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The Trump Line

Hi everybody, I was offline this morning because I was traveling. I know a lot of you are sick and tired of talking about Trump, so feel free to ignore this. But if you can be civil about the topic, I’d like to pose a serious (= I genuinely want to know) question to readers who count themselves as Trump supporters, or at least enemies of Trump’s enemies.

Pat Buchanan writes a slashing column [1] denouncing Rod Rosenstein, the deputy AG, for putting Robert Mueller on the Trump/Russia case. Excerpts:

Why did Rosenstein capitulate to a Democrat-media clamor for a special counsel that could prove disastrous for the president who elevated and honored him?

Surely in part, as Milbank writes, to salvage his damaged reputation.

After being approved 94-6 by a Senate that hailed him as a principled and independent U.S. attorney for both George Bush and Barack Obama, Rosenstein found himself being pilloried for preparing the document White House aides called crucial to Trump’s decision to fire Comey.

Rosenstein had gone over to the dark side. He had, it was said, on Trump’s orders, put the hit on Comey. Now, by siccing a special counsel on the president himself, Rosenstein is restored to the good graces of this city. Rosenstein just turned in his black hat for a white hat.

Democrats are hailing both his decision to name a special counsel and the man he chose. Yet it is difficult to exaggerate the damage he has done.

What kind of damage?

As did almost all of its predecessors, including those which led to the resignation of President Nixon and impeachment of Bill Clinton, Mueller’s investigation seems certain to drag on for years.

All that time, there will be a cloud over Trump’s presidency that will drain his political authority. Trump’s enemies will become less fearful and more vocal. Republican Congressmen and Senators in swing states and marginal districts, looking to 2018, will have less incentive to follow Trump’s lead, rather than their own instincts and interests. Party unity will fade away.

And without a united and energized Republican Party on the Hill, how do you get repeal and replacement of Obamacare, tax reform or a border wall? Trump’s agenda suddenly seems comatose. And was it a coincidence that the day Mueller was appointed, the markets tanked, with the Dow falling 372 points?

Markets had soared with Trump’s election on the expectation that his pro-business agenda would be enacted. If those expectations suddenly seem illusory, will the boom born of hope become a bust?

A White House staff, said to be in disarray, and a president reportedly enraged over endless press reports of his problems and falling polls, are not going to become one big happy family again with a growing office of prosecutors and FBI agents poking into issues in which they were involved.

Read the whole thing.  [1] Buchanan blames Rosenstein’s alleged treachery for Trump’s miseries. This is a common theme among Trump defenders: that all his troubles have been caused by his many enemies.

Here’s my question: At what point do Trump defenders hold the president himself accountable for these travails? 

There is no doubt that Trump has many enemies in Washington. Yet almost everything bad that has happened to him since his inauguration is his own fault. Trump knew about Michael Flynn’s very serious ethical problems (for example [2]) concerning his relationship to foreign governments, but he still made him National Security Adviser. Trump fired the FBI director under suspicious circumstances, and charged Rosenstein with writing an argument for dismissing him for poor performance in office. But a day or two later, Trump slipped up and admitted to NBC’s Lester Holt that he had the Russia investigation in mind when he canned Comey — exactly what Team Trump was trying to get people to ignore.

Yesterday, Rosenstein told a group of US senators that he knew Trump was going to fire Comey before he drafted the sleight-of-hand memo upon which, according to the official story, Trump based his decision. As I recount here, [3] Team Trump knew it couldn’t plausibly fire Comey until it got someone of Rosenstein’s probity into the deputy AG position, so it could do its dirty work on Comey while hiding behind Rosenstein’s reputation. Rosenstein must have felt used, which is no doubt why he appointed Mueller, the ramrod-straight shooter, to handle this tainted investigation.

Why Buchanan thinks that Rosenstein should harm himself and (arguably) the public interest by running interference for Trump, the man who destroyed the cover story (and harmed Rosenstein’s reputation) on national TV is a mystery.

My point is, this is Trump’s fault. Comey was a pain in the butt to him, for sure, but he didn’t have to fire him. In fact, if Trump said the things Comey says he did to him in private, and Comey’s notes bear that out, then Trump was an impetuous fool to fire him. (And if Trump really asked the FBI director for a pledge of personal loyalty, and asked him to lay off of Mike Flynn, he screwed up massively.) And Trump sure didn’t have to go on TV, post-firing and spill the beans. But he did these things.

Last week’s shocking report of Trump inadvertently leaking ultra-secret intel to the Russians by running his mouth incautiously was denied by the White House’s spokesmen, including H.R. McMaster, in a supremely lawyerly statement. And maybe they’re right. Maybe it didn’t happen. Maybe the sources of the story are lying, though McMaster did confirm that Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert contacted the CIA and the NSA about the disclosure after the fact, as reported.  [4] McMaster speculated that Bossert did so from “an overabundance of caution,” though he had not spoken to Bossert to find out why.

Again, maybe the official story is true. But we know that Trump doesn’t focus well on his work, and we also know that he has a habit of departing from script and saying things he shouldn’t say (e.g., in the Holt interview). It is entirely plausible that Trump did exactly what the leakers of the story said he did. In an ordinary administration, one would have reason to give the president the benefit of the doubt, versus unnamed leakers. But this administration has little right to the public’s trust.

There’s a reason why people are suspicious of Donald Trump: Donald Trump.

