Commentary: [NOTE: We can relax, and ignore the column below, because the President of the United States has announced that Donald Trump is a "highly-stable genius" and "like, smart."]
We live in exceptional times.
The sheer breadth of the harm Donald Trump and his cronies are doing to us is unprecedented.
Watching the flames burn up consumer and environmental protections, health care, and the judicial system has been painful for some of us, while others have danced with delight. As the flames engulf stuff conservatives used to care about, will they even notice?
The tax bill is one example. For decades conservatives cared about the deficit. Now suddenly that's a mere pimple on the butt of progress in the urgency to lower taxes even further on the wealthy and corporations. Economists predict disaster with near unanimity? Background noise! Our strength as a nation is another. No matter how clearly military leaders tell us that the changing climate and weakening the economy are defense problems too, politicians can't hear them.
Similarly, people who pounced on the least flaw in Barack Obama's foreign policy don't seem to notice Vladimir Putin and the Chinese play Trump like a toy drum. His man-crush on Putin is a standing joke. (Well, the Russians did help save Trump from financial ruin.) While Congress pretty much unanimously votes for sanctions, Trump drags his feet.
The Chinese and the Saudis understand as well as many of us do that this is a damaged individual, a desperate narcissist more easily blinded by flattery and extreme hospitality than most of us.
Trump and his pals select personnel with more purely political criteria and less concern about competence than anyone for a long time. Appointing judges who've never even worked trials as lawyers and don't know what a motion in limine is would be kind of like appointing me (or, say, LeBron James) to perform surgery on you tomorrow. Not caring about the State Department is fine, except when suddenly people have to handle difficult negotiations and prove so inept and clueless that other nations just tune them out and cooperate without us.
Our past competitors and enemies could only have dreamed of open hostility between the President and our diplomatic corps, the President and the CIA, the President and the FBI, the President and our judiciary and economists. Presidents who cooperated, or worked out differences as adults, projected a kind of strength we now only remember fondly.
Other nations are consistently amazed when our personnel are too clueless to push back or too inexpert or uninterested to work together. In a host of situations, we've left the field open for the Chinese to look responsible and dependable. Making friends at our expense. Yeah, we still have a huge nuclear arsenal. But Trump's childish “Mine's Bigger than Yours” spat with Kim Jong-un merely shows other nations we're a dangerous joke.
Maybe I grew up watching too many westerns where self-control was a manly virtue. Where reasonably self-confident heroes didn't need to act like jerks to get attention and prove something, but were ready to fight hard and well when they had to.
It may be promising that Republicans are so concerned about possible impeachment that they're vigorously attacking Republican Robert Mueller, a decorated combat veteran whose competence and fairness even Trump fans applauded when he was appointed special prosecutor. But impeachment won't be fun for anyone.
And it's not just Mr. Trump. Pence and the Republican Congress will merely use better manners when they rob us.