Sorry, Cinzia, But the Rot Comes From the Top
Cinzia’s latest stream of columns are bold and full of confidence, despite a series of recent high-profile defeats for the president. They are best interpreted, however, as typical of the desperate blame-shifting occurring among Trump’s core supporters as his presidency falls into disarray.
She has convinced herself that the blame for the humiliating Obamacare repeal fiasco rests at the feet of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, and that they must go — as if any Republican on the planet is capable of uniting the Cruz-Paul-Lee faction of the GOP with the Collins-Murkowski one. The simple fact is that the Republican Party, despite its recent electoral successes, is still very much confused about its direction and very much internally divided — and its Senate majority, while real and useful, is simply too narrow to pass truly controversial legislation. One would think that Cinzia would look to our president — the man who styles himself as the master of ‘the deal’ — the man who united the national party in last year’s election — the man who launched his campaign with a rousing speech in which declared that we needed a president “who wrote ‘The Art of the Deal.'” But the man who ‘wrote’ ‘Art of the Deal’ was nowhere to be found when he should have been leading the way. He was a follower, not a leader — but Cinzia prefers to blame Reince Preibus for advising Trump to dance with the ones who brought him — Republicans, who also elected the Republican Congress — rather than blaming Trump for taking on a job for which he was obviously not prepared.
Cinzia blames the media for focusing on gossipy leaks, which Trump incompetently cannot stop — even as she spent months in 2016 justifying the constant press coverage of illegal WikiLeaks hacks on the basis that what’s really important is not the leaking itself, but the information contained in the leaks; that, since Clinton is an important public figure, the people deserve to know about what’s in them and that therefore her campaign and supporters had no right to complain. The point here is not that Clinton was treated unfairly — the point is that Cinzia has one set of rules for Trump and another, completely different set of rules for everyone else. She relies on ad hoc logic to defend Trump because he cannot possibly be seen in a positive light if he is judged by ordinary standards.
Instead of focusing on leaks and legal troubles, Cinzia would rather the media cover Trump’s supposed accomplishments. Of course, Trump cut his teeth in the campaign season by going to war with the media, so it’s sad and ironic that she would blame the press for not trying to prop him up in his hour of need. But more importantly, he really has not accomplished much of anything. To my mind, the only substantive policy shift so far has been his backing out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership: a win for China, which can now make a legitimate claim to forthcoming economic supremacy in that zone of the East. Backing out of the non-binding Paris Accord was all noise since it had no enforcement mechanism to begin with. The piecemeal chipping away at regulations are more about quantity than quality, and it is telling that Trump loyalists never offer any specifics. The ban on transgendered people in the military is completely made-up (the Pentagon does not consider a tweet a policy order). The vaunted ‘travel ban’ was so thin as to be practically non-existent. There has been policy change regarding NATO or NAFTA. We continue to be hostile toward Russia, Obamacare stands. Rates of illegal immigration were declining long before Trump took office. It is absurd to give the young Trump Administration credit for positive economic news (the president gets too much credit or blame for the state of the economy generally, besides). His management style is perceived more as that befitting his reality-TV past than as ‘modern-day presidential.’ His approval rating is in the toilet. He appointed a quality conservative justice in Neil Gorsuch — but that is no different than what Jeb Bush or John Kasich would have done, so there’s nothing Trump-specific to report in that instance.
Devoid of real accomplishments, Trump fans can speak of his ability to ‘change the conversation.’ I suppose he has done that, but it has not been for the better. Never has this country seen a major party taken over by people so utterly indifferent to governing, so obsessed with petty fights with media personalities, pundits, and activists, so proudly policy-ignorant. The tragedy of Trump, as I have said, is his ability to drag everything and everyone down to his level. He is living proof that the problem of excessive polarization and tribal loyalty in politics is not destined to simply resolve itself.
I maintain that Trump is sincerely ignorant about the overwhelming majority of policy issues that do not directly affect his businesses. I think he really meant it when he asserted his belief that “no one knew healthcare could be so complicated.” He really thought it was going to be “so easy” to pass a repeal bill. He sat on the sidelines during the policy fight because he knew that if he got involved, he would be stepping into an area in which he had no idea what he was doing and would probably make things worse. He doesn’t really understand how Obamacare works. I think Cinzia will not realize the depth of trouble the failing Trump presidency is in until she accepts that Trump is a genuinely ignorant person, an entertainer who knows how to put on a good show and knows how to win an election — but does not know how to discern a good, viable policy, and does not know how to govern.
If Trump fans are really content with what he has done, though, then maybe we should be glad. If Cinzia thinks Trump is winning, then I say: good! We can endure three and a half more years of what has so far amounted to more of an embarrassment than a danger — so when this strange, sad saga is done, let’s declare victory and get out.