Michael Gerson functions as a right-wing tool most of the time, but in this column I think he exhibits actual insight. It’s worth reading.
This seems to be the dynamic unfolding on the weekend political talk shows. These have traditionally been venues for an administration to communicate with media and political elites (whose religion dedicates Sunday morning to the gods of policy, scandal and pith). But Trump surrogates are clearly appealing to a different audience: an audience of one, who may well tweet them a nice pat on the back. The goal — as Miller demonstrated over the weekend — is not to persuade or even explain. It is to confidently repeat Trump’s most absurd or unsubstantiated claims from the previous week.
The inane ravings of Conway and Spicer certainly do come to mind. As I wrote yesterday, Spicer is very careful to not assign any human failure to Trump. He cannot be deceived; he cannot be mistaken. He instinctively knows what’s right. And as William Saletan wrote at Slate:
Conway’s spin on Monday (that Flynn still had Trump’s confidence) and her spin on Tuesday morning (that Flynn had lost Trump’s confidence but was still a stand-up guy) had been replaced by a third account from Press Secretary Sean Spicer: that Trump had been “reviewing and evaluating this issue with respect to Gen. Flynn on a daily basis for a few weeks, trying to ascertain the truth.” The tale of Trump’s heroism in standing by Flynn had evolved into a tale of Trump’s heroism in investigating Flynn. Maybe Conway will tell this story in her next round of interviews. Or maybe, by then, she’ll have come up with another.
Only one thing stays constant in Conway’s propaganda: Trump is the hero. The pathologies she demonstrated on Tuesday have infected the entire White House. They consumed Trump and his aides during the campaign, and they have driven the administration’s conduct in office. On every principle—loyalty, secrecy, truth, right and wrong—Trump’s circle acknowledges only one standard and one master: Trump.
Trump’s own pathology on that score is evidenced by the fact that he’s stopped calling on any but right-wing media at press conferences. And the White House is now giving press credentials to right-wing blogs; Gateway Pundit, for example. Seriously.
Back to Michael Gerson,
Trump has run a family business but never a large organization. Nor has he seen such an organization as an employee. “Trump,” says another former official, “is ill-suited to appreciate the importance of a coherent chain of command and decision-making process. On the contrary, his instincts run instead toward multiple mini power centers, which rewards competing aggressively for Trump’s favor.” …
… The president may thrive in chaos, but the presidency does not. A president needs aides who will give him honest information and analysis, not compete for his favor. This may even involve checking a president’s mistaken instincts.
But no one in Trump’s little hothouse of a White House is ever going to check his mistaken instincts, are they? They’re a clump of pathologically co-dependent losers enabling each other.
It’s too soon to expect many Trump voters to admit they were had. But if the White House continues to lurch from one absurd crisis to another — many over relatively trivial things like Ivanka’s products being nixed by Nordstrom — that’s going to wear thin, sooner or later. It’s also the case that he’s not likely to accomplish any of the things he promised. And if he does — like end Obamacare — that’s likely to bite him even worse.
The more he founders, the weaker he looks. And perceived weakness will kill his brand. Unless he possesses a lot more intelligence and fortitude than he’s exhibited so far, the first real crisis could do him in. This is not a president people are likely to rally around.
BTW, today he answered a question from an Israeli reporter about anti-Semitism in his administration by bragging about his election victory. He can’t let it go.