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Our Presidential Manchild

[ 163 ] May 15, 2017 |

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It’s sad that none of the details in Shane Goldmacher’s story about how Trump’s aides deal with him are even surprising anymore:

The consequences can be tremendous, according to a half-dozen White House officials and others with direct interactions with the president. A news story tucked into Trump’s hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president’s entire agenda. Current and former Trump officials say Trump can react volcanically to negative press clips, especially those with damaging leaks, becoming engrossed in finding out where they originated.

That is what happened in late February when someone mischievously gave the president a printed copy of an article from GotNews.com, the website of Internet provocateur Charles C. Johnson, which accused deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh of being “the source behind a bunch of leaks” in the White House.

[…]

He uses the Internet minimally, other than tweeting and tracking his mentions, so what other news stories he sees can be more haphazard. Trump does receive a daily binder of news clippings put together his communications team, but White House officials disagreed about how much he reads those. White House and former campaign aides have tried to make sure Trump’s media diet includes regular doses of praise and positive stories to keep his mood upa tactic honed by staff during the campaign to keep him from tweeting angrily.

[…]

More recently, when four economists who advised Trump during the campaign — Steve Forbes, Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore — wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “now is the time to move it forward with urgency,” someone in the White House flagged the piece for the president.

Trump summoned staff to talk about it. His message: Make this the tax plan, according to one White House official present.

The op-ed came out on a Wednesday. By Friday, Trump was telling the Associated Press, “I shouldn’t tell you this, but we’re going to be announcing, probably on Wednesday, tax reform,” startling his own aides who had not yet prepared such a plan. Sure enough, the next Wednesday Trump’s economic team was rolling out a tax plan that echoed the op-ed.

Moore was at the White House that day. “Several of the White House folks came up to us and said, ‘It’s your op-ed that got Trump moving on this,’” Moore said. “I’ve probably written 1,000 op-eds in my life but that might have been the most impactful.”

Well, basing tax policy around quarter-assed nonsense Steve Moore scrawls on the back of a cocktail napkin has been the de facto Republican practice for decades, so might as well make it de jure.

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  • Linnaeus

    More recently, when four economists who advised Trump during the campaign — Steve Forbes, Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore

    I would think that to be regarded as an economist, one would need, at a minimum, a degree in economics. AFAIK, neither Forbes nor Kudlow do.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Does it really matter, given the other two?

      • Manny Kant

        Moore only has an MA in economics. Kudlow and Forbe have BAs in history. Laffer is the only actual economist, with a PhD from Stanford, and a series of tenured academic jobs.

        • That just means they are uncorupted by liberal academic elites.

        • efgoldman

          Laffer is the only actual economist, with a PhD from Stanford

          Gotta’ be the same kind of tenured prof as John Yoo. Talk about wingnut welfare!

    • But they play one on TV.

      • Linnaeus

        Baudrillard was on to something with that simulacrum idea. Maybe it applies to the entire Trump administration.

    • Bitter Scribe

      I would think that to be regarded as an economist, one would need, at a minimum, to do something other than inherit a lot of money and whine about having to pay taxes on it. If Steve Forbes has ever done anything else, it hasn’t come to my attention.

      • Linnaeus

        He ran for president proposing a flat tax, which shows how Very Serious he is.

      • Lost Left Coaster

        Teve Torbes?

        • MyNameIsZweig

          The ladies love him.

      • Dennis Orphen

        If the Fox television network had titled its popular Sunday night sitcom Steve in the Middle the show would still be running today and Breaking Bad viewers would have a different conception of the Walter White character.

    • altofront

      I would think that to be regarded as an economist, one would need, at a minimum, a degree in economics.

      I think the term “economist” should be reserved for those with a PhD in Economics or a related field (that would whittle the list down to just Laffer). Would we call someone with a BSc in Biology a biologist?

      • Linnaeus

        Would we call someone with a BSc in Biology a biologist?

        Depends on what they are doing. If they’re doing scientific work, e.g., working in a laboratory as part of a research team, then, arguably, that person is a biologist.

        • Dilan Esper

          Yeah. We just named a Miss USA who is clearly a scientist- she does applied science for the NRC.

          But I don’t see a definition of economist which would make Forbes one.

        • NonyNony

          Right.

          The problem with Kudlow, Forbes and Moore isn’t their lack of credentials to be economic advisors. It’s that the policies they advocate are harmful to anyone other than themselves and the people richer than them. Does anyone think that if Kudlow or Forbes went out and studied and earned a PhD they’d suddenly say “oh – after studying the field in depth I’ve seen the light and will stop advocating for such harmful policies!”?

          As Laffer shows you can do that with a PhD as well, so the lack of a PhD isn’t the source of the problem, nor would adding more advisors with PhDs and with the same mindset as the above solve the problem.

          • Dilan Esper

            I don’t even think it’s merely a matter of policies that would harm people.

            There are legitimate trade offs in economics. There are some things that might help people the left wants to help but which can cause bad macroeconomic effects. Rigorous conservative economists like Gary Becker and the late Milton Friedman aren’t always wrong.

            But these guys are hacks. There’s no evidence we are anywhere near the point on the Laffer curve where tax hikes are ineffective at raising revenue. There’s plenty of evidence their theories don’t work. They don’t care.

            • NonyNony

              It’s that the policies they advocate are harmful to anyone other than themselves and the people richer than them.

              ETA – just in case that wasn’t clear: Nothing in that sentence contradicts what you wrote. Things with macroeconomic effects are going to be harmful to people down the economic ladder as well. So I don’t know why you would even bring it up when it comes to these hacks who just want to both enrich themselves and hurt people poorer than they are.

