Sunday, May 19, 2019

Bolstering Trump

In a truly insightful piece, Politico editor-in-chief Peter Canellos argues that the depiction by Saturday Night Live's Alec Baldwin of Donald Trump has inadvertently reinforced a favorable impression of the President.  Baldwin very much dislikes Trump, but the attacks on his "intelligence and competence," Canellos understands, have had the perverse effect of humanizing the President and

What appears to be authenticity is one of Trump’s greatest electoral calling cards, and Republicans tend to take it at face value. He’s an amateur in a professional game, and that explains why he sometimes breaks the rules. There’s a kind of everyman logic behind his actions, and his supporters want him to shake up the system. Despite their antipathy toward him, there are many Democrats who assess him on similar terms.

Typically, Democrats believe Trump is "dangerously unqualified for the presidency but that he’s not fundamentally ill-intentioned." It's a misconception which runs counter to

other, much harsher assessments of Trump. One, suggested by the Mueller report, is of a man who willfully used the tools of his office for his personal benefit, who demanded illegal and unethical acts from his subordinates, threatened them and tried to replace them when they refused to go along and shredded legal and political norms in the process. In trying to save himself, that version of Trump isn’t some rogue elephant acting on instinct, but a narcissist who puts his own interests ahead of the country’s. There is, presumably, no twinkle in Trump’s eye when he orders his Treasury secretary to refuse a congressional subpoena of his tax records, no sharp intake of breath when he invokes executive privilege to shield an investigation into his own campaign. His mouth doesn’t twist into a petrified O when he maligns Robert Mueller or calls on Republican appointees of the Supreme Court to protect him.

And so Canellos concludes

This Trump isn’t the stuff of caricature, or the hapless figure of fun portrayed on “SNL.” He’s the one who shows up on TV nearly every day, president of the United States despite the disdain of all those knowing elites, bending Washington to his will.

That has been the fundamental character of the Trump Administration, one in which the elites excoriated by the President bend to his will. That includes not only Trump TV (formerly GOP TV, sometimes known as "Fox News"), GOP members of the House and the Senate, and House Democrats, terrified of the I (impeachment) word. It extends even to Democratic presidential candidates, only four of whom (Warren, Moulton, Massam, and Harris) have called for impeachment.

And then there is William Barr, whose obsequiousness to the President is brazenly unprofessional, unpatriotic, and dangerous. 

Midway through is article, Canellos asks "Is Trump calculating, or is he improvising?" From tweet to tweet, the President may be impulsive. However, the rhetoric and actions are less accidental than cunning, undertaken by a canny President empowered by an unparalleled ability to fake authenticity.

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