bump notes here:

During an impromptu press conference at the White House on Thursday, President Trump was asked by a reporter to be a bit more specific with one of the pejorative claims he’s been making in recent weeks.

“Sir,” NBC’s Peter Alexander said, “the Constitution says treason is punishable by death.”

Trump gave a slight nod of acknowledgment.

“You’ve accused your adversaries of treason,” Alexander continued. “Who specifically are you accusing of treason?”

“Well,” Trump replied, “I think a number of people. And I think what you look is that they have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person.”

Who specifically?

“If you look at [former FBI director James] Comey,” Trump said, “if you look at [former FBI deputy director Andrew] McCabe, if you look at people probably higher than that.”

Bump then points out the obvious:

Who’s higher than the director of the FBI? Well, the attorney general who, in 2016 at the time of the start of the Russia probe was Loretta Lynch. And above that, the president. Trump has obliquely suggested in the past that former president Barack Obama had a direct role in calling for an investigation into Trump’s team, an implication for which he’s never offered any evidence. In fact, his entire construct that his team was “spied on” is at best iffy.

That wouldn’t matter to Kim. Why would that matter to Trump? But there is the legal definition of treason:

Unless Comey and McCabe raised an army to take on the U.S. military or provided direct aid to countries who are officially at war with the U.S. – countries to be named later – they didn’t commit treason. By definition.

And of course Obama is safe. Obama won’t be executed. Dwight Eisenhower didn’t execute Adlai Stevenson. We have rules. This is not North Korea – yet – although Donald Trump does admire Kim’s “strength” at such a young age.

Trump admires simple strong solutions, even if he cannot execute anybody, and that probably explains this:

President Trump said Thursday that he would impose a 5 percent tariff on all imported goods from Mexico beginning June 10, a tax that would “gradually increase” until the flow of undocumented immigrants across the border stopped.

The announcement, which Mr. Trump made on his Twitter feed, said the tariffs would be in place “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP.”

In a presidential statement that followed, he said that tariffs would be raised to 10 percent on July 1 “if the crisis persists,” and then by an additional 5 percent each month for three months. They would remain at 25 percent until Mexico acted, he said.

Yes, trade policy and immigration are separate incredibly complex issues, but Trump made this simple. Stop these people now, entirely, or we’ll ruin your economy forever, even if we have to ruin ours. Trump doesn’t want to think things through. He’s angry and this is strong. He’s finally Kim now:

An across-the-board tariff on all Mexican goods would exact a serious toll on American consumers and corporations, and is likely to generate significant opposition among businesses. Rufus Yerxa, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents the nation’s largest exporters, called the move “a colossal blunder.”

But it’s a BOLD colossal blunder:

The president’s threat escalated his immigration fight with Mexico and is a significant move against an American ally that essentially dared the Mexican government to risk economic catastrophe on both sides of the border if it did not capitulate to the demands of the United States president.

Previous administrations have tried to pressure the Mexican government to do more to stem the flow of migrants and to combat drugs and other crime. But no president has used the kind of blunt-force threat that Mr. Trump wielded on Thursday night against a neighbor and an ally as critical to the American economy as Mexico.

And, on cue, market futures showed a market collapse coming in the morning:

Mexico is Washington’s largest trading partner, sending across the border items like tomatoes, cars and rugs. Mexico sent the United States $346.5 billion of goods last year – meaning that a 5 percent tariff on those products would amount to a tax increase of more than $17 billion.

Most of the costs would then be passed on to businesses and consumers.

But the man is angry:

Mr. Trump’s frustration over the rising number of illegal border crossings has steadily risen since January, when Democrats refused to grant him billions of dollars to build his long-promised wall along the southwestern border. Since then, he has consistently framed immigration as a national security crisis and tried different tactics to punish the countries he blames for the flow of migrants.

He has moved to cut off all foreign aid to countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and threatened to completely seal off the border with Mexico, a move that numerous officials told him would violate American law and international treaties.

He later retreated from that threat by giving Mexico a “one-year warning” instead and threatening heavy auto tariffs on cars coming into the United States. Mr. Trump also shifted hundreds of Customs and Border Protection agents from inspecting goods flowing into the United States to policing the southwestern border, a move that has disrupted trade by producing long wait times at border crossings.

He has also purged top officials at the Department of Homeland Security, including the secretary, Kirstjen M. Nielsen.