              • Dilan Esper

                I don’t think that fully captures it.

                There are policies, such as the $15 minimum wage and trade protectionism, that are probably extremely good for the recipients but create diffuse macroeconomic effects that nobody can measure precisely.

                Do those macroeconomic effects hit the poor? They may. But that’s kind of not the point of these arguments.

                The point is, there’s a criticism of conservative economists that they undervalue the lives of the poor. I think it has merit.

                But that’s not really the central problem with the Fearsome Foursome here. Rather, the problem is these guys are hacks.

            • efgoldman

              There’s plenty of evidence their theories don’t work.

              Kansas

          • Linnaeus

            The problem with Kudlow, Forbes and Moore isn’t their lack of credentials to be economic advisors. It’s that the policies they advocate are harmful to anyone other than themselves and the people richer than them.

            Fair enough. I brought up the credentials issue because I figured that a degree would be the minimum training necessary to do serious work in the field, although Wikipedia tells me that Kudlow has been a staff economist for the New York Fed and for Bear Stearns, so maybe you can call him one. But I don’t see why Forbes should get that label.

            • muddy

              Look, he’s a rich conservative white man, obviously economics just comes naturally to him, an unthought reflex much like breathing.

      • kg

        Would we call someone with a BSc in Biology a biologist?

        I absolutely would. Wouldn’t you?

        • wjts

          I have a BA in History, but I wouldn’t call myself a historian.

        • etherizedonatable

          I have a BS in chemistry. For the five years I spent in the field working as an analytical chemist, I was comfortable calling myself a chemist.

          But that was twenty years and 2-3 careers ago. There’s no way I’d feel comfortable calling myself a chemist now.

        • altofront

          Well, no. But it was a geniune question. And I see the logic that someone actively working in a field might merit the “-ist” term, although I’m stil not sure I’d do it.

    • Davis

      Moore has an MA in economics from George Mason. Laffer is the only one with a PhD. BTW, Laffer recently said that the problem with the Kansas tax cuts that led to a massive deficit is that they didn’t go far enough.

      • MyNameIsZweig

        Which shows you that a PhD in Economics doesn’t mean shit if it’s paired with a tendency toward obvious lies.

        • Mike G

          There’s a powerful tendency in academic economics to adhere to the ideology that gets you the most money, consulting gigs, fame and plaudits, which is basically making the rich and powerful who can reward you with such things, richer and more powerful and damn the cost to everyone else. I can’t think of a Republican-aligned economist who isn’t a corrupted hack.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            This is the fifth use of “hack” in this economist thread, and somehwere, Douglas Holtz-Eakin is sniffling and feeling left out.

      • The Lorax

        I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone more transparently full of shit than Moore.

        • solidcitizen

          Then you should hear Laffer explain how the Reagan tax cuts paid for themselves.

  • DamnYankees

    What the hell am I supposed to teach my (future) children about the government and the Presidency, assuming it survives until then. Until Trump, I feel like I honestly could have told them about its seriousness and good intentions, about working hard and trying your best and looking up to our government as a model for how to move the country and the world forward, as people have done before. And that even if you disagree with people, our government was a place for serious people who cared about the country, who tried to make it better, no matter how misguided they thought “better” was.

    What do we tell them now? That this is an office that can apparently be occupied by anyone at all, no matter how ignorant, crude, cruel and stupid, and that there is no basis for admiration? That this office is nothing more than a prize which must be protected with vigilance out of a fear of disaster, because you never know – someone like this might have the office someday?

    When you look at this man, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and sort of get used to him. But remember – he’s only the 45th person to occupy the role. In 250 years. It feels like he drags the other 44 through the mud just by sitting in the office.

    • cleek

      What do we tell them now?

      behold the power of celebrity! if you become famous, even internet famous, you can do anything you want!

    • Linnaeus

      I feel like I honestly could have told them about its seriousness and good intentions, about working hard and trying your best and looking up to our government as a model for how to move the country and the world forward, as people have done before.

      For certain values of “people”.

      • DamnYankees

        Sure – but I honestly feel that basically everyone prior to Trump had values of better. Like, they had a philosophy. They were serious people. They often advocated things that were contrary to my values, often abhorrently so, but that’s what’s going to happen in a democracy. I don’t always win.

        Trump is a categorically different kind of person. He has no philosophy other than egoism and perhaps a lizard-brain xenophobia. There’s no greater good he’s looking to achieve. He’s just so profoundly unserious. As the headline notes, he’s barely an adult.

        • Jonny Scrum-half

          During the campaign that’s the argument I would make to Trump supporters. I’d say that it was at least understandable for someone to vote for Cruz, for example, notwithstanding that I thought Cruz’s policies were awful. However, I just didn’t understand anyone voting for Trump, given how clear he’d made it that he wasn’t a serious person.

          I’m very confident that no one changed their mind based on that argument.

          • The Lorax

            But he's gonna cut my taxes!"

            • eclare

              He's gonna shake things up and drain the swamp!

              • evodevo

                Yes. This. I have heard it so often from Stump voters that I want to scream.

        • CP

          Say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, dude, at least it’s an ethos.

    • Shantanu Saha

      I’m sure James Buchanan is sitting pretty saying “I’m no longer the worst!” while he roasts in Hell.

      • The Lorax

        He has regular arm wrestling contests with Andrew Johnson to see who claims the worst-president prize.

        • Shantanu Saha

          And now they’re both golf-clapping the Trump ascendancy.

    • Murc

      What the hell am I supposed to teach my (future) children about the government and the Presidency, assuming it survives until then.

      That many of their fellow countryman are bad people, and they will often fill the government with even worse people. That their lives, like the lives of their forefathers and the lives of their children, will be a constant political war against those people that they may not win.

