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On the Latest Questions About Trump

Every American president since George Washington has been accused by his critics of all sorts of unsavory things, but only rarely has it been widely suggested that the guy has gone completely bonkers. A striking number of people are now saying that about President Donald Trump, however, and reliable sources suggest those people include several high-ranking members of Trump’s administration.
On Tuesday The Washington Post released segments of “Fear,” a soon-to-be-released and already best-selling book by its veteran reporter Bob Woodard which quotes numerous anonymous but high-ranking administrations talking about how they strive everyday to protect the American public from the most dire consequences of their boss’s uninformed and impulsive and downright petty instincts. On Wednesday The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed piece by a high-ranking administration official headlined “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” which seeks to reassure the public that “many of the senior of the senior officials inside (Trump’s) administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
By both accounts many of the people closest to the President understand and act accordingly that in terms of intellectual and temperamental and moral and basic mental health fitness Trump is likely to do something consequentially crazy, and although Trump and his still-loyal spokespeople call it all “fake news” we’re reluctantly inclined to hopefully believe all of it.
Woodward and his fellow youthful late-night crime beat colleague Carl Bernstein broke the story of the Watergate break-in way back in the ’70s, and according to the old-fashioned newspaper rules of the time they got to follow the story it’s conclusion, which resulted in President Richard Nixon’s resignation and a Pulitzer Prize for the now-legendary journalism team of Woodward and Bernstein, and since then the now-wizened Woodward’s work has withstood the withering criticism of the next eight presidents he has investigated. Most of Woodward’s journalistic first drafts of history have been painstakingly even-handed, acknowledging each administrations’ failures while eviscerating its failures and admitting how very complicated these things are, and even if this book is more weighted to criticism we’ll count on Woodward’s 40-plus-years record of impeccable sourcing and meticulous tape-recording of double sources more than we do Trump’s dubious record of public statements.
Trump is already saying that the high-ranking anonymous administration official who penned that alarming op-ed in today’s edition is just a “fake news” figment of the “failing” New York Times’ imagination, but he’s also “tweeting” that whoever it is be immediately be turned over to be tried on a charge of treason, and we don’t doubt that the author of their anonymous op-ed piece is an actual high-ranking administration official. The New York Times is indeed as liberally slanted as those right-wing talk radio show hosts will warn you, and over the past century-and-half or so they’ve clearly gotten some things consequential things clearly wrong, but we’ll reluctantly admit that in all that time they’ve generated less outright “fake news” than Trump has “tweeted” in just the past three years or so.
Trump and his apologists can rightly boast that the unemployment rate is down and the stock markets are still up since his election, and that no new shooting wars have lately broken out, but it’s harder to argue that it couldn’t have been achieved by any other Republican president without all the Trump-ian craziness, and that it might not have happened at all without the restraining influences of the very best people he somehow wound up appointing to his administration. Pretty much every day Trump tells a press gaggle or “tweets” something that is jarringly discordant with longstanding norms or present reality, and pretty much everyday the “fake news” broadcasts it, and although every single day we try to keep our eye on the unemployment rates and the stock markets it’s hard to shake a bad feeling about all of this.

— Bud Norman

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The Privilege of Paying

One has to admire the steadfastness, if nothing else, of the president’s most die-hard supporters. Lately they must feel like Millerites on the day after the world was supposed to end, still insisting despite The Great Disappointment that all the prophecies were true.
The unfolding Obamacare debacle is especially testing for the true believer’s faith, as it is has now become indisputable that millions who liked their insurance plan their doctors won’t be able to keep them, most will see increased costs rather than a $2,500 annual windfall, millions will remain uninsured, at least one dime will be added to the national debt, and none of the other grandiose promises will ever be kept. Some will go right ahead and dispute it, insisting that it’s all lies told by hateful racists intent on preventing the president from heroically saving the country, but these days even the non-Fox media are reporting the bad news and there are more people with very authentic-looking cancellation letters than could possibly be in on even the vastest right-wing conspiracy. A more inventive apologetics is now required to justify the prophesy of hope and change, and the more inventive apologists seem to have seized on the argument people just don’t realize how lucky they are.
Consider the case of poor Lori Gottlieb, who recently penned an op-ed piece for the notoriously right-wing New York Times to lament that Obamacare had caused her to lose the insurance plan she liked and was promised she could keep and has forced her to pay an extra $5,400 a year for a plan that includes maternity coverage and other features she does not need. Her bigger gripe, though, was that when she posted her complaints on Facebook she found little sympathy for her plight and instead was peppered with comments that she was a selfish shrew who should be grateful for the privilege of contributing to a system that will provide quality medical care to everyone. Gottlieb is apparently a committed liberal, judging by the Facebook friends she keeps and the fact that she doesn’t dispute the preposterous premise that everyone will now be getting quality medical care, but she’s not so commited that she’s willing to shell out an extra $5,400 a year for utopia and she seems rather disappointed that her fellow liberals aren’t a bit more sympathetic to her own workingman’s plight.
Some of the professional Democrats trotted out the same appeal to altruism a while back, but it seems to have polled poorly or the focus groups didn’t like it as they have since moved on to inflating their enrollment numbers and downplaying the technical problems and dismissing all those part time jobs as anecdotal evidence and otherwise insisting that things are not so bad as they might seem. Trying to tell the likes of Lori Gottlieb that she should be happy to cough up a sizeable chun of her family’s income for a system that is going to lower the quality of medical care for everyone and leave millions uninsured was always going to be difficult, and the true believers’ continued efforts to do so reek of desperation.

— Bud Norman