Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: October 19, 2019
Every day I wake up asking myself, “Can this really be happening?” We’ve been living this nightmare for years now, and it still feels so unreal. The good news is that more and more people in positions of power–government and media–are beginning to wake up to Trump’s insanity.
Peter Baker at The New York Times: On Day 1,001, Trump Made It Clear: Being ‘Presidential’ Is Boring.
DALLAS — At one point during one of his most unpresidential of days, President Trump insisted that he knew how to be presidential.
“It’s much easier being presidential, it’s easy,” he told a stadium full of more than 20,000 boisterous supporters in MAGA hats and T-shirts cheering his every word on Thursday night. “All you have to do is act like a stiff.”
He buttoned his suit coat, pursed his lips, squared his shoulders and dropped his arms rigidly at his sides. “Ladies and gentlemen of Texas,” he then droned in a sleep-inducing staccato monotone the way he imagined most of the other 44 presidents had done. “It is a great honor to be with you this evening.”
The crowd loved it, roaring with laughter. Transforming back into the unpresidential president America has come to know, Mr. Trump added, “And everybody would be out of here so fast! You wouldn’t come in in the first place!” Being presidential, he was saying, is so boring. Who wants that?
Most Americans want exactly that. We are sick of being shocked and ashamed every day by this deranged freak. We don’t want to live in his reality TV show.
After 1,000 days in office, Mr. Trump has redefined what it means to be presidential. On the 1,001st day of his tenure, which was Thursday, all pretense of normalcy went out the window. It was a day when he boasted of saving “millions of lives” by temporarily stopping a Middle East war that he effectively allowed to start in the first place, then compared the combatants to children who had to be allowed to slug each other to get it out of their system.
It was a day when he announced without any evident embarrassment that officials of the federal government that answers to him had scoured the country for a site for next year’s Group of 7 summit meeting and determined that the perfect location, the very best site in all the United States, just happened to be a property he owned in Florida.
It was a day when he sent out his top aide, an adviser who has served as “acting” White House chief of staff for nearly 10 months without ever being granted the respect of earning the title outright, to try to quell the whole impeachment furor, only to have him essentially admit the quid pro quo that the president had so adamantly denied.
It was a day that ended with a rally where one of the warm-up acts, the Texas lieutenant governor, declared that liberals “are not our opponents, they are our enemy,” and the president called the speaker of the House “crazy,” a rival candidate “very dumb,” a House committee chairman a “fraud” and the governor of another state a “crackpot.”
This one is from Thursday. Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg: Does Trump Realize the Trouble He’s In?
Wednesday, the 1,000th day of Donald Trump’s presidency, went badly. That’s no surprise; most of the first 999 days went badly too. I have no idea if he’s going to wind up getting ousted from office, either as a result of the impeachment House Democrats are readying or the 2020 election. But things are getting worse for Trump — whether he realizes it or not.
Every once in a while, some event offers a clarifying reminder of the president’s poor judgment. On Wednesday, it was the release of a letter Trump wrote to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The letter itself was an embarrassment, in which Trump, soon after telling Erdogan on the phone that U.S. forces would move out of his way to enable Turkey’s invasion of Syria, tried to walk things back. Sort of. As Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman put it at the Monkey Cage, the president opted for “threatening rhetoric reminiscent of a Mafia boss” to “make loud threats that he may not be able to deliver on.” As soon as the letter was published, professional diplomats and historians said they had never seen something so amateurish from a U.S. president.
But what really underlined Trump’s problem for me wasn’t that he wrote an incompetent letter to follow up on what seems to have been an incompetent phone call. Or that his Syria policy, as my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Eli Lake notes, has resulted in chaos and death. Or that, on a crass political level, he’s managed to alienate his congressional allies just as he needs them most, with House Republicans voting overwhelmingly on Wednesday to condemn his decision.
No, what really got to me was that Trump distributed copies of this letter to congressional leaders when they showed up at the White House for a briefing. Think of it. Even if the letter had been perfectly normal, what Trump was handing them was an Oct. 9 request to Erdogan to halt his invasion — a request that Erdogan has, as we’ve seen, totally ignored. Trump was bragging about what he considered to be a sign of his own brilliance without realizing that it was instead evidence of abject failure.
Is it possible that Trump doesn’t understand that he’s an international laughing stock? Yes. It appears that he is that delusional. It was shortly after the meeting in which he distributed the insane letter that he tweeted the now iconic photo of Nancy Pelosi standing up and pointing at him–because he thought the photo made him look good!
Erdogan spoke about the letter to NPR. Bloomberg: Erdogan Says He Won’t Forget Trump’s ‘Devil’ Letter.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he won’t forget a letter from U.S. President Donald Trump that warned him not to be a “fool,” a “tough guy” or a “devil,” and vowed a response to what he said was a missive out of line with diplomatic courtesies.