      That anyone can be president, and that’s a terrible, frightening responsibility that the citizenry will often fail at exercising. That our system of government is designed about 50% to be functional and about 50% to entrench white supremacy and capitalism into our society.

      Or, as you said:

      That this is an office that can apparently be occupied by anyone at all, no matter how ignorant, crude, cruel and stupid, and that there is no basis for admiration?

      That’s the truth. None of your notional children will thank you for concealing it from them.

      • bender

        I applaud this, and what C. V. Danes says below.

    • What do we tell them now? That this is an office that can apparently be occupied by anyone at all, no matter how ignorant, crude, cruel and stupid, and that there is no basis for admiration? That this office is nothing more than a prize which must be protected with vigilance out of a fear of disaster, because you never know – someone like this might have the office someday?

      Yes. And that that is why they should not become complacent about our electoral process.

      • addicted44

        I suspect President Trump will ensure that the 18-29 year olds 4 years from now are far less complacent and dismissive of candidates because SPEECHES than the 18-29 year olds in 2016. I suspect the 18-29 year olds in 2020 will be far more considerate about the fact voting to satisfy their inner purity angels, or not voting at all because no one is perfect enough for them, has consequences, such as their college mate having their parents deported, or despite having no memory of any other country than the US, being deported themselves.

        Whether that will make up for the disaster that the next 4 years will be, and compensates for the loss of votes due to voter suppression, remains to be seen, but I am slightly hopeful that the complacent, too pure for thou liberals from 2016 will be recognized for the assholes they are, instead of the martyrs they pretend to be, not the least, by themselves.

        • efgoldman

          I suspect the 18-29 year olds in 2020 will be far more considerate about the fact voting to satisfy their inner purity angels, or not voting at all because no one is perfect enough for them, has consequences

          Maybe? Some of them? Others joining the cohort and becoming young idiots will replace them.

        • Redwood Rhiadra

          suspect the 18-29 year olds in 2020 will be far more considerate about the fact voting to satisfy their inner purity angels, or not voting at all because no one is perfect enough for them, has consequences,

          I suspect you will be wrong. I have yet to meet even ONE Stein voter or Bernie write-in voter who regrets their decision. They’re all very, very proud of how they helped defeat the corrupt neoliberal Clinton.

    • Gator90

      You never know when the kids might ask you something awkward. The other day my 8 year old daughter asked me why President Clinton was impeached. I said, Ummm, er, umm, he kissed a girl he wasn’t supposed to. (Good answer? Hell if I know. It seemed to suffice, though.)

      How well I remember the anguished cries from the 90s: What will we tell the children??? And here I am 20 years later, telling the children. Go figure. (Fortunately I have not — yet — been called upon to explain DJT’s most notoriously uncouth remark.)

      • N__B

        I thought I would go my entire life without discussing oral sex with my mother. Ken Starr proved me wrong.

        • tsam

          Wow–as if there wasn’t already enough reasons to hate that fool.

      • Pat

        Eight years olds can be pretty sophisticated. I explained gender transitioning to our daughter at the age of four (she asked, believe it or not) and gender preference to our son at five. They are pretty easy conversations.

        I can’t even remember the first time infidelity came up in family discussions.

      • Solar System Wolf

        I had to explain the pussy-grabbing remark to my kids. I would have rather explained the blow job. At least that was consensual.

    • LeeEsq

      I feel the same way. Nixon and Reagan might have beliefs that go against all of our principles but they were trying to work for the good of the United States and its citizens as they saw it. Trump is a person who ran for the Presidency for his own benefit and vanity.

      • (((ebg2465)))

        “Nixon and Reagan were trying to work for the good of the United States and its citizens as they saw it” Really? Did either of them ever seriously demonstrate care for the rights, dignity, and humanity of African Americans, LGBT or woman?

        • Origami Isopod

          Well, now you're bringing identity politics into it.

        • tsam

          Yeah–there’s evidence that both were substantially less ultrafuckedup than Trump, but both were out to get their big benefactors richer than shit, and Nixon has Vietnam to answer for. Even back then there wasn’t an argument that any of that was in the interest of the country.

    • JMV Pyro

      That this is an office that can apparently be occupied by anyone at all, no matter how ignorant, crude, cruel and stupid, and that there is no basis for admiration? That this office is nothing more than a prize which must be protected with vigilance out of a fear of disaster, because you never know – someone like this might have the office someday?

      I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad lesson to teach kids, and people in general.

      Our institutions are what we make of them and if bad people get elevated into those institutions, chances are they will try to warp those institutions to work for their own selfish ends.
      Trump’s not the first person to do this in US history and chances are he ain’t gonna be the last. To me that just says that I shouldn’t rely on institutions or norms to save my country or make it “good”. I actually have to work at making it good.

      Plus, there’s the whole race angle, which complicates the notion of the government having “the peoples” best interests in mind.

      • Bruce B.

        I was going to say just this, pretty much. “Bad people will take advantage of others who lack commitments that keep them from joining in, and of people of every kind of morals and intelligence who happen to fall for a scheme. They’ll always be there. Good people have to come together and keep working together to push back.”

        That and:

        “Some people say ‘I’m a good person, and therefore what I do is good.’ That’s just the wrong way around. If you’re a good person, you show it by doing good things.”

    • bender

      By the time your future children are old enough to ask, we’ll know whether this was an aberration or a trend.

  • cleek

    this sounds like parody. it’s the premise of a new Mel Brooks movie, right ?

    • njorl

      Governor Le Petomane is looking like a step up at this point.