What a lot of Trump defenders seem to be missing is that the Trump White House is leaking like a sieve. In other words, the people Trump hired are talking to the media. In his column today, David Brooks writes [5]:

Even before Inauguration Day, the level of leaking out of this White House was unprecedented, as officials sought to curry favor with the press corps and as factions vied with one another.

But over the past 10 days the atmosphere has become extraordinary. Senior members of the White House staff have trained their sights on the man they serve. Every day now there are stories in The Times, The Washington Post and elsewhere in which unnamed White House officials express disdain, exasperation, anger and disrespect for their boss.

As the British say, the staff is jumping ship so fast they are leaving the rats gaping and applauding.

Trump, for his part, is resentfully returning fire, blaming his underlings for his own mistakes, complaining that McMaster is a pain, speculating about firing and demoting people. This is a White House in which the internal nickname for the chief of staff is Rancid.

And as Brooks says, when Mueller’s work begins, the atmosphere in the White House is going to get much, much worse. Trump still has not fully staffed the executive branch with presidential appointments. Who would want to work for him now, given how bad it already is, how worse it is likely to get, and in the face of the culture of instability fomented by the president himself?

Who is forcing the people on Trump’s staff — the people Trump hired — to leak to reporters? Nobody. Why are they doing it? There are no doubt many reasons, but the one that unites them all is: they do not respect the president. 

If many of the people who are around him all day, and see him up close, don’t respect him enough to keep his secrets and defend his mission, what does that tell you? Something is very, very wrong here.

At some point, you have to admit that yes, even though the president has real enemies, the fact is that he his none more deadly to his presidency than … himself. Right?

So where is that point for you who are still defending Trump now? What’s your tipping point? When do you start to blame him for this mess — a mess that threatens to consume the GOP and its legislative agenda.

Think about it: there are Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, and a Republican president at the other end of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And little or nothing is going to get done with all the drama coming out of the White House. Not only that, the more chaotic it becomes, the greater the chances of the Democrats taking back one or both houses of Congress. It would be one thing if conservatives had to overlook Trump’s ethics problems for the sake of doing good and important things in terms of policy. But none of that is coming from Trump. Now, under this Commander in Chief, the US has bombed pro-Assad forces in Syria [6], infuriating the Russians and causing the Syrians to say, with just cause, that the US has no right to establish a base on its sovereign territory. Trump was supposed to be the president who would keep us from getting more entangled in wars that aren’t our business. So much for that.

I agree with my boss Bob Merry: there is no good way out of this horrible situation.  [7] If Trump stays, or if he is forced out, there’s going to be hell to pay. Trump didn’t come from nowhere. He is a symbol of a dysfunctional polity. Still, even though he is hated by the same people his supporters hate, there has to be a point, if only theoretical right now, where Trump crosses a line — where the threat he poses to national security, to the GOP, to conservatism, to the common good, and what have you, becomes intolerable.

Where is that line for you?


148 Comments (Open | Close)

148 Comments To "The Trump Line"

#1 Comment By VikingLS On May 19, 2017 @ 11:37 pm


Um, it depends on what it is you want. If what you want is me to say that I’m not happy with Trump’s performance, sure. I’ll do that.

If you want me to jump on every single unconfirmed anti-Trump story, no, sorry that’s never going to happen. I didn’t do that with Obama either.

Now, which is it you want? It looks like you want the latter.

[NFR: You know that I am not asking either. I’m asking what I plainly asked: what will it take for you to turn on him? — RD]

#2 Comment By GSW On May 19, 2017 @ 11:43 pm

“Now my question to you, is what is the point you will say enough with what seems to be attempts at a soft coup?… At what point will you demand proof of what the papers are printing?” @Moderate Mom

Based upon Mr. Dreher’s posts here to date, I’d say at no point. Political conservatives value institutional stability, the rule of law and democratic legitimacy; social conservatives maybe not so much. Besides, the elevation of Pence to the Presidency would be a bigly win over the rude and crude Trump in the eyes of many social conservatives.

And, in his defence, please consider that Mr. Dreher as a journalist could pay a large professional price for taking a full on stand against the relentless media onslaught against Trump. If the no-holds-barred campaign to reverse the election and force Trump out of office is eventually successful, blacklists will certainly follow – you can bet your little red wagon on that one.

[NFR: What large professional price? I live far from the Beltway, and work for a conservative magazine that has people on staff who defend Trump, and people who don’t. So what? The professional price I’ll pay, if there is one to be paid for anything, will be over all the things I’ve said about gay marriage over the years. I would point out too that in the Comey mess, the proof is *in Donald Trump’s own words* on television, and tonight in the story about what he told the Russians (the White House did not deny it when asked). About the supposed leak of intel to Russia, you’re right, there is no clear proof yet, but newspapers don’t print things like that based on weak sources, and it is exactly in character for Trump to get busy running his mouth bragging and say things he shouldn’t. If Comey’s allegation about Trump trying to get him to lay off of Mike Flynn is true — and I believe the FBI director over Donald Trump — then that’s just one more example of Trump not knowing where the proper boundaries are, and saying incredibly foolish, destructive things. — RD]

#3 Comment By VikingLS On May 19, 2017 @ 11:50 pm

“When and if the Democrats take power again, and they take it out on us, remember that Trump is to blame for a lot of it. ”

Under whose leadership is this Democrat backlash going to happen?

