Trump gives his own performance a Trump-sized endorsement

Trump gives his own performance a Trump-sized endorsement

Politico
By Josh Dawsey
Image Courtesy of Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Friends say President Donald Trump has grown frustrated that his greatness is not widely understood, that his critics are fierce and on TV every morning, that his poll numbers are both low and “fake,” and that his White House is caricatured as adrift.

So on Monday, the consummate salesman — who has spent his life selling his business acumen, golf courses, sexual prowess, luxury properties and, above all, his last name — gave the Trump White House a Trump-sized dose of brand enhancement.
With both the Roosevelt Room and the Rose Garden as backdrops, he mixed facts and mirage, praise and perfidy in two head-spinning, sometimes contradictory performances designed to convince supporters and detractors alike that everything’s terrific, moving ahead of schedule and getting even better. His opponents were cast as misguided, deluded or even unpatriotic.

It was the latest instance of Trump bypassing his own communications staff to speak directly to the press, and the public, after weeks of blistering criticism and as White House aides struggle with the increasing possibility that they may end the year without accomplishing any of their grand legislative goals.

Senate Republicans, Trump said, had let him down and hurt his agenda.

“I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest,” the president said.

Inside the ‘adult day-care center’: How aides try to control and coerce Trump

Inside the ‘adult day-care center’: How aides try to control and coerce Trump

The Washington Post
By Ashley Parker and Greg Jaffe

During the campaign, when President Trump’s advisers wanted him to stop talking about a certain issue — such as when he attacked a Gold Star military family — they sometimes presented him with polls demonstrating how the controversy was harming his candidacy.

During the transition, when aides needed Trump to decide on a looming issue or appointment, they often limited him to a shortlist of two or three options and urged him to choose one.

And now in the White House, when advisers hope to prevent Trump from making what they think is an unwise decision, they frequently try to delay his final verdict — hoping he may reconsider after having time to calm down.

When Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) described the White House as “an adult day-care center” on Twitter last week, he gave voice to a certain Trumpian truth: The president is often impulsive, mercurial and difficult to manage, leading those around him to find creative ways to channel his energies.

Some Trump aides spend a significant part of their time devising ways to rein in and control the impetuous president, angling to avoid outbursts that might work against him, according to interviews with 18 aides, confidants and outside advisers, most of whom insisted on anonymity to speak candidly.

Thanks to Trump, America’s word is now worthless

Thanks to Trump, America’s word is now worthless

The Washington Post
By Paul Waldman
Image courtesy of Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Donald Trump likes to say that no president in American history accomplished as much in as short a time as he has, and in a few ways, he’s actually right. What other president could say that in less than nine months, they did this much damage to the future of American diplomacy?

Congratulations, Mr. President: America’s word is now practically worthless. And the damage will persist even after you’re gone.

Trump has already pulled us out of the Paris climate accord, which was agreed to by nearly every country on earth. It’s looking like he might pull out of NAFTA. Perhaps most dangerous of all — and against the obvious wishes of his entire national security team — he’s moving toward pulling out of the agreement we made in cooperation with China, Russia, Great Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union to restrain Iran’s nuclear weapons program. For the moment he is withholding certification of the deal and has proclaimed that it’s not in America’s interest as he sees it. Whether he pulls out completely will likely be a matter of how good his aides are at restraining his more lunatic impulses.

So imagine if a Democrat wins the White House in 2020, then tries to restore America’s place of leadership, which could involve agreements both with allies and adversaries. It would be perfectly rational for potential partners to say, “We accept your good faith, but how do we know that in four years your country won’t elect another ignorant halfwit TV personality who will cancel this agreement?”

I wish there were a good answer to that question.

Trump’s quote on shifting blame just about says it all

Trump’s quote on shifting blame just about says it all

The Washington Post
By Aaron Blake

President Trump almost admitted Monday that he is failing on his agenda. Then he caught himself.

“We’re not getting the job done,” he began, before quickly shifting course. “And I’m not going to blame myself. I’ll be honest: They are not getting the job done,” he said, referring to Congress.

You hear that, Congress? Trump is washing his hands of you. That “bully pulpit” that Theodore Roosevelt talked about? Overrated. Lyndon Johnson’s physical intimidation of wavering lawmakers? Trump shouldn’t be expected to dirty his hands. Harry Truman’s “buck stop here?” Nope, it actually stops over there, down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Points for honesty, I guess. If there was one microcosm of Trump’s attitude toward blame acceptance, this was it. In the span of a few seconds, Trump served notice that he separates himself from any responsibility for what Congress does or doesn’t do. It’s all on them.