  • charluckles

    I need one of these jobs were I can be spectacularly obviously wrong and still get editorial space in the NYT.

  • AMK

    He reflects the people who put him there–you think the average WWC GOP voter’s media diet is any more sophisticated? (minus the Twitter fixation).

    • Warren Terra

      Oh, absolutely. He is in so many ways the product and the expression of Fox News, right-wing talk radio, Breitbart, etcetera. A largely united media monstrosity engineered to cultivate and feed upon disinformation, ignorance, and imbecility has inevitably placed someone who is the distillation of those traits in high office.

      • Jonny Scrum-half

        Amen. That’s the problem. I just don’t know how it gets resolved favorably.

  • Alex.S

    Are there any non-Trump articles/examples of the “Leader easily manipulated by their assistants” genre?

    I can think of several “Leader is walled off by their assistants”. Or “Leader is assisted by sycophants who won’t stand up to them”. But it’s bizarre to have so many articles by so many people bragging about how easy it is for them to manipulate their boss.

    • Warren Terra

      You got this with George W Bush, too, but not in nearly so ludicrous a fashion, and Bush was backed up by a much more professional, informed, experienced, and unified staff, albeit evil.

      • DamnYankees

        My impression of the Bush situation wasn’t that he was being manipulated on a day to day basis in order to control his mood or anything, it was just that he was an incurious person who was capable of being persuaded by appealing to his sense of cosmic good and evil (e.g. the Iraq War is good and you are a righteous Christian Crusader). In other words, relatively normal adult, human persuasion, albeit not necessarily academic or intellectual. But it wasn’t the sort of “we need to give this toddler a lollypop” stuff we are seeing with Trump.

        • NonyNony

          the Bush situation wasn’t that he was being manipulated on a day to day basis in order to control his mood or anything, it was just that he was an incurious person who was capable of being persuaded by appealing to his sense of cosmic good and evil

          I think this gives W too much (or not enough) credit. There are stories out there about him getting bad advice, but there are also stories out there about him being the guy who was the driving force. He was pushing to invade Iraq – looking for a reason to do it long before 9/11 happened. And he was constantly pushing his other policies as well – he set the agenda for his disastrous tax cuts, and he was the one who decided to tackle Social Security privatization.

          I don’t know why people want Bush to be an easily-led moron who was taken down the path to the Dark Side by Cheney and Rove. He wasn’t our smartest president to be sure but he also wasn’t nearly as easily led as people think. It seems more like he just didn’t care about details. He wanted to invade Iraq and didn’t care about the details. He wanted to privatize Social Security and didn’t care about the details of making it popular. He wanted to have his tax cuts and he didn’t care about the fallout.

          (I will agree that Trump is in a completely different category though. I don’t think we’ve ever seen its like – the combination of a President who doesn’t know what he’s doing with advisors who also don’t know what they’re doing and wouldn’t be listened to even if they did might be unprecedented.)

          • CP

            I don’t know why people want Bush to be an easily-led moron who was taken down the path to the Dark Side by Cheney and Rove. He wasn’t our smartest president to be sure but he also wasn’t nearly as easily led as people think. It seems more like he just didn’t care about details. He wanted to invade Iraq and didn’t care about the details. He wanted to privatize Social Security and didn’t care about the details of making it popular. He wanted to have his tax cuts and he didn’t care about the fallout.

            Exactly this.

            I totally believe that he was a lazy fuck who enjoyed leaving the bulk of the work to his cabinet while he went golfing, and an intellectually incurious tool who didn’t feel the need to learn anything that would’ve enabled him to be competent… but that’s not to say that he had to be tricked into any of the catastrophes that happened on his watch, or that he would have acted differently if he’d known more. He just didn’t care.

          • Just_Dropping_By

            I don’t know why people want Bush to be an easily-led moron who was taken down the path to the Dark Side by Cheney and Rove.

            Seems very easily explainable by reference to the various “smug liberals/Democrats” opinion pieces to come out over the last year — the Democratic narrative for every Republican president from Eisenhower onward other than Nixon is that they were a drooling retards differently abled individuals.

            • NonyNony

              That’s not right. Eisenhower is seen as a decent president for the most part (though I would take issue with it myself – his poor decisions re: Iran alone move him out of the “decent” camp in my book), and HW Bush is seen as smart but fairly evil.

              It’s the specific triple-play of Reagan, W and Trump that people point to as the dumb ones. And even there, it was mostly very specific to W before Trump came along – people assumed that Reagan had Alzheimer’s for most of his presidency, not that he was stupid.

              • so-in-so

                It was a GOP politician who referred to Reagan as “an amiable dunce”. Both sides?

              • Warren Terra

                Reagan was seen as a competent professional actor with no knowledge or interest in any aspects of the President’s actual job long before dementia was suspected.

              • CP

                It’s the specific triple-play of Reagan, W and Trump that people point to as the dumb ones.

                Yes, I’d agree with this.

                On HW Bush, my anecdotal experience is that liberals are actually divided. There are a lot of people who think he’s evil, but also a lot of others who think he was the last sane and relatively even-keeled Republican president we had (or likely will have in this lifetime).

                • mongolia

                  isn’t the argument re: HW that he did good wrt to the dissolution of the ussr, which could have been a *lot* more disastrous, with, say his predecessor in charge, and that he was meh-to-poor in terms of domestic policy, but generally better than reagan? and that he was essentially reagan’s fall guy, so retroactively we should credit reagan with at least some of hw’s popularity?

                  don’t know enough of the history and was a toddler during his presidency, but this is what my (selective) reading has informed me about the topic.

                • bender

                  HW Bush had a strong sense of the limitations of presidential power. At the time he was criticized by those right of center for not overthrowing Saddam Hussein and by those left of center for not proposing major domestic policy initiatives.

