Few Seem To Grasp the Actual Problem

(Hint: The President Has Too Much Power)

Noah Rothman seems to be an exception, and he also has a good grasp on Trump's psychology. He wonders: Can Trump Be a Dictator If He Needs to Fail? First, a quick review of the current epidemic of Trump Derangement Syndrome:

Donald Trump has enjoyed a consistent lead over Joe Biden in a hypothetical 2020 election rematch for the better part of three months, which seems to be the amount of time necessary to convince Washington-based political observers that the trend is real. All of a sudden, a burst of apocalyptic warnings about a second Trump term has overtaken the political discourse.

Washington Post editor at large Robert Kagan led the charge last week with a column that has “Washington buzzing,” according to New York Times reporter Peter Baker. It’s well past the point at which the civically minded public should stop indulging the “self-delusion” that an alternative to Trump will win the Republican nomination, Kagan wrote in the piece warning of the “inevitable” coming of the “Trump dictatorship.”

But here's the thing:

The second Trump administration doesn’t want victories. It wants defeats. It is not interested in going through the ordeals that produced, for example, Middle East travel bans that passed constitutional muster or a policy of family separation at the border that survived scrutiny in the courts. Rather, they want to shoot for the moon with the understanding that their overreach will be slapped down in court, and that those defeats will give them an excuse to attack the foundations of the American system as unequal to the measure of the moment. That would be a reckless and cynical enterprise, but it could not also be a competent one.

According to their “conversations with Trump insiders” and their analysis of Trump’s campaign-trail pronouncements, Axios reporters Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen speculated about the high-profile face-plants the Trump administration hopes to engineer. Trump wants to “unleash” law-enforcement agencies like the FBI and the intelligence community “against political enemies.” He wants to “deport people by the millions per year” and will prioritize the hiring of “whoever promises to be most aggressive” in satisfying that desire. He seeks a “deep and wide purge of the professional staff” that manage executive agencies across administrations. He seeks to eliminate “social engineering and non-defense related matters” from the remit of the armed services.

The flunkies to whom these portfolios will fall will not be tasked with masterminding a series of unalloyed successes. Instead, their goal will be to establish the basis for an elaborate stabbed-in-the-back narrative designed to implicate the wreckers and saboteurs within the American system. Success in this endeavor would, in that sense, constitute failure.

Bottom line:

A more responsible political culture wouldn’t test the tensile strength of America’s constitutional guardrails, but they have held so far. Trump World’s plan seems to rest on the assumption that they will continue to hold — if only to establish what it regards as the logical basis for their demolition. Trump’s courtiers may have grander ambitions, but Trump himself seems animated most by cleaning himself of the stink of an electoral loss. Indeed, beyond dishing out one last humiliation to his adversaries, it’s not at all clear that Donald Trump wants to get much done in his second term. Assuming dictatorial control over the United States is probably low on his list of priorities. After all, that would be a lot of work.

No question, Trump II would be a shitshow. One the country would be wise to avoid.

Also of note:

  • Oh, yeah. He's an idiot. Or he thinks you are. Or maybe both can be true. Scott Sumner wonders: How important are "the issues"?

    Donald Trump has promised to pay off the entire national debt within 4 years:

    “We’re going to pay off debt — the $35 trillion in debt. We’re going to pay it off. We’re going to get it done fast, too.”

    I am supposed to be an economic commentator.  So perhaps I should do my civic duty and evaluate this economic policy proposal.

    Federal revenue is less than $5 billion trillion per year. Thus even if spending were cut to zero, it would require huge tax increases to pay off the debt in 4 years. But spending cannot be cut to zero, as the government is legally required to pay interest on the debt. That means even more massive tax increases would be needed.

    That link goes to an MSNBC column by Steve Benen, but it (even so) seems accurate that Trump was making the exact same promise in the 2016 campaign. I said "idiot" above, but Benen floats the "bonkers" theory.

  • A good bumper sticker for the Biden campaign: "Morally Weak, Untethered From Reality." The National Review editorialists look at Kamala Harris’s Performative Scolding of Israel.

    With Israelis in a grueling fight against a dangerous terrorist enemy, Vice President Kamala Harris was dispatched to Dubai to deliver a scolding of our close ally for the benefit of Arab leaders. Her remarks were morally weak and untethered from reality.

    Perhaps you would prefer less measured language about Harris's performance. Patterico's guest poster JVW has you covered: Mindless Bimbo Hectors Tiny Nation Besieged by Bloodthirsty Enemies.

    Vacuous Vice-President Kamala Harris showed up at a rostrum in Dubai yesterday on Saturday and embarrassed our nation and herself in much the same way that another fellow sugar baby did at the United Nations in the waning days of the Obama Administration. Visiting the repressive, authoritarian United Arab Emirates ostensibly for one of those climate change confabs where everyone furrows their brows at the risks posed by mowing your lawn or eating a hamburger, the Biden Administration’s number two officer (whose senile boss consistently confuses her for the head honcho) followed up Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s shameful dismissal of Israel’s resolve to eradicate Hamas by unleashing her toxic brew of frivolousness and cluelessness […]

    Our "advice" to Israel on defending itself against barbarism should be along the lines of: "Go for it. Let us know if we can help."

  • We have to protect our phony baloney jobs here, gentlemen. Last month I reported on a book by hil Gramm, Robert Ekelund, and John Early: The Myth of American Inequality. Today, Gramm and Early take to the WSJ opinion page to update one of the theses of that book: the Census Bureau has found Another Wrong Way to Measure Poverty.

    The credibility of the Census Bureau’s official measure of poverty didn’t survive the pandemic. Though government payments for social benefits rose by $1.5 trillion, or 47%, between 2019 and 2021, they didn’t dent the official poverty rate. The rate rose to 11.6% from 10.5%. President Biden claimed that the pandemic increase in the refundable child tax credit would cut child poverty in half, but the subsequent official census rate rose from 14.4% to 15.3%. These results were predictable because the official poverty measure fails to count 88 social benefits that low-income Americans receive from the government as part of their income, including almost all of the pandemic benefits.

    With the official poverty measure discredited, the Biden administration is pushing the experimental Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts about half of the social benefit payments as income but redefines the income thresholds that determine who is counted as poor in a way that ensures the poverty threshold rises as median income rises. The official poverty measure has hardly changed for more than 50 years, even as social benefit payments to the average household in the bottom 20% of income earners have risen from $9,700 to $45,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars, because most of these payments simply aren’t counted as income to the recipients.

    Gramm and Early expose a different poverty problem: the poor state of "official poverty measures".

  • "<voice imitation="hal">I'm sorry, Dave Phil. I'm afraid I can't do that.</voice>." "A friend of a friend" of Philip Greenspun plays with AI: ChatGPT and the Art of Science. Specifically, he makes the following prompts:

    • "Make a poster with only white female scientists."
    • "Make a poster with only black male scientists."
    • "Poster of scientists."
    • Make a poster with only white male scientists."

    ChatGPT considers one of those things to be unacceptably unlike the others. Click over for the results, and additional examples.