In “Trumpism at Its Best, Straight Up” Bobo tells us that the president’s speech to Congress offered a view of his movement without his distracting clownish behavior. Bobo, they probably shot him with a tranquilizer dart before he went on… Prof. Krugman, in “Goodbye Spin, Hello Raw Dishonesty,” says the first casualty of Trump is truth. Here’s Bobo:
Donald Trump gave us Trumpism at its best on Tuesday night. And that was useful because it gave us a view of the political movement he represents, without the clownish behavior.
The first thing we learned was that Trumpism is an utter repudiation of modern conservatism. For the last 40 years, the Republican Party has been a coalition of three tendencies. On Tuesday, Trump rejected or ignored all of them.
There used to be Republican foreign policy hawks, people who believed that it was in America’s interest to serve as a global policeman, actively preserving a democratic world order. Trump explicitly repudiated this worldview, drawing instead a sharp distinction between what’s good for America and what’s good for the rest of the world.
There used to be social conservatives, who believed that the moral fabric of the country had been weakened by secularism and the breakdown of the family. On Tuesday, Trump acted as if this group didn’t exist. He didn’t mention a single social issue — abortion, religious liberty, marriage, anything.
Finally, there used to be fiscal hawks who worried about the national debt. Trump demolished these people, too, vowing a long list of spending programs and preservation of entitlement programs.
The Republicans who applauded Trump on Tuesday were applauding their own repudiation. They did it because partisanship is stronger than philosophy, but also because Reagan conservatism no longer applies to current reality.
The second thing we saw was how Trump’s ethnic nationalism emerges from the wreckage of the old G.O.P. Healthy American political philosophies balance individualism and collectivism, personal freedom and communal cohesion.
The old Reagan conservatism was economic individualism restrained by social and religious traditionalism. Conservatives could embrace the creative destruction of the free market because they believed that the communal order could be held together by traditional morals and the collective attachments of family, church and local organizations.
But in the 1990s conservatism devolved from a flexible balance to a crude anti-government philosophy, the Leave Us Alone coalition. Republicans talked as if Americans’ problem was they were burdened by too many restraints and the solution was to get government off their backs.
That may have been true of the businessmen who make up the G.O.P. donor class, but regular voters felt adrift and uprooted, untethered and exposed. Regular Republicans didn’t want more freedom and more risk in their lives. They wanted more protection and security. They wanted a father figure government that would protect them from the disruptions of technological change and globalization.
Donald Trump came along and offered them exactly that kind of strong government. He is not offering compassionate government, the way a Democrat might, but he is offering forceful government.
Trump would use big government to crack down on enemies foreign and domestic. He’d use government to create millions of jobs for infrastructure projects. He’d use government to force or bribe corporations to locate plants here — the guarded order of national corporatism over the wide-open riskiness of free-market capitalism.
The third thing we learned is that much of Trump’s policy agenda contradicts his core philosophy. Trumpism is all about protection, security and order. But many of Trump’s policies would introduce more risk into people’s lives, not less.
Trump’s health care plan — tax credits and health saving accounts — would increase choice, instability and risk for individual health care consumers. His school-choice ideas might make for more competitive education markets, but they would also increase risk and insecurity for individual consumers.
It’s likely that Republican voters will simply reject these proposals. They’ve got enough risk in their lives. It’s quite likely that large elements of the Trump agenda will go down in flames because they go against what the country wants and even against his own core brand.
Fourth, Trump’s speech on Tuesday offered those of us who want to replace him an occasion to ask the big question: How in the 21st century should government unleash initiative and dynamism while also preserving order? Trump’s answer: Nationalize intimidation but privatize compassion. Don’t look to government to offer a warm hand; look to it to confront your enemies with a hard fist.
Human development research offers a different formula: All of life is a series of daring adventures from a secure base. If government can create a framework in which people grow up amid healthy families, nurturing schools, thick communities and a secure safety net, then they will have the resources and audacity to thrive in a free global economy and a diversifying skills economy.
This is a response that is open to welfare state policies from the left and trade and macroeconomic policies from the free-market right — a single-payer health care system married to the flat tax.
