Rats and Lifeboats

One of the most interesting things I read yesterday was from Erick Erickson, for pity’s sake. Yeah, I know, it’s loathsome Erick Erickson. But here it is:

What sets this story apart for me, at least, is that I know one of the sources. And the source is solidly supportive of President Trump, or at least has been and was during Campaign 2016. But the President will not take any internal criticism, no matter how politely it is given. He does not want advice, cannot be corrected, and is too insecure to see any constructive feedback as anything other than an attack.

So some of the sources are left with no other option but to go to the media, leak the story, and hope that the intense blowback gives the President a swift kick in the butt. Perhaps then he will recognize he screwed up. The President cares vastly more about what the press says than what his advisers say. That is a real problem and one his advisers are having to recognize and use, even if it causes messy stories to get outside the White House perimeter.

I am told that what the President did is actually far worse than what is being reported. The President does not seem to realize or appreciate that his bragging can undermine relationships with our allies and with human intelligence sources. He also does not seem to appreciate that his loose lips can get valuable assets in the field killed.

Wingnuts, by definition, are people who can’t see reality until it personally smacks them in the face. But let’s go on … this has a ring of truth for me, and it certainly is consistent with everything else we hear about Trump. (See, for example,  I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Trump. His self-sabotage is rooted in his past.) He’s a walking character pathology incapable of doing the job he was elected to do. I mean, he can’t even do it badly; he is not doing it at all.

I keep hearing from people, some of them lefties, who are calling the Russian leaking/Comey firing stuff a “distraction.” No, it is not. It is the fruit of a political crisis in the U.S. that is unprecedented in our history. That such a man could actually have been elected — and I believe he was more or less fairly elected; the Russian hacks didn’t have that much impact — and that he continues (although perhaps not for long) to be protected by a major political party, tells us that our political culture has utterly failed. We need a new one.

So no, the meltdown of the Trump Administration is not a “distraction.” It really is the main event. See also Paul Waldman on Why the GOP could face 2018 with nothing to show for it, despite total control. No, Republicans in Congress are unlikely to be able to pass a bunch of nasty new laws while we’re being “distracted” by the Trump antics.

About a year ago I wrote a post about managed democracy and about how the two front-running presidential candidates were unpopular:

But what I really want to write about is, it appears the general election campaign will be between two unpopular candidates. How did that happen? And what does that say about the status of democracy in America?

First, this tells me the political system is being played, and not by the people. An honest competition actually decided by the people ought to have given us more popular candidates. What we’re seeing is a symptom of managed democracy, a term usually aimed at Vladimir Putin’s Russia but which, many argue, describes the United States.  In a paper about managed democracy in Russia, we find,

According to Tretyakov’s definition, managed democracy is a democracy (as there are elections, voters have alternative options, there is media freedom, leaders are changing), but it is corrected by the ruling class (or rather that part of it that holds power).

Put another way, this is why we can’t have nice things. We aren’t really in charge.

See also Ted Morgan in Salon, “This Isn’t How a Democracy Should Work.”

I blame both parties for this.

Anyway — After this week, I don’t see how Trump’s situation is salvageable, especially since he seems incapable of learning from mistakes. We’re in for many more weeks of drama, of course, and there are some smart folks who think Trump will stay in office. but too many forces are in motion that point to an early termination of the Trump Administration.

WaPo just reported this:

Congressional Republicans are increasing pressure on the administration to produce records related to the latest string of controversies involving President Trump, amid flagging confidence in the White House and a growing sense that scandal is overtaking the presidency.

As the White House sought to contain the damage from two major scandals, leaders of two key Senate committees asked the FBI for documents related to former director James B. Comey, who was leading an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election before Trump fired him last week.

At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) broke his silence on the Comey affair to say lawmakers “need to hear from him as soon as possible in public to respond to the issues that have been raised in recent days.”

See also Jonathan Chait on how the Republican wall protecting Trump is cracking.

Another signal the rats are deserting:

When President Donald Trump casually shared highly classified intel with top Russian diplomats last week, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who was in the room, did not immediately realize the significance of what Trump divulged, according to an NBC News report out Wednesday.

Citing an unnamed U.S. official with direct knowledge of the matter, NBC reported that McMaster “is not steeped in counterterrorism” and thus was not immediately aware of the importance of the information Trump gave to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

McMaster, who originally had forcefully said the reports of Trump blabbing information were totally false, possibly is realizing he is the new Colin Powell — the guy who blew his sterling reputation by providing an authoritative face for a pack of lies.

There are reports that Trump is coming unglued. If he’s as unstable as I think he is, someone had better make sure he doesn’t have access to sharp knives or loaded guns.