This might be the most obvious bit of blame-shifting from Trump, but it’s certainly not the first time he’s done it.

It’s fine to note that things aren’t completely under your control as president — we don’t have a dictator — but presidents do get a chance to exert influence over the things the country talks about and Congress passes. The president can bring to bear plenty of pressure when it comes to swaying wavering lawmakers. When it comes to health care, Trump needed only to help win over skeptical Republican senators.

But Trump has shown considerably less interest in providing a helping hand to McConnell and Ryan than he has in absolving himself of the blame for their failures to produce. He has frequently given conflicting signals about what he wants to see from the health-care effort, has feuded with senators who provide key votes — often after the bills have already failed — and has generally shown very little interest in policy details. It’s one thing to not be a details guy; it’s another to seem completely clueless about what’s working its way through Congress at any given moment. Trump is almost always far to the latter end of the spectrum.

And at it’s core, it’s more a sign of desperation than it is of his power as president. To be clear: The president admitted Monday that he’s been neutered in the Oval Office. And whether you think he shoulders lots of blame or even just a little, he certainly carries at least some of the blame for that.

The Drug Industry’s triumph over the DEA

The Drug Industry’s triumph over the DEA

The Washington Post
By Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein

In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.

By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight.

A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.

The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino,  a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch  (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.

For years, some drug distributors were fined for repeatedly ignoring warnings from the DEA to shut down suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills, while they racked up billions of dollars in sales.

The new law makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies. That powerful tool had allowed the agency to immediately prevent drugs from reaching the street.

Trump governs by disruption — and overloads all the circuits

Trump governs by disruption — and overloads all the circuits

The Washington Post
By Dan Batz
Image courtesy of Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Nine months into his first term, President Trump is perfecting a style of leadership commensurate with his campaign promise to disrupt business as usual in Washington. Call it governing by cattle prod.

It is a tactic born of frustration and dissatisfaction. Its impact has been to overload the circuits of government — from Capitol Hill to the White House to the Pentagon to the State Department and beyond. In the face of his own unhappiness, the president is trying to raise the pain level wherever he can.

The permanent campaign has long been a staple of politics in this country, the idea that running for office never stops and that decisions are shaped by what will help one candidate or another, one party or another, win the next election.

President Trump has raised this to a high and at times destructive art. He cares about ratings, praise and success. Absent demonstrable achievements, he reverts to what worked during the campaign, which is to depend on his own instincts and to touch the hot buttons that roused his voters in 2016. As president, he has never tried seriously to reach beyond that base.

The president has proved himself capable and willing to start controversies and policy confrontations. That’s what being a disrupter is all about. But there is more to the presidency than initiating conflict, and on that measure, Trump has much to prove.

 

Bob Corker says Trump’s recklessness threatens ‘World War III’

Bob Corker says Trump’s recklessness threatens ‘World War III’

New York Times
Jonathan Martin and Mark Landler
Image courtesy of Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Mr. Corker’s comments capped a remarkable day of sulfurous insults between the president and the Tennessee senator — a powerful, if lame-duck, lawmaker, whose support will be critical to the president on tax reform and the fate of the Iran nuclear deal.

It began on Sunday morning when Mr. Trump, posting on Twitter, accused Mr. Corker of deciding not to run for re-election because he “didn’t have the guts.” Mr. Corker shot back in his own tweet: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

The senator, Mr. Trump said, had “begged” for his endorsement. “I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement),” the president wrote. He also said that Mr. Corker had asked to be secretary of state. “I said ‘NO THANKS,’” he wrote.

Mr. Corker flatly disputed that account, saying Mr. Trump had urged him to run again, and promised to endorse him if he did. But the exchange laid bare a deeper rift: The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business.

Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.

To some extent, the rift between the two men had been building for months, as Mr. Corker repeatedly pointed out on Sunday to argue that his criticism was not merely that of a man liberated from facing the voters again.

After a report last week that Mr. Tillerson had once referred to Mr. Trump as a “moron,” Mr. Corker told reporters that Mr. Tillerson was one of three officials helping to “separate our country from chaos.” Those remarks were repeated on “Fox News Sunday,” which may have prompted Mr. Trump’s outburst.

Mr. Corker would not directly answer when asked whether he thought Mr. Trump was fit for the presidency. But he did say that the commander in chief was not fully aware of the power of his office.