                  I wasn’t thrilled when a director of the CIA was elected president, but it turned out better than I expected.

          • njorl

            If you do a search of (bush iraq) from 1-1-2001 to 9-10-2001, it doesn’t yield much. There are few major outlet news stories other than those about the retaliatory raid for the plot to assassinate GHW Bush.
            If you do the same search for (bush china) there are a large number of major outlet stories about ratcheting up tensions with China.

            Bush had a lot of PNAC signatories in his administration – it was practically unavoidable if you hired Republicans – but of the big three foreign policy positions, only Rumsfeld was a signer. Rice and Powell were not.

            If anything, it bolsters the point about Bush not being easily manipulated. He was surrounded by Iraq war hawks and resisted them before 9-11. Maybe the political advisors who wanted to accentuate the differences from Clinton prevailed in their manipulation over the foreign policy people. I don;t know.

            • CP

              I think Bush had a better grasp of politics and the national mood than the ideologues around him. It explains his resistance to the PNAC crowd both before 9/11 (when they already wanted to invade Iraq) and during his second term (when they now wanted to invade Iran). He realized that the pre-9/11 country wouldn’t get behind an undertaking of the magnitude of the Iraq War, and he realized that the country by the mid-2000s wouldn’t have been willing to jump into a third war, not with the first two already in such deep shit.

        • Alex.S

          Yeah.

          On things George W. Bush cared about, he would align his staff around a specific set of goals and ask them to provide information to match those goals. On things he didn’t care about, he would fill out the staffing at that agency based on GOP recommendations and then they could do the same thing.

          But it was the standard issue “I will provide only the facts that support the goal” manipulation, and not “You have to read this op-ed in the NYT that says you should have a tax plan now!” manipulation.

      • brad

        Indeed, the central difference between the Cheney and Trump Admins is competency.

        • marduk

          If anyone had told me in 2016 that the Cheney “greeted as liberators”, “heckuv a job Brownie” maladministration would be memorable for their relative competency I would have laughed in their fucking face.

          • Pat

            So true.

    • Richard Gadsden

      There have to have been monarchs like this.

      Charles I of England and Scotland had some of the petulance and ability to be manipulated.

      Charles II of Spain was, well, not up to much.

      I’m trying to remember my Chinese history, because they had so many awful emperors.

      Over to Byzantium, one of the Angeloi, perhaps?

      • Q.E.Dumbass

        In fairness, the insanity of the early Chinese emperors was primarily due to them constantly chugging mercury to become immortal.

      • John F

        Also the Ottomans came up with what had to be the worst possible way to prepare royal heirs for future rule- kept under house arrest to prevent both coup/usurpation attempts and keep fratricide among heirs to a minimum.

      • CP

        The analogy I’ve heard the most has been Kaiser Wilhelm. To the point of “cabinet ministers actively kept information from him that might have hurt his feelings, sent him into a towering rage, and therefore led to consequences nobody wanted.”

        • Pete

          I’ve heard that as well.

        • sibusisodan

          That part is pretty analogous. But he also had actual political goals and some basic understanding of how to bring them about (said understanding being of course at the mercy of his temper and his ego).

          With Trump, I don’t see any method at all. His political goal appears to be ‘read nice headlines about himself’.

          Someone could do the world a favour by funding The Daily Trump, purporting to be a real outfit providing news of his wondrous accomplishments in all fields.

          • CP

            That part is pretty analogous. But he also had actual political goals and some basic understanding of how to bring them about (said understanding being of course at the mercy of his temper and his ego).

            With Trump, I don’t see any method at all. His political goal appears to be ‘read nice headlines about himself’.

            True. Then again…

            It’s a weird thing about our movement conservatives. In every party/ideology in the world, you’ve got some measure of “the rulers have goals for the nation” and some measure of “the rulers are just selfish egotists.” But with our right wingers, the twist is that selfish egotism is the ideology. No need to pretend that you’re working (or even believe that you’re working) for The Workers Of The World, or for God the Compassionate and Merciful, or whatever. The belief system is literally “what is good for the rich will automatically be good for everyone else, or at worst it’ll still be the best possible outcome, so whatever goals you might have that are about more than yourself, you serve them best by being a complete selfish prick.”

            That this would ultimately result in the kind of completely dysfunctional narcissist(s?) we have in the White House now is really not surprising, and arguably the logical endpoint of what started with Reagan.

      • njorl

        After the fall of the Han dynasty, China had about 90 years of civil war. Emperor Wu united China, then insisted that his developmentally disabled son, Hui, succeed him when he died 10 years later. Another century plus of fighting ensued. There was no reunification after, just an acceptance of the reality of multiple sovereign states.

        It probably just underscores a deeper political and cultural reality, that there had to be multiple states in China at the time, but you never know.

    • cleek

      Are there any non-Trump articles/examples of the “Leader easily manipulated by their assistants” genre?

      Grima Wormtounge?

  • NewishLawyer

    It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

    The whole thing is like a precipice and right now it is hard to see how much damage will be done but there is still a large part of me that wonders if Bush’s recessions is going to look like boom times compared to what Trump does.

    Everything seems to go into a void where Trump acts and this is scary because you don’t know if the AHCA is going to die in a Senate committee or emerge with relative horribleness.

    • Dennis Orphen

      there is still a large part of me that wonders if Bush’s recessions is going to look like boom times compared to what Trump does.

      One of the worst aspects of unbridled grift/klept-ocracy is that it allocates resources in the worst possible manner, which is exactly the opposite of what a functioning, healthy economy is supposed to do.

