In “The Internal Invasion” Bobo babbles that America can unite by containing the new president. And “gemli” from Boston is pissed, and tells Bobo a thing or two. Prof. Krugman, in “Donald the Unready,” says the new president will be corrupt and crazy, but he’ll also be incompetent. Here’s Bobo:
This is a remarkable day in the history of our country. We have never over our centuries inaugurated a man like Donald Trump as president of the United States. You can select any random group of former presidents — Madison, Lincoln, Hoover, Carter — and none of them are like Trump.
We’ve never had a major national leader as professionally unprepared, intellectually ill informed, morally compromised and temperamentally unfit as the man taking the oath on Friday. So let’s not lessen the shock factor that should reverberate across this extraordinary moment.
It took a lot to get us here. It took a once-in-a-century societal challenge — the stresses and strains brought by the global information age — and it took a political system that was too detached and sclerotic to understand and deal with them.
There are many ways to capture this massive failure, but I’d rely on the old sociological distinction between gemeinschaft and gesellschaft. All across the world, we have masses of voters who live in a world of gemeinschaft: where relationships are personal, organic and fused by particular affections. These people define their loyalty to community, faith and nation in personal, in-the-gut sort of ways.
But we have a leadership class and an experience of globalization that is from the world of gesellschaft: where systems are impersonal, rule based, abstract, indirect and formal.
Many people in Europe love their particular country with a vestigial affection that is like family England, Holland or France. But meritocratic elites of Europe gave them an abstract intellectual construct called the European Union.
Many Americans think their families and their neighborhoods are being denuded by the impersonal forces of globalization, finance and technology. All the Republican establishment could offer was abstract paeans to the free market. All the Democrats could offer was Hillary Clinton, the ultimate cautious, remote, calculating, gesellschaft thinker.
It was the right moment for Trump, the ultimate gemeinschaft man. He is all gut instinct, all blood and soil, all about loyalty over detached reason. His business is a pre-modern family clan, not an impersonal corporation, and he is staffing his White House as a pre-modern family monarchy, with his relatives and a few royal retainers. In his business and political dealings, he simply doesn’t acknowledge the difference between private and public, personal and impersonal. Everything is personal, pulsating outward from his needy core.
The very thing that made him right electorally for this moment will probably make him an incompetent president. He is the ultimate anti-institutional man, but the president sits at the nerve center of a routinized, regularized four-million-person institution. If the figure at the center can’t give consistent, clear and informed direction, the whole system goes haywire, with vicious infighting and creeping anarchy.
Some on the left worry that we are seeing the rise of fascism, a new authoritarian age. That gets things exactly backward. The real fear in the Trump era should be that everything will become disorganized, chaotic, degenerate, clownish and incompetent.
The real fear should be that Trump is Captain Chaos, the ignorant dauphin of disorder. All the standard practices, norms, ways of speaking and interacting will be degraded and shredded. The political system and the economy will grind to a battered crawl.
That’s ultimately why this could be a pivotal day. For the past few decades our leadership class has been polarized. We’ve wondered if there is some opponent out there that could force us to unite and work together. Well, that opponent is being inaugurated, not in the form of Trump the man, but in the form of the chaos and incompetence that will likely radiate from him, month after month. For America to thrive, people across government will have to cooperate and build arrangements to quarantine and work around the president.
People in the defense, diplomatic and intelligence communities will have to build systems to prevent him from intentionally or unintentionally bumbling into a global crisis. People in his administration and in Congress will have to create systems so his ill-informed verbal spasms don’t derail coherent legislation.
If Trump’s opponents behave as clownishly as he does — like the congressmen who are narcissistically boycotting the inaugural — the whole government will get further delegitimized. But if people redouble their commitment to constitutional norms and practices, to substance and dignity, this thing is survivable.
Already you see the political system uniting to contain Trump. In negotiations on the Hill, administration officials feel free to ignore his verbiage on health care and other issues. Members of his team are already good at pretending that Trump doesn’t mean what he clearly does mean, on matters of NATO and much else.
I’ve been rewatching “Yes, Minister” these days. That was a hilarious British sitcom about a permanent government apparatus that contained and overruled a bumbling political master. America will need a beneficent version of that sort of clever cooperation.
With Trump it’s not the ideology, it’s the disorder. Containing that could be the patriotic cause that brings us together.
Shove it, Bobo. And while you’re at it, here’s a YOOGE plate of salted rat dicks for you, and a comment from “gemli:”
“Congressman John Lewis is boycotting the inauguration. Does he strike anyone as clownish? Maybe the humor is lost on a man who had his head bashed in by ignorant racist thugs. Maybe he wants to send the signal that things are not normal by refusing to show tacit approval of a man who has appointed similar thugs, ideologues and incompetent fools to his cabinet.
