The problem with Trump isnâ€™t his debating skills... This was not a bad performance. This is a bad man. ~Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
Adam Rifkin stashed this in New Yorker
Stashed in: Trump!
"Stop-and-frisk isnâ€™t just a form of policing for Trump; itâ€™s a whole way of life."
There was something disturbing in seeing Trump once again being normalized by being made part of an ordinary contest in coherence and â€śpresentationâ€ť and â€śpreparation.â€ť In truth, that was the least of it, because what was really outside any norm of decency was what he thought even after you had dutifully distilled away the incoherence and the manic improvisations. Talking, again, about President Obamaâ€™s birth certificate, he displayed not only the usual pathological inability to admit to an errorâ€”any error, everâ€”but an underlying racism so pervasive that it canâ€™t help express itself even when trying to pass as something else. There was, after all, never any doubt or controversy about Obamaâ€™s being born an Americanâ€”never any actual â€ścontroversyâ€ť about his place of birth, any more than there is about Trumpâ€™s or Clintonâ€™s. (And Clinton never said there was.) It was a settled matter from the time Obama began running for office. What thereÂ wasÂ was a racist conspiracy theory, invented by various people on the fringe right, that Trump brought into the center of attention. By 2011, Trump had simply succeeded in making this racist conspiracy theory so prevalent that Obama, who had released his birth certificate three years earlier, concluded that it was more efficient to end it for all time by asking Hawaiian officials for special permission to let him give out the â€ślong form,â€ť archival version than to let it go on. What Obama may not have realized was that in Trumpâ€™s world, since he is never wrong, it couldnâ€™t end.
Yet Trump continued last night his self-congratulations for compelling the President to do this, along with the grotesquely racist notion that it was â€śgood for himâ€ť (i.e., for the President). It slowly dawned on the listener that this was all of a piece with the rest of Trumpâ€™s racial attitudes: he believes that, as a rich white man, he had a right to stop and frisk the President of the United States and demand that the uppity black man show him his papers. Stop-and-frisk isnâ€™t just a form of policing for Trump; itâ€™s a whole way of life. The idea that he had a right to force a black man to go through what Obama rightly saw as the demeaning business of producing his birth certificate showed his fundamental contempt for any normal idea of racial equality. It was of a line with his equally bizarre notion that owning a country club that doesnâ€™t actively discriminate against black people is not a minimal requirement of law but a positive achievement of the owner. This isnâ€™t the case of someone misarticulating an otherwise plausible position; it was just a case of someone repeating, once again, not only a specific racist lie but also the toxic underlying set of assumptions that produced it.
Pass over quickly, for the moment, Trumpâ€™s notion that contracts are to be respected depending only on the wayward autocratic impulse of the richest party to the contract. Think, instead, again, of one of the last subjects of the debateâ€”his misogyny. By sexism, we mean something specific, not the business of appreciating beautyâ€”if Trump wants to host beauty contests, let himâ€”but the habit of conceiving of a woman as being a lesser species, one defined exclusively by appearance. His cruelty to Alicia Machado was unleavened by any apparent respect for her as a human being in any role other than as an envelope of fleshâ€”an attitude he only doubled down on the following morning by complaining that she presented what he saw as an obvious problem as a reigning Miss Universe: she had gained â€śa massive amount of weightâ€ť (by Trump standards, that is).
Again, this wasnâ€™t a problem of how he chose to present his beliefs; the problem is with the beliefs. This wasnâ€™t a question of preparation. It was that the things he actually believes are themselves repellent even when coherently presented. This was not a bad performance. This is a bad man.
Read more about the first debate: John Cassidy onÂ Donald Trumpâ€™s self-inflicted errors, Amy Davidson onÂ how Trump failed to bully Clinton, Benjamin Wallace-Wells on howÂ Clinton turned Trump into Mitt Romney, Jill Lepore onÂ the fate of the debate, and Nathan Heller onÂ how Twitter will define the Presidential race.
A vision of the Trump transition and presidency:
The full spectacle of Trumpâ€™s campaignâ€”the compulsive feuds and slurs, the detachment from established factsâ€”has demanded so much attention that it is easy to overlook a process with more enduring consequences: his bureaucratic march toward actually assuming power. On August 1st, members of his transition team moved into 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue, a thirteen-story office building a block from the White House. The team is led by Governor Chris Christie, of New Jersey, and includes several of his political confidants, such as his former law partner William Palatucci. As of August, under a new federal program designed to accelerate Presidential transitions, Trumpâ€™s staff was eligible to apply for security clearances, so that they could receive classified briefings immediately after Election Day. They began the process of selecting Cabinet officials, charting policy moves, and meeting with current White House officials to plan the handover of the Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, and other agencies.