#4 Comment By Whine Merchant On May 19, 2017 @ 11:55 pm

Thank you for posing this question. I will reply [though perhaps not answer] with a few points:

Outside of the political world, [and the press has been a part of that world since Watergate, no longer just an information conduit], not so many people are freaked-out. Perturbed, dismayed, amused, and outraged, but not really freaked.

Many still see him as a reality TV personality [as he still sees himself at times]. On TV, drama always resolves for the good if you just watch until the end of the show. That is what any perplexed or worried supporters are doing: Waiting for the denouement and their hero to prevail.

David French at NR [whom you referenced recently] said it best: The voters want someone who punches back at their enemies [even mythical ones], and punches hard. That is why they tolerate Faux News shows’ blatant nonsense – because the talking heads, like Trump, punch back and punch hard, even if it takes alternate facts to do it.

The TAC publishes a lot about the WWC – few folks in fly-over counties care about foreign policy or actions, as long as he delivers on the vague promises of bread and circuses / OxyContin.

Trump’s supporters did not vote against HRC; she only frightened the GOP chattering class. People chanting to “lock her up” had their emotion so inflamed they would have chanted anything promoted from Trump’s pulpit on the dais. They voted for jobs, security, and the predictability of Mayberry. HRC, Comey, Putin are all far far distant seconds in their list of priorities.

Recent Town Hall meetings have shown that Obama’s ACA was popular enough that messing with it is scary stuff. It is Wall St and big business who didn’t want it; the folks on Main Street were just fine with it. The GOP is now saddled with having to sell a replacement product that they thought everyone wanted, but it turns out that it was only Rupert Murdoch and his cronies that railed against it as a ratings-driven talking point. The GOP fell into line, wary of Kochs’ Army, usually known as the Tea Party; [sorry – I couldn’t resist the pun].

Personally, I think the doomsayers are ignorant of US history and believe their own hysteria. The republic is robust and will survive. As Tip O’Neill said, ‘All politics is local’, and things on the local level are still business-as-usual.

Thank you –

#5 Comment By Dakarian On May 20, 2017 @ 12:53 am

“Trump’s supporters did not vote against HRC; she only frightened the GOP chattering class. People chanting to “lock her up” had their emotion so inflamed they would have chanted anything promoted from Trump’s pulpit on the dais. They voted for jobs, security, and the predictability of Mayberry. HRC, Comey, Putin are all far far distant seconds in their list of priorities.”

I believe the answer is both. We have a hard core group of people who flat out hate or fear everything on the left and deem Republicans as part of that left. As such they are holding to Trump not because they like him or even that they think he’ll do well but because if he fails the Left wins perhaps forever. These are the folks who push aside everything, because they have no choice. These are the folks who fill up the threads and chant “lock her up!”

Then there’s the Rust Belt types, the ones who saw their jobs leave the country and see a ton of competition in labor. They then see Republicans propping for the rich and the well to do and Democrats propping up the urban and the folks who compete illegally for the jobs they try to obtain legally. They are the ones who focus more on what Trump is doing, or what they hope he’s doing, because they listened to the one person who talked to them and offered hope. Many of them voted for Obama for the same reason: hope and change.

Sidenote: The ACA being defended makes sense since Trump never actually offered real repeal. He offered an improvement: An ACA with just as much coverage but cheaper and fairer and works. The other Republicans offered Repeal and were rejected.

Trump voters voteed for ACAv2, NOT for Repeal. Whether the House bill is what was promised is arguable, but Repeal lost in 2016 just as badly as it did in 2012.

Personally, I think the doomsayers are ignorant of US history and believe their own hysteria. The republic is robust and will survive. As Tip O’Neill said, ‘All politics is local’, and things on the local level are still business-as-usual.”

Pretty much this. I DO worry that Trump’s platform, particularly that second group of people, will be pushed to the gutter unless they find a new leader, but as far as the country is concerned, we’ll be fine. Different, maybe no longer a world power. But I think we’re all tired of being a world power.

But I’m from the gaming sphere and I’m used to doomsayers. In fact, pretty much all of politics has reflected what I see in that sphere, right down to tribalism, doomsayers, hopes dashed (look up No Man Sky’s history), absolute hatred, and, interestingly, a heavy anti-media faction.

Still gaming lives on. I think the country will too.

#6 Comment By Steve Gerrard On May 20, 2017 @ 3:16 am

I think blabbing intel to the Russians is the most serious thing Trump has done so far. Jeopardizing national security will not be overlooked. If he does something egregious enough, the Pentagon, NSA, or foreign service will get him removed from office. If he doesn’t, he will probably hang on as a lame duck president for the rest of the term.

The USA will survive Trump. It may or may not be enough to get people to start facing the reality of our situation, but it will at least get us closer to doing so. I don’t know how we get out of the winners and losers mind set we are stuck in, but one of these years we will rediscover the common good and start taking care of it again.

#7 Comment By Dave Taggart On May 20, 2017 @ 6:54 am

“When he shoots somebody on Fifth Avenue”; with a caveat of “depends who”.

On leaving the Presidency, Andy Jackson had two regrets, “that I did not shoot Henry Clay, and I did not hang John C. Calhoun.”