      Lookout Mama, there’s a white boat comin’ up the river……

  • Warren Terra

    I’d just like to point out that we were told weeks or months ago that the adults – McMaster in particular – were taking charge, and that this unqualified hack TV personality KT MacFarland was getting shipped off to Singapore. She’s still deputy NSC, still in the White House, and apparently slipping Trump mash notes from the fever swamps of the internets.

    • DamnYankees

      It’s not really clear that this hasn’t happened. There were stories a while ago about how Trump was actually taken out of the chain of command for certain military decisions – isn’t that what it means for the adults to be taking charge? I don’t think anyone thought it means that these people would be able to control Trump – it just means they’ll be making decisions without him.

      • John F

        it just means they’ll be making decisions without him.

        Of course they are gonna be making decisions without him, the problem is he’s the CIC – what happens when he decides to step in and do things?

      • Colin Day

        Are all of Trump’s staffers adults?

    • LeeEsq

      I’m reminded of the scene at the end of the Big Short where the two young characters walk into Bear Sterns and one of them asks where the adults are.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Yeah,but 2007 was like, ten years ago! Nothing bad can ever happen again!

        (I was just thinking today about an American aviator in WWII who was shot down over the Pacific and survived a long time in a life raft, only to be rescued by the Japanese navy and enslaved for a few more years.)

        • LeeEsq

          Thats still better than dying of thirst and starvation on a raft.

  • rewenzo

    It’s interesting because Politico presents this as a WH messaging or discipline problem caused by the general dysfunction at the White House. But the core problem here is that our President is a moron who is massively ignorant of all things political, governmental, scientific, military, etc. and who also lacks the ability to exercise critical thought.

    Like, all the discipline and information control programs in the world aren’t going to solve that problem. At best, if the system works perfectly, you have a Weekend at Bernie’s style presidency where decisions are made by consensus before they get to the President and he signs them and never appears in public to be asked about it.

    But if this is what you’re aiming for, in what sense is this guy the President, the guy that 46% of the country voted for?

    • SatanicPanic

      But if this is what you’re aiming for, in what sense is this guy the President, the guy that 46% of the country voted for?

      About half of them were voting for NOT HILLARY and the other half put their faith in Donald J Trump, they were destined to be disappointed.

      • humanoid.panda

        Like, all the discipline and information control programs in the world aren’t going to solve that problem. At best, if the system works perfectly, you have a Weekend at Bernie’s style presidency where decisions are made by consensus before they get to the President and he signs them and never appears in public to be asked about it.

        This is how the Soviet Union worked under Brezhnev. Which, in the grand scale of thing, not such a horrible thing compared to some alternatives.

        • bender

          And Brezhnev didn’t have term limits.

        • rewenzo

          But then the problem we have here is not “White House aides are always stabbing each other in the back.” It’s “the President is a potato.”

          All this focus on the process misses the forest for the trees. At the end of the day, the President is still a potato.

    • JMV Pyro

      But the core problem here is that our President is a moron who is massively ignorant of all things political, governmental, scientific, military, etc. and who also lacks the ability to exercise critical thought.

      To his supporters, this is called “common sense” and is part of his charm.

      • Gabriel Ratchet

        The old saying, “common sense is what tells you that the earth is flat” comes to mind …

  • John F

    He’s even starting to lose Ann Coulter:

    She said that “everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque,” but they’d been banking on Trump to act on the issues — and so far he hasn’t. “It’s not like I’m out yet, but boy, things don’t look good. I’ve said to other people, ‘It’s as if we’re in Chicago and Trump tells us he’s going to get us to L.A. in six days. But for the first three days we are driving towards New York. Yes, it is true he can still turn around and get us to L.A. in three days, but I’m a little nervous.'”

    Of course what bothers her is the lack of competence… but still…

    If nothing else, when (not if) Bannon is fired, the pooh flinging between Trump and the Breitbartian flying monkeys will be entertaining as all hell.

    There is a type of conservative where pissing off libruls is the sole “end” – but there’s another type – for whom pissing off libruls is a good thing in and off itself, but they want more, they want

    to suck the marrow from their bones and grind their skulls to powder … to tear down their cities, blacken their sky, sow their ground with salt … to completely utterly erase them.

    Trump doesn’t actually want THAT, he doesn’t actually care about conservatives or liberals, he cares solely about himself.
    If the Dems actually take the House in 2018, Trump will attempt* to triangulate so quickly he’ll suffer extreme whiplash and everyone within 2 blocks of him will get tossed sound by the resultant cyclone generated by his sudden rotational velocity.

    *Attempt, but he won’t succeed.

    • Pat

      So sorry that you had to read Coulter. What did you do wrong?

    • Thrax

      the pooh flinging

      Oh bother.

      • John F

        Ember: I’m leaving. I’m going. I just had one or two things to do. Mainly number two. I have … befouled the wellspring.
        The Beast: Pardon me?
        Ember: I have left my divine elimination in the fount of all magic. And it’s a stinker. I really hope you weren’t planning to drink from it, it’s hardly potable.
        The Beast: You … you what?!
        Ember: Left my … leavings! A godly floater. Behind. In the wellspring.
        The Beast: …
        Ember: I pooped in it. Am I not making this very clear?

  • altofront

    For those who don’t click through, here’s the anecdote Goldmacher begins with:

    White House chief of staff Reince Priebus issued a stern warning at a recent senior staff meeting: Quit trying to secretly slip stuff to President Trump.

    Just days earlier, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming, according to four White House officials familiar with the matter.

    Trump quickly got lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an Internet hoax that’s circulated for years. Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it.

    I’m no longer surprised by Trump’s stupidity, if I ever was, but I still marvel at the sheer incompetence of the entire crew that’s working for him.