Ah, but he didn’t execute any of them. He’s not really Kim, yet. But he’ll “kill” Mexico, and NAFTA 2.0 too:

Earlier on Thursday, the administration said it planned to seek congressional approval of its revised trade pact with Mexico and Canada, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which would preserve the ultralow tariffs originally put into place under NAFTA. To hasten approval of the deal in all three countries, Mr. Trump recently agreed to lift tariffs the United States had placed on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico. Those countries, in turn, agreed to lift punishing tariffs on American goods, including farm products like pork, whiskey, apples and cheese.

Administration officials on Thursday portrayed the president’s move as a matter of national security, suggesting it would take priority over other goals.

And so Philip Klein, in the highly conservative Washington Examiner, says this is reckless and stupid:

This is mind-bogglingly stupid on so many levels.

First, in the most direct way, raising tariffs on Mexico will mean a tax increase of up to 25% on American families and businesses purchasing any products from Mexico, one of the United States’ leading trade partners. In 2018, Americans imported $346.5 billion in goods from Mexico, so on that basis it would amount to a nearly $87 billion tax increase. It also will punish industries that will be affected by inevitable retaliatory tariffs.

Secondly, this threat comes as the Trump administration was jump-starting the approval process for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that Trump previously touted as a major trade victory, but that has yet to be officially ratified. This will surely disrupt that process.

Thirdly, the whole justification for the previous administration’s tariffs has been that they were all part of a broader strategy to negotiate better trade deals. Yet in this case, Trump is trying to lump trade in with cracking down on illegal immigration, which is a separate issue even if it could be argued there is a relationship between the two.

But wait, there’s more:

It’s difficult to see how this would facilitate containing illegal Mexican immigration. The surest way that Mexico has to reducing the desire of Mexicans to leave for America is to improve the Mexican economy, which would be immensely more difficult in the midst of a trade war with the U.S.

It’s unclear what the metric will be for determining whether “the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied.” Does that mean no illegal immigration from Mexico? A reduction by a certain percentage?

That’s where things get odd:

In a White House statement expanding on the tweet, Trump said, “If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the Tariffs will be removed.”

But that does not clarify exactly how it would be “alleviated.”

And what’s that about the adequacy of Mexico’s actions “to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment” – with no discussion at all? That’s intentionally humiliating Mexico before any of this starts. That invites resentment and resistance, and perhaps a bit of sabotage along the border. But what’s done is done. Every complex problem has a solution which is simple, direct, plausible… and wrong. This is one of those. This is a Kim solution, without the executions.

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Trusting the Truth

That was odd. For no reason at all Robert Mueller spoke, to say what he had to say he had already said in his report on Russian interference and all things Trump. And he had no more to say. And if anyone asks him to say more he’ll tell them to read his report, slowly and carefully. It’s all there. The Russian interference in the 2016 election was massive and all aimed at getting Trump elected, and welcomed by the Trump campaign and by Trump, the man himself. That might or might not have been a conspiracy – collusion is the popular term – but there’s not enough evidence to conclude that Team Trump and the Russians were working together. Some folks wouldn’t talk, and there was no way to get the Russians to talk, and some evidence went missing, mostly the electronic stuff. But really, Team Trump and the Russians were simply happy with each other – and that was no secret – so Mueller let the collusion stuff go. As for obstruction of justice, Mueller said read the report. Trump obviously obstructed justice about ten times, but Mueller said that he was operating under the justice department’s long-standing rule that no president can be indicted for any federal crime while in office. The justice department steps away from that – too political and probably unconstitutional. That’s not their job anyway. Congress does that sort of thing. His job was to collect the evidence.

The evidence is there. Read the report. Impeach the guy if you want, or not. Mueller was saying that he did exactly what he was supposed to do. He has nothing more to add, or to say at all. Congress has what it needs. Various committees can call him to testify before them, but he doesn’t see much point to that. He’d just say read the report. That’s all there is now, and he’s outta here. This is their problem now.

He took no questions. Read the report. He was gone, but it wasn’t that simple:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III said Wednesday that his office could neither clear nor accuse President Trump of obstructing justice, leaving room for Congress to make a call where he would not and fueling impeachment demands among some Democrats.

In his first public remarks on the case since he concluded his investigation, Mueller said that if his office “had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” and noted that the Constitution “requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

That’d be the impeachment process in Congress, and there wasn’t much new here:

The comments – the first time Mueller has spoken on live television since his investigation began – mostly reemphasized what the special counsel already had said in his report, and they instantly fueled partisan infighting in Washington.