#8 Comment By VikingLS On May 20, 2017 @ 8:04 am

[NFR: You know that I am not asking either. I’m asking what I plainly asked: what will it take for you to turn on him? — RD]

Okay, and I can’t tell you what that would be without you explaining what “turning on him” means. If turning on him means that I feel actual animosity towards him, it’s going to have to be pretty severe, since I’ve never been hostile to ANY president.

#9 Comment By VikingLS On May 20, 2017 @ 8:32 am

“69 million votes have been effectively nullified, by what amounts to a soft coup by the electoral college. Democratic government depends on legitimacy far more than any other form of government. Do you really think that Blue America will see the government in Washington as legitimate if this happens?can you tell me, what happens then?

Second time in twenty years that the will of the public has been overridden by the electoral college, and both times, it’s been a disaster…”

No, there is a HUGE difference there. This is not even close to being the same thing. The whining about the electoral college is like complaining after your Soccer team loses the game that it’s not fair the other team’s goalie got to use his hands. You all know how the electoral college works, and if it had worked in your favor you KNOW you would have ridiculed any complaint from Trump supporters without mercy or restraint.

On the other hand, impeaching Trump without evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors is NOT within the rules.

So no, it isn’t the same thing. Not even close.

#10 Comment By midtown On May 20, 2017 @ 8:32 am

Good question, Rod. In my opinion, it is actually easier to turn on Trump now than during the election because the alternative then was Clinton. Now, it’s Pence. Personally, my support for Trump was transactional: he was the only candidate to support the concept of national borders and made some noises toward keeping us out of yet another Mideast debacle and nuclear war with Russia. (Well, Cruz made a move toward this position, and I voted for him in the primary.) I guess I would withdraw my support on policy grounds, not so-called scandals. If Trump does not follow through on the policy issues of border security, national sovereignty, Supreme Court justices, etc., then I will withdraw support easily.

What I will not withdraw support over whispers and allegations. Any allegation based on anonymous sources or unseen “memos to oneself” hold zero credibility, and real journalists will hold that same position. They are just rumors, nothing more.

Finally, I am deeply worried by the casual use of terms like “hostile foreign power” WRT Russia. I have no idea why so many people are itching for war with Russia and consider them an enemy — moreso even than the barbaric ISIS. Is it only because they haven’t gotten on board with WWG?

[NFR: I don’t want war with Russia, and in fact would like to see closer relations between the US and Russia. But let’s not be naive. — RD]

#11 Comment By kgasmart On May 20, 2017 @ 8:54 am

No one is going to do anything to you. Just like I am not currently in danger, not really. Paranoia much?

The left seeks to erase borders; “no human being is illegal,” so to the extent these folks require higher social expenditures – pony up.

The left seeks to put people with penises in your daughter’s locker room because it’s the only “moral” thing to do.

The left seeks to punish any who try to beg off the gay marriage train – you will accommodate gay marriage, and not only that, you will celebrate it; and if you don’t, we’ll make sure your employer and everyone else knows what a bigot you are.

If you are white, the left believes you have “white privilege” and must be lectured about it, and if you demur you’re a racist and let’s tell your employer about that too.

“The left” will ignore any war, any atrocity, so long as it’s committed by a Democratic president.

“The left,” in fact, seems intent upon reigniting the Cold war, aligning itself with the Pentagon and creating dangerous, perhaps destabilizing fissures just to get rid of Trump.

So where the choice is Trump or “the left” – we wonder why people, even now, continue to choose Trump?

#12 Comment By George H On May 20, 2017 @ 8:54 am


I’ve become a Trump supporter since the inauguration. What it will take is a serious crime.

But first, a question for you: will you admit that your argument for removal is ultimately connected to the myth of Democrats blaming Hillary’s loss on Russian hackers?

You conveniently vamp off this Democrat-sponsored scaffolding of “Russia hacked our election, ergo Hillary should have been President and thus Trump is illegitimate and should be removed”.

This is the original sin from which all or most of this chaos stems and while it’s a brilliant tactic by the left, it’s a transparent one that even the Deplorables can see through. I hope you won’t argue that Podesta’s leaked emails are why she lost, either. She lost for millions of other reasons including that one. But ultimately, she lost the election to a crude neophyte who spent way, way less than her and knew how to connect with Deplorables. And for Democrats, this is very, very hurtful. Many Democrat friends of mine are still in a state of denial that Trump even won.

So unless you acknowledge that the case against Trump stems from the chaos caused by this DNC+CNN+NYT- sponsored theory of Russia hacking our election, it’s hard to answer your question.

You mention Clinton: Bill Clinton’s first six months were a disaster. Disaster. David Gergen to the rescue. A management debacle. And he had both houses of Congress. Clinton was and is a serial liar with a family member (wifey) intimately involved in the operations of the White House. Scandals everywhere and you knew that the Clintons were scummy. Scummier in many ways than Trump, if you want to really compare things. They didn’t have much money and played the roles of grifter quite well. Remind me if you called for Clinton’s resignation back then in light of that chaos and perceived crimes. Clinton was not ready to be President and your arguments could have easily applied back then. With disastrous consequences for the Republic.

And where were your calls for a special counsel to investigate the IRS or Benghazi or Iranian arms sales under Obama? If the right owned the MSM, it could have fomented the same kind of chaos around the 2012 election. But it didn’t either out of incompetence or, perhaps, better manners.