    • cleek

      the stupid leading the insane

    • CP

      White House chief of staff Reince Priebus issued a stern warning at a recent senior staff meeting: Quit trying to secretly slip stuff to President Trump.

      Of course, I doubt if this means anything more substantial than “I want to be the only one who’s able to lead the president around by the nose like this!”

      • Pete

        In a well-run WH, the Chief of Staff should mostly control access and information flow.

        The “Emperor’s court” organization would have been a problem even if everyone involved were competent and the President weren’t at least half-cracked.

        • CP

          In a well-run WH, the Chief of Staff should mostly control access and information flow.

          Sure. My point was, I have no doubt that what he’s feeding Trump is just as much a stream of bullshit as anyone else’s. He just doesn’t want to anybody else to cross the streams, as it were.

    • No Longer Middle Aged Man

      I’m interpreting the fact that someone attached a name to that anecdote to mean that that someone really really wants K.T. McFarland gone. If she’s still Assistant National Security Adviser a month from now I’m predicting that Trump will nominate Bernie Kerik as the new FBI chief.

      • The Lorax

        Harry Shearer can update his Bernie Kerik song!

    • dogboy

      Again, Trump does receive a daily binder of news. Remember way back in the fall when Hills got roasted b/c HER EMAILZ showed her asking to have stuff printed out, so old so clueless harhar. And now we have a guy getting a daily picturebook of the internet. Sad. No really I’m crying.

    • JonH

      “I’m no longer surprised by Trump’s stupidity, if I ever was, but I still marvel at the sheer incompetence of the entire crew that’s working for him.”

      In this case, it isn’t incompetence. I doubt McFarland cared that it was a hoax or not, the point was to goad Trump into a knee-jerk environmental disaster or feed his anti-media paranoia. Mission accomplished.

      The only reason White House staff would get perturbed about that is the blowback: Trump being made to look like a fool for referring to a hoax, or making off-the-cuff policy announcements that make no sense, and making himself look like a fool.

      The game is “manipulate the dunce” to obtain preferred outcomes.

      • cleek

        I doubt McFarland cared that it was a hoax or not

        McFarland herself is a conspiracy-minded loon with a long history of making shit up. i doubt she was trying to manipulate him so much as she was trying to share some bullshit she found on the internet.

    • humanoid.panda

      I’m no longer surprised by Trump’s stupidity, if I ever was, but I still marvel at the sheer incompetence of the entire crew that’s working for him.

      From TPM’s story about McFarland:

      Well, she also tried to run against Hillary Clinton when Clinton ran for reelection to the Senate in 2006. She lost the GOP primary to John Spencer. But along the way she … well, I don’t quite know what to call it. But in addition to a seemingly lifelong penchant for dubious self-promotion and resume inflation McFarland claimed that Clinton was so worried about her candidacy that she sent secret helicopters to spy on her house in the Hamptons and also cased her apartment Manhattan. “Hillary Clinton is really worried about me, and is so worried, in fact, that she had helicopters flying over my house in Southampton today taking pictures.”

      McFarland’s bio also says this: “Ms. McFarland held national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan Administrations: as an aide to Dr. Henry Kissinger on the NSC Staff (1970-76);” McFarland was born in 1951, making her either 18 or 19 when she went to work as an aide to Kissinger in 1970.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        But along the way she … well, I don’t quite know what to call it. But in addition to a seemingly lifelong penchant for dubious self-promotion and resume inflation McFarland claimed that Clinton was so worried about her candidacy that she sent secret helicopters to spy on her house in the Hamptons and also cased her apartment Manhattan. “Hillary Clinton is really worried about me, and is so worried, in fact, that she had helicopters flying over my house in Southampton today taking pictures.”

        How do you know that wasn’t just Barbara Streisand, huh?

        Ugh. Loons like this, you want to send a helicopter over their house a few times to get them making asses of themselves.

    • Dennis Orphen

      If you are both competent and working for Trump/GOP you are willfully EVIL, whether lawful, neutral or chaotic.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Just days earlier, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming,

      They think this means something. We have these fools in charge, and I apologize to the poor bastards out there drilling ice cores, the ones tracking glaciers retreating, the statisticians, and, of course, future generations.

  • John F

    BTW, Polling aggregators (Pollster/538) maybe smoothing out out a bit, but there seems to be a definite dip in Trump’s popularity n the wake of Comey.

    Ras went from -6 to -12
    Gallup went from -13 to -19

    be interesting to see how long it lasts

    • humanoid.panda

      At this point, pundits are spinning Trump polling at the high 30s as a a stunning political triumph, because as goes the random roadside diner they stopped at last week, so goes the nation.

  • fd2

    other than tweeting and tracking his mentions

    In these dark times, we must take small comforts where we can.

    My small comfort for this week is that the President of the United states sees goatse, tubgirl, and lemonparty at least once a day.

    • JonH

      God I hope so.

      • Q.E.Dumbass

        totes mcgoatse

    • MyNameIsZweig

      Has he been hanging out on fuckedcompany.com, then?

    • Pete

      Not being a prolific Internet trawler, I wasn’t sure exactly what you were talking about.

      I really should have known better than to just hit Google search.

      • JMV Pyro

        Ouch.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          What has been Goatseen cannot be unGoatseen.

      • Not being a prolific Internet trawler, I wasn’t sure exactly what you were talking about.

        Me neither (for the latter two).

        I really should have known better than to just hit Google search.

        ProTip: private windows.

      • Dennis Orphen

        Many years ago I saw a flyer stapled to a utility pole advertising Lemonparty.com. Of course I was curious, but was smart enough to sorta google it, but only read about it and not go directly to the URL. Naturally the site stayed unvisited.

