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Sunday, March 19, 2017

"The necessity for continual disruption, constant outrage, maintaining an iron grip on the news cycle, and sheer winning without ever retreating means [The President] has a grand proclivity for getting in his own way—“stepping on his own dick,” in political parlance—and we need, not for the first time, to let ourselves be grateful for that."


The New York Review of Books:

The norms are gone, perhaps never to be fully restored, and we have advanced now to the laws. The dividing line is surprisingly murky. That the president would not use his office to promote his personal business, for example, depends not only on the so-called emoluments clause of the Constitution but a good many subsidiary norms that Trump began shattering some time ago, when he refused to release his tax returns during the campaign. (His long-standing vow to release them once an audit was completed has been quietly abandoned.4)

It seems plain now that in the near term the emoluments clause has in common with these norms that it requires political animation: that it has life only to the degree that those in power are willing to enliven it. Thus far Republicans in Congress, still stunned to find themselves enjoying an undreamed-of monopoly on power and struggling to craft a workable political program not based solely on ressentiment, have shown themselves uninterested in pressing Trump on his business entanglements and seem willing to stand by and let the presidency become a source of great wealth for the Trump family. Thus do sacred cows perish, not with a bellow but with a whimper.

Ours is famously said to be a government of laws, not of men, and yet we find in the Age of Trump that the laws depend on men and women willing to step forward and press them and that such are not to be found in the dominant party in Congress. Republicans are too divided and too focused on the main chance to move to protect what suddenly appear to be abstract principles. In an age when their party cannot muster a national popular vote majority they find themselves unaccountably in full possession of two branches of government and face the task of mastering their divisions sufficiently to pass a political program that won’t further doom them to the wilderness. This means adopting policies of opposition designed to cultivate and harvest resentment, such as repealing Obamacare, which provides health insurance to more than twenty million Americans, while somehow shaping them into a positive program that they can present to constituents as having improved their lives. It is a daunting task and thus far they show few signs of being up to it...

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