If you think a civil war is the best way to forestall the decline of America outlined in the BO, then deposing Trump this year is like the bombardment of Ft Sumter.

[NFR: This is bizarre. I have no idea whether or not Russia hacked the election, and I don’t know whether or not Trump should be impeached at this point. I think he’s incompetent, but that is not necessarily an impeachable offense, and therefore we are not at the point where the trauma of impeachment should be visited on the country. That may change. Anyway, the premises of your long comment are wrong. — RD]

#13 Comment By Kirk On May 20, 2017 @ 9:22 am

I am not a Trump supporter, but I talk with a person who voted for Trump, and then who immediately regretted his vote.

He says that when he talks to Trump supporters (people in his church), they refuse to listen.

They will change their opinion when Trump blatantly harms a part of the country they care about.

Sometime this summer.

#14 Comment By WAB On May 20, 2017 @ 9:28 am

I have a friend, a college educated professional, who is pretty far right but was skeptical of Trump initially. As the campaign wore on and he was eventually elected that skepticism vanished and he is now firmly on the Trump train. Nothing Trump has said or done so far has made him re-evaluate his support. His opinion is that it’s all fake news and the DNC and the “liberal” media are trying to destroy the country. He also believes that the DNC murdered Rich Seith for passing information to WikiLeaks – without a shred of evidence for either claim.

The answer is there is nothing that will force the Trump base, short of a torrid affair with Hilary Clinton, that will force them to abandon him. They inhabit a cognitive black hole that doesn’t allow any negatives about Trump to enter and all that it emits are cries of “fake” news and conspiracy theories. It’s essentially anti-anti Trumpism; like the monster that only gets stronger the more it is fired upon the defense of Trump resonates to bad news.

It really is a hopeless cause.

#15 Comment By Lllurker On May 20, 2017 @ 9:30 am

@wes: “Why do many millions continue to believe the risks of Trump is acceptable”

I think this is where the heart of the matter lies: there is a difference of opinion as to how much catastrophic damage can be caused within the (executive portion of) the president’s job. Much of this talking past one another is because some view the danger of having an incompetent person in the presidency to be so high that things such as legislative goals must become secondary issues.

Here and there I see mention of Bushes (W.) decision to go into Iraq. My take on that decision is that the whole thing might have gone the other way had W not been in over his head. His incurious nature and lack of intellectual rigor led to a tendency to try to boil immensely complex issues down into simplistic binary constructs that were useless for sound decision making. In his mind really complicated things can always be reduced into simple good/bad, black/white type binaries without shades of gray. This made him very easy to manipulate, especially by the smart and extremely persuasive people who surrounded him. (Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.)

An example that comes to mind is something an adviser said about Bushes lack of knowledge about the country of Iraq. This guy (I believe it was a sub-cabinet level policy expert) said that during the run-up to the Iraq war Bush didn’t even know of the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslim sects. Which of course meant that W was completely ignorant of the centuries-old conflict that later ignited the civil war that has since set the whole region on fire.

Maybe not the best example, but I personally tend to view the presidency through this sort of lens. The person who holds the job needs to have the intellectual heft and maturity, and self-confidence, and breadth of experience to effectively evaluate and second-guess very smart and extremely persuasive domain experts. (Who always seem to want to go and start wars anywhere and everywhere.)

So when I evaluate Trump’s White House through this lens the picture I see is terrifying. If W was in over his head, what is Trump?

A larger aspect of this line-drawing exercise needs to focus on this issue: How catastrophic might it be to have a president who is incapable of handling the executive aspects of the job? And what trade-offs warrant risking such a possible catastrophe?

#16 Comment By John Gruskos On May 20, 2017 @ 9:43 am

“Trump’s own hires are leaking on him!”

Because he made the mistake of hiring too many globalists.

If all his hires had been national conservatives in the mold of Sessions, Bannon and Miller, there would be no leaks.

[NFR: Who do you suppose are the “globalists” leaking? How do you know that Bannon and Miller aren’t leaking. I’d bet they are. — RD]

#17 Comment By Phillip On May 20, 2017 @ 9:43 am

“Paranoia much?”

Hi Potato,

I watched HRC’s long-delayed speech. In it, she again pushed “freedom of worship”. The effort to redefine freedom of religion and delegitimize religious conscience is indeed a thing.

That’s not paranoia.

The nation got to watch the mayors of Baltimore and Berkeley stand down their law enforcement and let the mobs run unleashed in order to serve a political agenda.

And I live in a blue city.

That’s not paranoia.

#18 Comment By Sam Osborne On May 20, 2017 @ 9:50 am

Trump is the scandal the the conservative media keeps ever trying to make excuses for. Over and over they come out as one of those would-you-believe jokes—if you won’t believe a trillion tons of pure BS, how about a few billion tons of highly contaminated?

#19 Comment By Patrick On May 20, 2017 @ 10:05 am

@ Old West:

“It would have to be something so bad and clear that 13 Democratic Senators and all Republican Senators would really, truly, actually, no-kidding have voted to remove Obama had he done it.”

This pushes the standard presumably well beyong merely assassinating an American citizen with a drone (al-Awlaki). Which Obama did.