  • LeeEsq

    What really galls me is that there are people who try to blame the Democratic Party for the current mess by arguing that since everybody knew Trump was like this, the Democratic Party should not have nominated with Clinton’s high unfavorable rating. Instead, we should have found a mystical, magical candidate that could have beaten Trump.

    I say we put the shame and guilt on the Republicans and third party voters who could not bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton even though they knew Trump was wild and out of control. They said they could not vote for Clinton because of vague, inchoate, and downright conspiratorial criticisms.

    • John Revolta

      I was about to say “Well to be fair the polls yaddayadda” but y’ know what, screw it. Fuck anyone who couldn’t bring themselves to pull the goddamn lever for Clinton for whatever reason at all.

    • so-in-so

      What really galls me is that there are people who try to blame the Democratic Party for the current mess by arguing that since everybody knew Trump was like this, the Democratic Party should not have nominated with Clinton’s high unfavorable rating. Instead, we should have found a mystical, magical candidate that could have beaten Trump.

      Yes, but the management did finally ban PM. I suppose he or like-minded souls do inhabit other sites.

    • mongolia

      on the one hand: serial and routine sexual assault, stiffing contractors, racism, sexism, ignorance, personal medical and financial opacity.

      on the other hand: emails, saying superpredators 20 years ago, advocacy of a federal minimum wage 3 $ less than bernie.

      i dunno, tough call guys. not sure we can really blame the people who didn’t see a dimes worth of difference between the two.

  • Warren Terra

    One telling aspect of this White House (from a discussion with a White House reporter on NPR’s On The Media, if I recall): apparently the staffers and players are incredibly happy to talk to the media, off the record, and to dish dirt on each other and about Trump – but they’re unable to talk policy, at all. Whether this is because they as individuals have no great interest in or knowledge of policy, or because the White House doesn’t really have collectively agreed policy goals, wasn’t really clear to me.

    In any case: it’s exactly the opposite of what you’d want in the people staffing the White House, and it’s also exactly what you’d expect from a bunch of freaks chosen by a reality TV impressario. It’s like they think they’re in a trashier, even less substantial version of NBC’s The West Wing.

    • Linnaeus

      The culture of the Trump administration really looks like a vipers’ nest (pardon the insult to vipers) in that it appears that one advances in influence by knifing others in the back. That can happen in any organization, even well run ones, but this administration seems to be an extreme example of it.

      • Dennis Orphen

        Where have you gone, Philip Wylie?

        A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, (fling) poo poo poo

        (Todays suggested reading: Finnley Wren)

        • Origami Isopod

          Wylie would have had meltdowns over the specter of Hillary Clinton bringing “momism” into the White House.

          • Dennis Orphen

            You know your stuff, and I respect that. You also call me out on by bullshit when I deserve it, and I really respect that, especially because the world would be a better place if more people were, rather than be enabled, tacitly, if not actively.

            Also, I already agreed somewhat with you on the momism, which is one of the reasons why the suggested reading was a different book than GOV. The other reasons were the possible perception of anti-semitism and the little speech about how the USA has always been a fraud towards the end of FW, which I have wanted to repeat in many comments here, but don’t have access to a copy, or the time to do the google-fu, usually. But maybe another commenter could ‘paint that fence’ for me? You? CassandraLeo? WJTS (or is it WTJS)?

    • Pete

      …but they’re unable to talk policy, at all. Whether this is because they as individuals have no great interest in or knowledge of policy, or because the White House doesn’t really have collectively agreed policy goals, wasn’t really clear to me.

      My take is that the first is likely true of some of them, but the second is absolutely true for this administration. For example, the Bannon faction, the Pence faction, and perhaps the NY economics guys all have separate sets of policy goals.

  • ASV

    I stand by my circa November 9 belief that one of the most effective things we could do to disrupt Trump is enormous-scale, coordinated Twitter trolling.

    • Cheap Wino

      All with #StupidestPresidentEver

    • mongolia

      #stoppresidentbannon #stoppresidentkushner

      • Dennis Orphen

        Not much of a hashtagger (can we not understand words unless they are preceeded by a pound sign?) but, #kleptocracy?

        Don’t much hash-taggery

        But I know folksonomie

        • mongolia

          it’s in reference to the fact that apparently the removal of bannon from the nsc was in part due to the fact that djt was pissed at the pact that bannon was being called “president bannon” on twitter.

          who knows how true that is, but…i wouldn’t put anything that petty past him

          • Dennis Orphen

            I guess what I was trying to say is why do we need hashtags in general? Are there so many other ‘President Bannons’ that the various google and bing and whatever algoriths can’t deal with it? Or stupidest president ever gets you very little if anything about Trump but a lot about Frankie Pierce and Andy Johnson?

            • The Lorax

              It saves a step in Twitter. You can click on the word rather than entering it in the search box.

      • Gabriel Ratchet

        #TheFailedTrumpAdministration

    • sigaba

      I might mention here that I control a Twitter handle, @AmConMagDotCom, which I had originally intended as a parody account but which I got bored of. Ann Coulter and other usual suspects mention me all the time, it is most certainly not blocked by most of the susceptible parties.

      I guess hereby I am accepting submissions… Maybe I should start tweeting him good vibes to till the soil a little.

      • Dennis Orphen

        Technology hacks Darwinism by untethering our ability to survive from our fitness to do so.

        Sorta neo-nazi enough to slip by? Acknowlegement of Darwin(ism) would be enought to strangle it in it’s crib though (see what I did there?). Anyhizzle, that’s all I got right off the corked and overly pine tarred bat.