Trump penned the warnings in a letter to Erdogan dated Oct. 9 in an effort to persuade the Turkish leader not to start a military offensive in Syria. Turkey sent troops across the border to push back American-backed Kurdish fighters on the same day, and the operation was its response to Trump’s letter, Erdogan aide Gulnur Aybet told NPR in an interview….
“We don’t see this issue as our priority today,” he told press in Istanbul. But, “it should be known that when the time comes, necessary action will be taken regarding this issue.”
Trump has been dictating a lot of letters lately, like the one he had his White House Counsel send to Congressional committees claiming their impeachment inquiry is illegitimate. The latest was a missive threatening to sue CNN for their news coverage.
This week, right-wing hoaxster James O’Keefe launched the latest of his series of secretly recorded videos, which purport to prove various conservative conspiracy theories but fail. The new version involves a CNN contractor recording employees grumbling about various complaints about the network, none of which establish the plot O’Keefe set out to prove, and some of which suggest the opposite (an employee complains that CNN covers Trump rallies but not Biden ones, which are too boring).
Even some of the conservative movement’s dimmest stars came away unimpressed. The project nonetheless seems to have left an impression on Donald Trump, a devoted follower and purveyor of nearly all the right’s conspiracy theories, a fanatical devotee of cable news, and, incidentally, the president of the United States. Trump has directed his lawyer to threaten a lawsuit against CNN on the basis of O’Keefe’s flimsy video.
The letter claims that O’Keefe has personally disproven CNN’s claim to be a news network dedicated to reporting facts. “In the Footage, your employees
appear to state that CNN attempts to make its reporting appear neutral and unbiased, when in fact its reporting is far from neutral and highly biased against the President.” The letter then moves on to its true complaint, stating (without any evidence whatsoever), “Never in the history of this country has a President been the subject of such a sustained barrage of unfair, unfounded, unethical and unlawful attacks by so-called ‘mainstream’ news, as the current situation.”
Continuing from this extremely shaky factual foundation, Trump’s letter proceeds to a ludicrous legal argument: CNN has violated the Lanham Act, which controls truth in advertising. Therefore, by claiming to be a real news network while subjecting Trump to hours of critical coverage, it has misrepresented itself.
Read the rest at New York Magazine.
Two more reads on Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior.
Former Trump White House officials and other Republicans close to the White House are increasingly worried about President Trump’s erratic behavior and say there are no longer enough safeguards around him to prevent self-inflicted disasters large and small.
Just in the last two weeks, Trump precipitously withdrew U.S. troops from northern Syria and attacked America’s Kurdish allies as “no angels,” sparking outrage among GOP lawmakers; released a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose undiplomatic language was widely mocked; called his former defense secretary “the world’s most overrated general”; and blew up at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a meeting his own White House had called….
Under the strain of a metastasizing impeachment probe on Capitol Hill and helming an administration run by a diminishing number of heavyweight officials of independent stature, the president is displaying the kind of capricious behavior that once might have been contained or at least mitigated, former officials say.
“The wheels are not off the car. The situation is way worse than that. The car has been impounded and we are now waiting to figure out what the fine is and to see whether or not we’re going to get the car back,” said former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
Peter Nicholas at The Atlantic: The Unraveling of Donald Trump.
The country is entering a new and precarious phase, in which the central question about President Donald Trump is not whether he is coming unstrung, but rather just how unstrung he is going to get.
The boiling mind of Trump has spawned a cottage industry for cognitive experts who have questioned whether he is, well, all there. But as the impeachment inquiry barrels ahead on Capitol Hill, several associates of the president, including former White House aides, worry that his behavior is likely to get worse. Angered by the proceedings, unencumbered by aides willing to question his judgment, and more and more isolated in the West Wing, Trump is apt to lash out more at enemies imagined and real, these people told me. Conduct that has long been unsettling figures to deteriorate as Trump comes under mounting stress. What unfolded Wednesday inside the West Wing’s walls might be only a foretaste of what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described that day, after a meeting with Trump, as a presidential “meltdown.”
“He’s grown more comfortable in the job and less willing to assimilate new information and trust new advisers,” a former White House official told me. “He’s decided to throw caution to the wind and go it alone, especially when he’s stressed and feels under attack and threatened in various ways. Then his worst impulses and vices shine through.” [….]
At least one associate has confronted Trump recently about his judgment, specifically his decision to repeatedly attack the Biden family. Isn’t it unseemly for a president to target Joe Biden’s son Hunter? Wouldn’t it be smarter, at least, to outsource this sort of attack to someone else?
According to a person close to the president, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations, Trump’s explanation was that he acts as any normal person might, and that he won’t be moved by what he calls “political correctness.” “You don’t get it,” Trump said.
The only ones who “get it” are the wackos at his Hitler rallies. Even Republicans are beginning to wake up from their long sleep.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s happening in the news. What stories are you following today?