With Trump…you look around at what the alternatives are or were. Was Clinton better? No. Is Pence? No. Will the 2020 Democratic candidate be better? No. Is anyone from the GOP Establishment better? No. Will anyone emerge in a GOP primary who is seriously anti-war and more serious on NAFTA? No. So, I don’t see a lot of plausible alternatives to Trump even admitting some of his problems are his own recklessness.

#20 Comment By GSW On May 20, 2017 @ 11:17 am

“What large professional price? I live far from the Beltway, and work for a conservative magazine that has people on staff who defend Trump, and people who don’t…” @RD

Just as surely as there must be a chill today in most newsrooms for journalists who aren’t drinking deeply of the ‘Dump the-Russian-stooge Trump’ Kool-Aid, there will be blacklisting if and when the election result is overturned.

[NFR: Um, no. — RD]

#21 Comment By sound the trumpet On May 20, 2017 @ 12:28 pm

My game plan was Trump in 2016, a Tea Party type congressman in 2018 (i.e. fiscal conservative, get out of the Middle East, stop immigration), and pray for a candidate who talks more like Rand Paul (except on immigration, where Paul is wrong) in 2020.

I couldn’t care less about Trump firing Comey – DC hardball. And with the Russia business, I don’t see any “there” there yet. We’ll see. If he was stupid enough to lay himself open to obstruction of justice, fine – out of the Oval Office and off to prison as far as I’m concerned. Let him learn that this has never been about him. It’s always been about us. He’s a messenger boy, and if he doesn’t deliver the message, screw him.

#22 Comment By Ken Ross On May 20, 2017 @ 4:14 pm

Andrew says:

The thing is, Andrew, where do YOUR opinions come from? Unless you were brought up by wolves, you must be getting your information from somewhere. All you’re actually saying is that you believe one source of information over another source of information, because source A confirms you and source B doesn’t. In other words, you’re trapped in a bubble.

#23 Comment By Ellimist000 On May 20, 2017 @ 4:43 pm

“Under whose leadership is this Democrat backlash going to happen?”

VikingLS, unless you can tell me truthfully that you predicted that Trump would be President back in 2009 or that a man named Barack Hussein Obama would be President back in 2004, I don’t see what your point is.

#24 Comment By Badger On May 20, 2017 @ 6:12 pm

As you may know, I supported Obama throughout his term. I voted for Trump. In my opinion, his presidency is playing out like his election: opponents convinced of their intrinsic rightness and convinced of his wrongness. I simply haven’t seen to date what there is to complain about. Since he hasn’t done much and hasn’t signaled that he intends to do much, we are left debating what action is a harbinger for what. That is thinking that I believe will prove fruitless since I don’t think he ultimately has an agenda.

#25 Comment By Lee On May 20, 2017 @ 11:57 pm

Trump has exceeded expectations. All of the sabots are tossing themselves head first into the cog!

#26 Comment By Ellimist000 On May 21, 2017 @ 3:15 am

George H,

“And where were your calls for a special counsel to investigate the IRS or Benghazi or Iranian arms sales under Obama?”

He probably wasn’t calling for that because he knows that all of those events are fake news. Heck, Benghazi got like 7 different investigations, some under a Republican Congress that wasn’t enough “counsel” for you? And until the right stops venerating Reagan, it has no right to complain about weapons being sold to Iran (which is not what happened with Obama if you are referring to what I think you are).

That is why this is (deservedly) happening to the alt-right/populist movement. It’s the hypocrisy. 8 years of outlandish, hysterical, sometimes race-tinged conspiracies pushed by even some members of Congress and you have the gall to complain about a witch-hunt now? These morons managed to, incredibly, go overboard calling Hillary Clinton crooked and now they expect people to ignore that the President is “crooked crony capitalism” personified? Explain to me why it’s ok for a random mook like Flynn (who is likely an actually criminal) to chant “lock her up” but not for duly elected Congressmen with FBI/subpoena access to utter the word “collusion”.

Also, no Democrat worth listening to (you know, because the left believes in earning the right to be taken seriously in a subject area) has said, “Russia hacked, ergo Hillary should be President”. That is a laughable strawman, and that goes double with regard to our host.

Rod is being very nice, it’s hard for me to see the thoughts expressed by articles like Pat’s as anything but extremely detached from reality.

#27 Comment By JonF On May 21, 2017 @ 7:17 am

Re: I simply haven’t seen to date what there is to complain about.

Supporting the AHCA (the Destroy People’s Healthcare To Give Rich SOBs A Tax Cut Act) would earn the man a blood curse from me if I weren’t a Christian.

#28 Comment By Anne Mendoza On May 21, 2017 @ 9:18 am

If Shenkmans’ “Political Animals” is correct (and he makes a very persuasive case), Trump’s supporters will never turn on him because voters are not politically rational. We believe what we believe regardless of the facts which are not an obstacle. In a nutshell, we are ill-informed, easily duped, emotional, and hard wired to make excuses and look for scapegoats. Russia! Muslims! The Media! And so on and so forth.

It is irrefutable that politicians regularly make fools of us. Perhaps the secret to rational, political thought is close contact with politicians which would explain widespread reports that Trump’s advisers and hires know him enough to despise him.

#29 Comment By PeterK On May 21, 2017 @ 10:41 am

Scott Adams of Dilbert fame has a good blog posting about our short attention span President

“if you hear allegations of a short attention span in someone with a multi-decade history of successfully navigating complicated industries, be open to the possibility that the messenger is pushing useless information on an executive who is good at knowing what matters and what does not.”