The last thing Trump showed was this: We’re in a state of radical flux. Political parties can turn on a dime. At least that means it’s a time to think anew.
Buyer’s remorse much, Bobo? Here’s what “zb” from BC had to say:
“In harking back to Reagan as time of legitimate conservativism you seem to have conveniently forgotten that he ran on a policy of pandering to southern hate; destroying government as the problem and not the solution; hyper phony patriotism; and nonsense economics.
What we have today is the natural result of Reagan and not a departure from it. Time to wake up to the fact that whatever you think you have been fighting for these decades is what helped get us to where we are.
That should have you feeling pretty sick right now.”
And now here’s Prof. Krugman:
The latest big buzz is about Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. It turns out that he lied during his confirmation hearings, denying that he had met with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. In fact, he met twice with the Russian ambassador, who is widely reported to also be a key spymaster.
Not incidentally, if this news hadn’t come to light, forcing Mr. Sessions to recuse himself, he would have supervised the investigation into Russian election meddling, possibly in collusion with the Trump campaign.
But let’s not focus too much on Mr. Sessions. After all, he is joined in the cabinet by Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who lied to Congress about his use of a private email account; Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, who lied about a sweetheart deal to purchase stock in a biotechnology company at a discount; and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, who falsely told Congress that his financial firm didn’t engage in “robo-signing” of foreclosure documents, seizing homes without proper consideration.
And they would have served with Michael Flynn as national security adviser, but for the fact that Mr. Flynn was forced out after the press discovered that, like Mr. Sessions, he had lied about contacts with the Russian ambassador.
Critics of our political culture used to complain, with justification, about politicians’ addiction to spin — their inveterate habit of downplaying awkward facts and presenting their actions in a much better light than they deserved. But all indications are that the age of spin is over. It has been replaced by an era of raw, shameless dishonesty.
In part, of course, the pervasiveness of lies reflects the character of the man at the top: No president, or for that matter major U.S. political figure of any kind, has ever lied as freely and frequently as Donald Trump. But this isn’t just a Trump story. His ability to get away with it, at least so far, requires the support of many enablers: almost all of his party’s elected officials, a large bloc of voters and, all too often, much of the news media.
It’s important not to indulge in an easy cynicism, to say that politicians have always lied and always will. What we’re getting from Mr. Trump is simply on a different plane from anything we’ve seen before.
For one thing, politicians used to limit their outright lies to matters not easily checked — hidden affairs, under the table deals, and so on. But now we have the man who ran the Miss Universe competition in Moscow three years ago, and who declared just last year that “I know Russia well,” then last month said, “I haven’t called Russia in 10 years.”
On matters of policy, politicians used to limit their misrepresentations of facts and impacts to relatively hard-to-verify assertions. When George W. Bush insisted that his tax cuts mainly went to the middle class, this wasn’t true, but it took some number-crunching to show that. Mr. Trump, however, makes claims like his assertion that the murder rate — which ticked up in 2015 but is still barely half what it was in 1990 — is at a 45-year high. Furthermore, he just keeps repeating such claims after they’ve been debunked.
And the question is, who’s going to stop him?
The moral vacuity of Republicans in Congress, and the unlikelihood that they’ll act as any check on the president, becomes clearer with each passing day. Even the real possibility that we’re facing subversion by agents of a foreign power, and that top officials are part of the story, doesn’t seem to faze them as long as they can get tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor.
Meanwhile, Republican primary election voters, who are the real arbiters when polarized and/or gerrymandered districts make the general election irrelevant for many politicians, live in a Fox News bubble into which awkward truths never penetrate.
And what about the Fourth Estate? Will it let us down, too?
To be fair, the first weeks of the Trump administration have in important ways been glory days for journalism; one must honor the professionalism and courage of the reporters who have been ferreting out the secrets this authoritarian-minded clique is so determined to keep.
But then you watch something like the way much of the news media responded to Mr. Trump’s congressional address, and you feel despair. It was a speech filled with falsehoods and vile policy proposals, but read calmly off the teleprompter — and suddenly everyone was declaring the liar in chief “presidential.”
The point is that if that’s all it takes to exonerate the most dishonest man ever to hold high office in America, we’re doomed. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.