• Every day of the “Trump Era” it’s something new — something completely new that you’ve never seen before and can’t quite process because you never expected such a thing and have no experience responding to it. Any one of these, singly, would have dominated the news for weeks during a normal presidency, becoming the defining trait of everyone involved — the shorthand identifier by which they were remembered and spoken of thereafter, forever.
But the steady stream of unprecedented astonishments we’re witnessing never lets us catch our breath. Each successive horror surprises us anew, pushing its predecessor from the headlines. We can’t keep up with the seemingly endless cascade of embarrassments. We can’t give each one the consideration and the condemnation it deserves, in turn, because every time we try to do so it is immediately followed by something else, something equally surprising or appalling or recklessly dangerous.
Just consider Donald Trump’s unqualified praise for Rodrigo Duterte, the authoritarian whose “war on drugs” in the Philippines has involved thousands of extrajudicial murders. “What a great job you are doing,” Trump told Duterte — specifically in reference to the same vigilante killings of alleged addicts that have otherwise received unanimous international condemnation.
In a world not flooded by Trump’s chaos and rampant dishonesty, that comment to Duterte would receive weeks of attention, intense debate. The president would have to make some attempt to defend it or else, once it was recognized as indefensible, he would need to apologize and retract the statement, to correct it, before he or the public were able to move on to anything else. But in this world, it’s just a blip that barely registers.
Or consider that Trump also told Duterte about the location of American nuclear submarines. We learned this just after we learned that Trump exposed a key Israeli anti-ISIS intelligence asset — to top Russian officials, while hosting them in the Oval Office. This is apparently a habit or a hobby of Trump’s — revealing classified information as a way of trying to make himself seem more impressive.
This is why I’m worried about Trump’s meeting with the leaders of the G7 nations. If he starts to feel like the others realize he’s in over his head, or if Macron or Merkel start getting the attention he needs to be focused on him, he’s likely to just jump up and blurt out something like “I’ve got a guy inside Assad’s palace — wanna know his name?” or “Lemme tell you about the weapon systems you have no idea we’ve got.” The only hope here is that these blustery non-sequitur revelations will be mixed in with so much other absurd Trumpian bombast — “I banged Madonna! Back in the ’80s, when she was hot” — that it will cast doubt on everything else they learn.
• If I had any talent at video-editing, I would take this photo of Donald Trump’s visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican and set it to Jump Little Children’s “Cathedrals.” Lots of Ken-Burns style slow pans and imperceptibly gradual zooms, but just this one photo.
• Donald Trump’s budget includes a massive, and apparently deliberate, arithmetical error unlike anything you’ve ever seen before in your lifetime. The budget optimistically assumes, almost like magic, that there will be an additional $2 trillion due to an injection of Trumpian economic growth. It uses that hypothetical additional $2 trillion to balance the budget over the next 10 years. It also uses that $2 trillion — the same $2 trillion — to pay for massive tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans.It makes up money, then spends that money twice. That’s new.
When about this $2,000,000,000,000 double-accounting error, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said it was not an error because they did it “on purpose.” That’s also new.
• And yesterday, on the eve of a special election for an at-large House of Representatives seat in the state of Montana, Republican candidate Greg Gianforte freaked out in response to a reporter’s question about the CBO’s dismantling of the Republican health-care bill. According to local Fox News reporters present, he grabbed the reporter by the neck, threw him to the ground, and started punching him repeatedly. Gianforte has been charged with assault.
He’s still expected to win and to be sworn in among his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives, one more member of Congress supporting the Trump Era.
This, again, is something we haven’t seen before. And yet it likely won’t even be front-page news a week from now.
• “Trump lied in public about the most consequential policy decisions he is now making as president. He lied on the trail, and he is lying again now from the Oval Office.”
From the very first day of his campaign, Donald Trump promised that he would not cut Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security. His budget slashes Medicaid and Social Security. His budget also redoubles his support for the Republican tax-cut and health-care repeal bill, AHCA, which also violates that promise, slashing nearly $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next decade. As Ezra Klein continues in the post linked above: “None of this is interpretation or inference — these are the facts of the budget he put his name on and the health care bill he begged Congress to pass.”
Trump’s campaign promise was a flagrant, deliberate, bald-faced lie. And anyone who attempts to defend it as anything else is just as much of a liar.
Trump’s budget and support for AHCA are an absolute reversal of pledges he made, repeatedly and unambiguously, as a candidate. Other politicians have reversed themselves on campaign promises, though rarely so completely or in such an extreme form. But when other politicians broke their promises, they offered explanations, or excuses, or reasons. Whether those explanations were legitimate or not, they at least recognized that they were necessary — that they owed some such explanation to the people who had trusted them. Trump not only offers no explanation for his broken pledge, he refuses even to acknowledge that he’s breaking it. He’s simply, brazenly, pretending that he never said what millions of people heard him say, and he’s unbothered by the hours of videotape proof that he’s lying.
We’ve never seen anything quite like this before.