#30 Comment By connecticut farmer On May 21, 2017 @ 12:49 pm

Rod, I read the Merry column and generally agree with you and him that there is no good way out of the current predicament.

Quite frankly, I didn’t even want to vote in the last election. The only reason why I bothered was because of devotion to a “civic duty” which was instilled in me since I was a kid–before I was even eligible to vote. Trump and Clinton were by far the two worst candidates that I have ever seen. The only reason I reluctantly hit Trump’s name is because the other one represented what I call “The Arrogance of Power” and was simply not acceptable–not after the 30 thousand emails which would have gotten anyone else fired with loss of pension and possible. In some respect it was the middle finger to the meritocratic-oligarchy who openly championed a woman who was (and remains) emblematic of that whole class–the “Ruling Class” if you will. Though I agreed with Trump on a few points (including immigration) I had no illusions about the man. Given his nature and that of his opponents, what has followed comes as no surprise

In the end, as always, it’s all about power. It’s only a question of who wields it. And in this case it isn’t Trump. The Ruling Class wants him out and will do whatever is necessary to force him out. And he is handing them the sword too, which will only make it that much easier. That nearly 63 million people voted for Trump (or at least, as in my case, against Hillary Clinton) means nothing to them since, after all, to paraphrase Louis XIV “Ils sont l’etat” (“They are The State”).

Unless I’m very wrong, Trump will never win this one.

And I shudder to think what will follow.

#31 Comment By VikingLS On May 21, 2017 @ 2:06 pm

“VikingLS, unless you can tell me truthfully that you predicted that Trump would be President back in 2009 or that a man named Barack Hussein Obama would be President back in 2004, I don’t see what your point is.”

I can tell you that after Trump’s first Republican debate I thought that the nomination was his if he wanted it, and that after Obama’s 2004 convention speech I thought there was a good chance that he could be president someday. I was also saying back in 2004 that the Democrats needed a messiah figure to retake the White House, which they got in Obama.

I also predicted that the Iraq war would quickly devolve into a three way civil war between Kurds (that took a little longer than I expected) and the Sunni and the Shia, that we would be there a minimum of five years and that the war would destroy George W Bush’s legacy before a single bomb had been launched.

I predicted that the war in Syria was going to be hijacked by Islamists, that the “moderates” would lose control of that situation quickly, and that it would result in the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities when people like Senator McCain and Clinton were telling us that darn it, the FSA were fighting for freedom and Democracy.

I predicted that Mitt Romney was going to do for the Republicans what John Kerry did for the Democrats before he even got the nomination.

So yes, I feel pretty comfortable in my ability to make predictions.

#32 Comment By Les B. Labbauf On May 21, 2017 @ 2:40 pm

This video clip from C-SPAN last weekend says all you need to know about how the hard core Trump Supporters think.


#33 Comment By Andrew On May 21, 2017 @ 5:31 pm

@Ken Ross,
Thanks for your response. I appreciate your point, but I don’t think it’s accurate. I’m not in a bubble. I read a lot, from many different sources. I’m also around people with a wide variety of political opinions.

#34 Comment By anishnaube On May 21, 2017 @ 6:47 pm

Interesting metaphor there, Lee

#35 Comment By jcastarz On May 21, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

I didn’t vote for Pres. Trump, so I don’t see how I could “abandon” him over anything, but I’ve got two items that I would consider important:

1. Pres. Trump must NOT start or reignite any foreign wars.

2. Pres. Trump MUST try to bring economic relief to the American heartland (rust belt, flyover country, gulf coast, Appalachia).

Pres. Trump has gone right up against my foreign wars limit in Syria; hopefully he backs off before getting us too entangled in that mess.

Bringing economic relief to the American heartland is harder to cleanly measure, as many things could get in the way of anything Pres. Trump tries – but he has to be seen trying. There is a lot of pain out there, and that pain fed into the election results we now have. Unfortunately, Pres. Trump has not gotten a quick start on this issue, for if he should succeed at it, many of his other faults would be forgiven.

So far I’m trying to be patient with the guy. He’s spent his whole life as a business wheeler/dealer, and not all of those skills transfer directly to the political world.

My 2-cents worth, Rod.

#36 Comment By Hound of Ulster On May 22, 2017 @ 3:14 am

Hate to break it to the ‘Trump is anti-Nafta’ crowd…he is lying to you. About everything. The actual policy proposals, the cabinet appointments, and the actions since taking office point to more failed Reaganism, just more racism and militarism. Trump running with an actual record in 2020 will get the same number of electoral votes as Jimmy Carter in 1980.

#37 Comment By bkh On May 22, 2017 @ 9:25 am

I did not vote for Trump or Hillary, but we can not go back for warm political fuzzies of the past. This election cycle has certainly turned the tide in America due to a more unmasking of the devils on both sides of the political spectrum. The pride and hatred that has been exposed from both sides will not be abated anymore. Neither side will allow a middle ground. Hoping things get better with a Pence in power is stupid. The left thinking things would be better under Sanders or some other wack-job progressive is kidding themselves.

#38 Comment By Franklin Evans On May 22, 2017 @ 10:12 am


It’s refreshing to see someone usually on the opposite side of me promoting a point I often fail to make: politics as usual in the U.S. is very easily defined as make people afraid and tell them who to blame for it (h/t Aaron Sorkin); find enough unthinking support for the ends justifies the means (G.W. Bush in Iraq, etc.) and ignore the fallout from the rest; pin the issues on every one else being worried about getting re-elected.

