Year One/Day One

If Timothy Snyder’s contention that we had a year to stem the tide of authoritarianism is true, that opportunity has lapsed. What’s important to remember, though, is that however well-informed a history professor who specializes in tyrants and totalitarianism is, like all of us he can only guess at what the future holds. His guess just happens to be educated.

Ineluctably, we have entered Year One of a disorienting epoch. Our faith in institutions has eroded, as they have been made to erode. Once-hidden prejudices are voiced with impugnity. From bad to worse to what the fuck, we can’t predict the future, but we too can hazard a guess at where things are headed.

It’s going to be another long year.

From Atop The Gold-Plated Toilet Seat

We all rely on models to make sense of the world. Some are grim, crude things, insistent that “we” are better than “them” for largely arbitrary reasons. Perhaps “we” have always enjoyed a historical systematic advantage over “them”. Perhaps “they” come from a “shithole country”.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” [Trump] asked in reference to African countries and Haiti, according to The Washington Post. Instead, the president reportedly suggested that the U.S. should encourage immigration from countries like Norway.

NBC News confirmed the report, and a number of lawmakers quickly responded on Twitter, characterizing the comment as racist. The White House did not deny that Trump had used the term.

Did the president of the United States actually say that? We don’t know for certain. We weren’t there. But given Trump’s reflexive dishonesty, his racist behavior in the past and the number of witnesses to this outburst, yeah, probably. We can see how Trump’s worldview dictates much of his political behavior, though it’s expressed in his instinctual, unbalanced way. It’s unfortunate he allows his biases to determine what the government does or doesn’t do on the world stage.

 

 

Few people who knew Trump had illusions about him. That was his appeal: He was what he was. Twinkle in his eye, larceny in his soul. Everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance. Early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” Nunberg recalled, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”

The day after the election, the bare-bones transition team that had been set up during the campaign hurriedly shifted from Washington to Trump Tower. The building — now the headquarters of a populist revolution —­ suddenly seemed like an alien spaceship on Fifth Avenue. But its otherworldly air helped obscure the fact that few in Trump’s inner circle, with their overnight responsibility for assembling a government, had any relevant experience.

Ailes, a veteran of the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 41 administrations, tried to impress on Trump the need to create a White House structure that could serve and protect him. “You need a son of a bitch as your chief of staff,” he told Trump. “And you need a son of a bitch who knows Washington. You’ll want to be your own son of a bitch, but you don’t know Washington.” Ailes had a suggestion: John Boehner, who had stepped down as Speaker of the House only a year earlier.

“Who’s that?” asked Trump.

As much as the president himself, the chief of staff determines how the Executive branch — which employs 4 million people — will run. The job has been construed as deputy president, or even prime minister. But Trump had no interest in appointing a strong chief of staff with a deep knowledge of Washington. Among his early choices for the job was Kushner — a man with no political experience beyond his role as a calm and flattering body man to Trump during the campaign.

It was Ann Coulter who finally took the president-elect aside. “Nobody is apparently telling you this,” she told him. “But you can’t. You just can’t hire your children.”

On the Sunday after the immigration order was issued, Joe Scarborough and his Morning Joe co-host, Mika Brzezinski, arrived for lunch at the White House. Trump proudly showed them into the Oval Office. “So how do you think the first week has gone?” he asked the couple, in a buoyant mood, seeking flattery. When Scarborough ventured his opinion that the immigration order might have been handled better, Trump turned defensive and derisive, plunging into a long monologue about how well things had gone. “I could have invited Hannity!” he told Scarborough.

After Jared and Ivanka joined them for lunch, Trump continued to cast for positive impressions of his first week. Scarborough praised the president for having invited leaders of the steel unions to the White House. At which point Jared interjected that reaching out to unions, a Democratic constituency, was Bannon’s doing, that this was “the Bannon way.”

“Bannon?” said the president, jumping on his son-in-law. “That wasn’t Bannon’s idea. That was my idea. It’s the Trump way, not the Bannon way.”

Kushner, going concave, retreated from the discussion.

Trump, changing the topic, said to Scarborough and Brzezinski, “So what about you guys? What’s going on?” He was referencing their not-so-secret secret relationship. The couple said it was still complicated, but good.

“You guys should just get married,” prodded Trump.

“I can marry you! I’m an internet Unitarian minister,” Kushner, otherwise an Orthodox Jew, said suddenly.

“What?” said the president. “What are you talking about? Why would they want you to marry them when could marry them? When they could be married by the president! At Mar-a-Lago!”

Excerpted from Michael Wollf’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”

Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”, according to an explosive new book seen by the Guardian.

Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

–David Smith, Trump Tower meeting with Russians ‘treasonous’, Bannon says in explosive book

U.S. President Donald Trump blasted former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Wednesday as having “lost his mind” in the fallout over damaging comments Bannon made about Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. in excerpts from a new book.

Trump, who had continued to speak privately with Bannon after firing him in August, essentially cut ties with his former aide at least for now in a blistering statement issued after Bannon’s comments came to light.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said.

–Steve Holland, Trump breaks with Bannon, says former White House aide ‘lost his mind’

Strange Untruths

We thought we’d been numbed to the outlandishness of Donald Trump’s fabrications. They came at such a frequency over the past 16 or so months that most of the utterances the mentally unraveling president has made were consigned to the junk inbox of our minds. Sometimes, though, there are truth-deficient boasts so divorced from the world the rest of us live in we can’t help but take a perverse pleasure in their extravagance.

“Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news — it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

[T]he U.S. hasn’t experienced a fatal crash by a passenger jet since February 2009, making it impossible for Trump’s policies to have caused the number of deaths to drop any lower.

Barring his removal from office, we have to wonder where this ends. Will he claim he singlehandedly wrote the Declaration of Independence? That he discovered fire and invented the wheel? That crime has fallen consistently since the first season of The Apprentice?

Will his strange untruths (or delusions) lead him to claim “I didn’t even take credit for leading Seal Team Six in the daring raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, even though I could have. That’s just the kind of humble guy I am. It’s why I wrote the hit single ‘Humble’ and let Kendrick Lamar rap it.”?

We’ll know soon enough.

(Year Zero/Day Three Hundred and Fourty-Seven)