Some Democrats intensified their calls for impeachment, though their leadership in the House remained noncommittal.

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has resisted a move toward such a step, merely thanked Mueller for providing “a record for future action both in the Congress and in the courts” and said lawmakers would “continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy.”

Several Democratic presidential contenders – including Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg – said Mueller’s comments were akin to an impeachment referral. Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) said Congress “has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.”

These people were handed clear and detailed evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors. What other choice do they have? But of course there’s disagreement on that:

Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), the only Republican to call for impeachment, tweeted, “The ball is in our court, Congress.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration was “prepared” for an impeachment fight, though she called on Democrats to move on. “After two years, the special counsel is moving on with his life, and everyone else should do the same,” she said.

Trump said in a tweet: “Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.”

Others disagree:

Democrats vowed to press ahead with their investigations of Trump, and they did not immediately abandon the idea of compelling Mueller to testify. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement after the news conference that Mueller “needs to testify before Congress” and that Mueller’s full, unredacted report needs to be turned over to lawmakers. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said, “While I understand his reluctance to answer hypotheticals or deviate from the carefully worded conclusions he drew on his charging decisions, there are, nevertheless, a great many questions he can answer that go beyond the report, including any counterintelligence issues and classified matters that were not addressed in his findings.”

That might be a good idea, as Jonathan Chait explains here:

Famously taciturn prosecutor Robert Mueller decided to address the public to make it very clear that he did not exonerate President Trump of committing obstruction of justice. “If we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime we would have said so,” he said. Mueller cited a Department of Justice policy prohibiting a special prosecutor from charging sitting presidents: “Charging the president with a crime,” he said, “was therefore not an option we could consider.”

This banal point is important because it pithily clarifies something Trump and his allies have labored, with quite a bit of success, to obscure. Attorney General William Barr’s letter summarizing Mueller’s report presents the report as being inconclusive about the facts of Trump’s conduct. “The Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment,” wrote Barr. “The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction.”

That is wrong. Mueller was not failing to draw a conclusion about the conduct. He was concluding decisively that he did not have the power to define Trump’s conduct as a crime.

Congress does have that power, and some backing:

Hundreds of former federal prosecutors signed a letter stating that Trump’s conduct would be chargeable as a crime if he was not the president. Mueller’s view is that it’s up to Congress, not him, to make that decision. Trump and his loyal attorney general have decided to continue misleading the public about why Mueller did not formally accuse the president of crimes.

None of this will be settled soon, because each of them actually read the report. That changes things, and Andy Borowitz covers that nicely:

The special counsel Robert Mueller ignited a firestorm of controversy on Wednesday by recommending that millions of Americans read.

Mueller, seemingly oblivious to the uproar he was about to create, repeatedly commented that there was valuable information available to the American people only by reading a long book.

At the White House, sources said that Donald J. Trump was furious about Mueller’s statement because he interpreted the special counsel’s pro-reading message as a thinly veiled attack on him.

Speaking to reporters later, on the White House lawn, Trump made it clear that Mueller’s exhortation to read had fallen on deaf ears.

“I’ve never read any of my books, and I certainly don’t intend to read his,” Trump said.

The more serious David Frum is more precise about what is happening here:

A foreign power interfered in the U.S. election to help the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign welcomed the help and repeatedly lied about it. The lying successfully obscured some questions the investigation sought to answer; in the end, it found insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy. President Trump, in public and in private, worked to stop the investigation.

Those are the facts. What are the remedies? Mueller underscored at his press statement: He did not exonerate the president. Under the Department of Justice rules he was subject to, he lacked the power to act.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration refuses to take steps to secure the next presidential election against the interference that swayed the last. The question of why Russia so strongly wished to help Trump remains as mysterious as ever. In particular, if you wish to understand the breadth and depth of Trump’s Russian business connections before he declared for president in 2015, Mueller’s report will not help you.

Mueller says he can do no more. The rest, Congress, is up to you.

That’s one way to look at it, but the New York Times’ Peter Baker saw this:

At long last, the sphinx of Washington spoke on Wednesday, and here is what President Trump heard: “Case closed.” Here is what the president’s adversaries heard: “Time to impeach.”

Don’t worry, or worry big time, depending on what you thought that you had heard:

In his dry, lawyerly, scripted statement, Mr. Mueller gave voice for the first time to the damning details he uncovered about Russia’s efforts to disrupt American democracy and Mr. Trump’s efforts to impede the investigation. He chose in the end to speak out, just this once if he has his way, to plead for a deliberate assessment of the facts from a deeply divided political system that shows no willingness to look at his findings through his dispassionate eyes.