That’s how I phrase it, I don’t mean to be putting words in your mouth, but the clear vision must be that the U.S. electorate is long since a total failure on the whole We the People thing. Our government is once again very much like the hereditary aristocracy the founders so vehemently opposed (yes, it’s been that way for a long time, but the signs are finally getting attention).

The failure of the Trump “no matter what” supporters is in falling for the delusion that Trump is their man. He’s just another aristocrat.

#39 Comment By Mike Alexander On May 22, 2017 @ 12:37 pm

Trump in office is simply a continuation of his campaign. He is replicating the political malpractice of the campaign as governing malpractice. The former was OK with his supporters (otherwise they wouldn’t be supporters) so why not the latter?

#40 Comment By Lllurker On May 22, 2017 @ 1:23 pm

“This election cycle has certainly turned the tide in America due to a more unmasking of the devils on both sides of the political spectrum. The pride and hatred that has been exposed from both sides will not be abated anymore.”

IMO this line of thinking doesn’t accurately reflect either our current reality or the previous patterns in US history. The natural ebb and flow of politics eventually tends to push things back towards the center as time and the natural aging of the nation’s population moderate the emotions of the moment.

Yes polarization is high at the moment, and perhaps it will even drift up a little higher. I wouldn’t be al all surprised however if we later find out that in 2017 we had already passed “peak polarization” and the unseen pendulum was already swinging back the other way. No one will really know until a few more election cycles play out.

There is always the tendency to overreact to the mood of the moment and exaggerate it’s staying power. (Incidentally IMO the current level of polarization and hatred in the country is far, far milder than what we saw in the late 60’s.)

Someone brought up the impact of the baby boomers. (May have been in a different thread.) To me what’s interesting about the boomers is that 40-50 years ago they (we) had an outsized impact at pushing institutions towards the left, and now with the advent of right wing media it appears many of the older boomers are pushing things rightward. The pendulum appears to be swinging back and forth even within this single cohort.

#41 Comment By VikingLS On May 22, 2017 @ 5:14 pm

Franklin I’m not sure what it is I said you’re responding to, but yes I think you’re putting an argument in mouth I am not making.

#42 Comment By Phillip On May 22, 2017 @ 5:39 pm

And since paranoia has been brought up, I have a Law of Merited Impossibility report to offer.

Richard Spencer has had a gym membership cancelled after a Georgetown professor identified and confronted him.

A quote from the professor: “As a white woman, I find his membership at this gym to be unacceptable. I found his membership at this gym to be an unfair burden upon the women and people of color–and white male allies of the same.”

So, yes, pending a judicial remedy, you can now be denied commercial activity for wrong thinking.

Not at all a fan of Richard Spencer, but he wasn’t preaching or causing a scene. He was just there to exercise.

#43 Comment By Franklin Evans On May 22, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Viking, thanks for the response, and I apologize for the mistake.

#44 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On May 22, 2017 @ 10:24 pm

The faithful Trumpistas are not anything remotely resembling silent. They’re not a majority either.

Although nobody was making a notarized record, if Viking predicted all that he says, its impressive. And he’s right that the Dems lack the inspiring game-changing leadership that could carry them to the top in 2020. They might squeak by in 2018.

You all know how the electoral college works, and if it had worked in your favor you KNOW you would have ridiculed any complaint from Trump supporters without mercy or restraint.

Valid point. Its not a coup if it is that documented standard process. Its also true that the Electoral College was designed with no notion of parties in mind, in an era when it took weeks for news to travel from one end of the country to the other. There weren’t originally pledged slates at all. People who didn’t know the presidential candidates from Adam were to elect people they knew and trusted to choose a wise and capable president. But that’s a resign to amend the constitution, not evidence that electing Trump was a coup.

The Democrats lost because they ran Hillary Clinton as their standard bearer. Period.

A quote from the professor: “As a white woman, I find his membership at this gym to be unacceptable. I found his membership at this gym to be an unfair burden upon the women and people of color–and white male allies of the same.”

So, yes, pending a judicial remedy, you can now be denied commercial activity for wrong thinking.

Spencer should sue the gym. I can’t think of anything else I could agree with Spencer on, but this is a basic breach of the duty to serve all who travel the road. As I recall, Lester Maddox found Negroes seeking service at his restaurant to be an unfair burden upon the women and people of little color.

#45 Comment By Mac61 On May 23, 2017 @ 12:17 am

“Silent” majority?

#46 Comment By VikingLS On May 23, 2017 @ 9:31 am

“Although nobody was making a notarized record, if Viking predicted all that he says, its impressive.”

I can’t prove it, but I did. It helps if you don’t see what you’d like to see and if when you don’t know, you don’t make predictions.

#47 Comment By VikingLS On May 23, 2017 @ 9:37 am

@Franklin Evans, no worries.

#48 Comment By Ronald Libby On November 28, 2017 @ 8:09 am

This is delusional. I think that so-called intellectuals have lost their grip on reality. Go back and read American history especially the 1884 presidential election. Better yet, read my recent book, “Les Deplorables: How the Tea Party Put Trump into Office and Rules America,” 2017.