We’re not obligated to make a pact with the devil. We needn’t listen to conservatives like Mr. Brooks, who spent years preparing the political soil in which a malignant weed has taken root. We should be stunned by the bitter irony of the claim that Lewis and his cohort are behaving narcissistically when they refuse to watch a power-hungry, ignorant and psychologically unstable narcissist grope the bible and befoul the oath of office.
Brooks says we should pretend that things are normal. He says we should work within the system that obstructed an honorable man like Barack Obama, and that has promised to undo everything he stood for. We should embrace the decision of clueless voters who had no idea where their self-interests lay. We should bend our knee to the Bannons and the Carsons and the Ryans and to the Wall Street thieves who now guard the economy we depend on to survive.
We’re not getting the gemeinschaft or the gesellschaft. We’re getting the frickenshaft, and we’re not obliged to kneel before these idiots and take it.” Amen. Now here’s Prof. Krugman:
Betsy DeVos, whom Donald Trump has nominated as education secretary, doesn’t know basic education terms, doesn’t know about federal statutes governing special education, but thinks school officials should carry guns to defend against grizzly bears.
Monica Crowley, selected as deputy national security adviser, withdrew after it was revealed that much of her past writing was plagiarized. Many other national security positions remain unfilled, and it’s unclear how much if any of the briefing materials prepared by the outgoing administration have even been read.
Meanwhile Rex Tillerson, selected as secretary of state, casually declared that America would block Chinese access to bases in the South China Sea, apparently unaware that he was in effect threatening to go to war if China called his bluff.
Do you see a pattern here?
It was obvious to anyone paying attention that the incoming administration would be blatantly corrupt. But would it at least be efficient in its corruption?
Many Trump voters certainly thought they were choosing a smart businessman who would get things done. And even those who knew better may have hoped that the president-elect, his ego finally sated, would settle down to running the country — or at least delegate the boring business of governing America to people actually capable of doing the job.
But it’s not happening. Mr. Trump hasn’t pivoted, matured, whatever term you prefer. He’s still the insecure, short-attention-span egomaniac he always was. Worse, he is surrounding himself with people who share many of his flaws — perhaps because they’re the sort of people with whom he is comfortable.
So the typical Trump nominee, in everything from economics to diplomacy to national security, is ethically challenged, ignorant about the area of policy he or she is supposed to manage and deeply incurious. Some, like Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s choice as national security adviser, are even as addicted as their boss to internet conspiracy theories. This isn’t a team that will compensate for the commander in chief’s weaknesses; on the contrary, it’s a team that will amplify them.
Why does this matter? If you want a model for how the Trump-Putin administration is likely to function (or malfunction), it’s helpful to recall what happened during the Bush-Cheney years.
People tend to forget the extent to which the last Republican administration was also characterized by cronyism, the appointment of unqualified but well-connected people to key positions. It wasn’t as extreme as what we’re seeing now, but it was striking at the time. Remember “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”? And it caused very real damage.
In particular, if you want some notion of what Trump governance is likely to look like, consider the botched occupation of Iraq. People who knew anything about nation-building weren’t wanted; party loyalists — and corporate profiteers — took their place. There’s even a little-known connection: Betsy DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater, the mercenary outfit that, among other things, helped destabilize Iraq by firing into a crowd of civilians.
Now the conditions that prevailed in Iraq — blind ideology, contempt for expertise, effective absence of any enforcement of ethics rules — have come to America, but in a far more acute form.
And what will happen when we face a crisis? Remember, Katrina was the event that finally revealed the costs of Bush-era cronyism to all.
Crises of some kind are bound to occur on any president’s watch. They appear especially likely given the crew that’s coming in and their allies in Congress: Given the stated priorities of the people about to take charge, we could very well see collapsing health care, a trade war and a military standoff with China just in the next year.
But even if we somehow skirt those dangers, stuff always happens. Maybe there will be a new economic crisis, helped along by the rush to undo financial regulation. Maybe there will be a foreign affairs crisis, say over adventurism in the Baltics by Mr. Trump’s good friend Vladimir. Maybe it will be something we’re not thinking about. Then what?
Real crises need real solutions. They can’t be resolved with a killer tweet, or by having your friends in the F.B.I. or the Kremlin feed the media stories that take your problems off the front page. What the situation demands are knowledgeable, levelheaded people in positions of authority.
But as far as we know, almost no people meeting that description will be in the new administration, except possibly the nominee for defense secretary — whose nickname just happens to be “Mad Dog.”
So there you have it: an administration unprecedented in its corruption, but also completely unprepared to govern. It’s going to be terrific, let me tell you.