He did not accuse the president of a crime. But Mr. Mueller seemed to hint that he might have if he could have and pointedly refused to exonerate Mr. Trump. Likewise, he implied that Congress could pursue impeachment without directly recommending it.

Perhaps that is too subtle for a crude and rude guy like Trump:

At the White House, Mr. Trump watched Mr. Mueller live on television from the residence, where he spent most of the day. He met briefly afterward with a few members of his staff and issued claims of vindication via Twitter and a press statement. But privately he complained that Mr. Mueller had always been out to get him and was peeved that more people were not defending him on television, according to people informed about his day.

Aides said the dominant feeling inside the West Wing was outrage at Mr. Mueller, but they also concluded that the special counsel had not changed the overall dynamics and no special efforts were made to reassure allies on Capitol Hill. No new facts emerged, no smoking gun that had not already been known. Mr. Mueller made clear that he would not go beyond his report even if he was dragged before a congressional committee.

All that happened, as one White House aide put it, was that Mr. Trump’s opponents shook the snow globe and stirred things up.

That must have been a relief, but that’s not what others saw:

Republicans said they felt confident Democrats would make themselves look like partisan Trump haters who refuse to give up… But Republicans will come under pressure, too, forced to defend or dismiss questions about actions that many of them privately consider objectionable, or worse.

In short, this is a mess. No one expected this, but Paul Waldman thinks Barack Obama spoiled the nation:

It started with the 2008 campaign, an extraordinary enterprise that gave Democrats not just hope that Obama could win but also hope that the entirety of American politics could be transformed into something that, frankly, it has never been. During that year’s primaries, Hillary Clinton argued that he was selling a gauzy vision that was blind to the cruel realities of politics, and most Democrats responded, “We don’t care. This feels too good.” It’s a testament to Obama’s singular political talent and charisma that he could pull that off.

Then it turned out that governing is not just hard, but often unpleasant. It involves setbacks and compromises even when it’s successful. And Republican obstruction poisoned everything. By the end of Obama’s eight years, what Democrats hoped would be a glorious dance into a shining new era turned out to be a crawl over broken glass for every incremental victory.

And then to top it off, Donald Trump got elected. So Obama started by lifting liberals’ spirits as high as they had ever been, and left with those spirits in tatters. Trump’s election said to them, “Everything you thought was true about America, about how it could be open and inclusive and diverse and forward-looking? Well, America just elected this guy.”

Had they not felt so much hope eight years before, it might not have been so painful.

Nancy LeTourneau then adds this:

Prior to the 2016 elections, I constantly told my friends not to worry because the voters who elected Barack Obama would never turn around and elect Donald Trump. Obviously I was terribly wrong, which meant that I had some deep soul-searching to do. The optimism I’d adopted about this country took a blow, and I’m continuing to get more pessimistic as time goes by…

Perhaps it was precisely because our 44th president was so intelligent and charismatic that a lot of people thought that he could transform American politics into something it’s never been, and that governing – especially given Republican obstructionism – would ever be anything other than crawling “over broken glass for every incremental victory.” Perhaps Obama should have been more stern in his warnings that he couldn’t pull it off all by himself. A speech extolling the importance of citizenship at the 2012 Democratic convention might not have been direct enough.

At any rate, too many of us never got the message. Then Donald Trump was elected, declaring that “I alone can fix this.”

And now we have this. Robert Mueller points to what he found – the Russians did all they could to make sure that Donald Trump won the presidency, and the Trump campaign gladly accepted the help, and then Trump himself systematically tried to end any investigation of any of that. And then Mueller laid it all out – for Congress, because only they could fix this. Then he walked way. This isn’t his fight now.

But what will the “nice” liberals and progressives and old-school Democrats do now?

Charles Blow has some ideas:

Republicans have their fangs bared and you have your tails tucked. You are an embarrassment. There is no polite way to fight. Fighting is nasty, instinctual and vicious. Good people don’t relish it, but goodness dies and ruin is left in its wake when good people don’t fight when fighting is required.

I am at my wits’ end with the fear. I live by a different creed: Never be afraid to do what’s right. And, I don’t believe that opening an impeachment inquiry helps Trump in 2020 and hurts Democrats.

To the contrary, I trust truth.

Who doesn’t, other than that guy in the White House?

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