Trump aides are organizing what one Republican close to the campaign calls the First Day Project. â€śTrump spends several hours signing papersâ€”and erases the Obama Presidency,â€ť he said. Stephen Moore, an official campaign adviser who is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, explained, â€śWe want to identify maybe twenty-five executive orders that Trump could sign literally the first day in office.â€ť The idea is inspired by Reaganâ€™s first week in the White House, in which he took steps to deregulate energy prices, as he had promised during his campaign. Trumpâ€™s transition team is identifying executive orders issued by Obama, which can be undone. â€śThatâ€™s a problem I donâ€™t think the left really understood about executive orders,â€ť Moore said. â€śIf you govern by executive orders, then the next President can come in and overturn them.â€ť
That is partly exaggeration; rescinding an order that is beyond the â€śrulemakingâ€ť stage can take a year or more. But signing executive orders starts the process, and Trumpâ€™s advisers are weighing several options for the First Day Project: He can renounce the Paris Agreement on greenhouse-gas emissions, much as George W. Bush, in 2002, â€śunsignedâ€ť American support for the International Criminal Court. He can re-start exploration of the Keystone pipeline, suspend the Syrian refugee program, and direct the Commerce Department to bring trade cases against China. Or, to loosen restrictions on gun purchases, he can relax background checks.
But those are secondary issues; whatever else Trump would do on January 20th, he would begin with a step (â€śmy first hour in officeâ€ť) to fulfill his central promise of radical change in American immigration. â€śAnyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation,â€ť he told a crowd in Phoenix in August.
When Trump talks about what he will create and what he will eliminate, he doesnâ€™t depart from three core principles: in his view, America is doing too much to try to solve the worldâ€™s problems; trade agreements are damaging the country; and immigrants are detrimental to it. He wanders and hedges and doubles back, but he is governed by a strong instinct for self-preservation, and never strays too far from his essential positions. Roger Stone, a long-serving Trump adviser, told me it is a mistake to imagine that Trump does not mean to fulfill his most radical ideas. â€śMaybe, in the end, the courts donâ€™t allow him to temporarily ban Muslims,â€ť Stone said. â€śThatâ€™s fineâ€”he can ban anybody from Egypt, from Syria, from Libya, from Saudi Arabia. Heâ€™s a Reagan-type pragmatist.â€ť
William Antholis, a political scientist who directs the Miller Center, at the University of Virginia, pointed out that President Trump would have, at his disposal, â€śthe worldâ€™s largest company, staffed with 2.8 million civilians and 1.5 million military employees.â€ť Trump would have the opportunity to alter the Supreme Court, with one vacancy to fill immediately and others likely to follow. Three sitting Justices are in their late seventies or early eighties.
As for the Trump Organization, by law Trump could retain as much control or ownership as he wants, because Presidents are not bound by the same conflict-of-interest statute that restricts Cabinet officers and White House staff. Presidential decisions, especially on foreign policy, could strengthen or weaken his familyâ€™s business, which includes controversial deals in Turkey, South Korea, Azerbaijan, and elsewhere. Trump would likely face pressure to adopt an arrangement akin to that of Michael Bloomberg, who, when he became mayor of New York City, withdrew from most management decisions for his company. Trump has said only that he plans to turn over the Trump Organizationâ€™s day-to-day control to three of his adult children: Donald, Jr., Ivanka, and Eric.
As President, Trump would have the power to name some four thousand appointees, but he would face a unique problem: more than a hundred veteran Republican officials have vowed never to support him, and that has forced younger officials to decide whether they, too, will stay away or, instead, enter his Administration and try to moderate him. By September, the campaign was vetting four hundred people, and some had been invited to join the transition team. An analogy was making the rounds: Was Trump a manageable petty tyrant, in the mold of Silvio Berlusconi? Or was he something closer to Mussolini? And, if so, was he Mussolini in 1933 or in 1941?
What, exactly, can a President do? To prevent the ascent of what the Anti-Federalist Papers, in 1787, called â€śa Caesar, Caligula, Nero, and Domitian in America,â€ť the founders gave Congress the power to make laws, and the Supreme Court the final word on the Constitution. But in the nineteen-thirties Congress was unable to mount a response to the rise of Nazi Germany, and during the Cold War the prospect of sudden nuclear attack further consolidated authority in the White House.
â€śThese checks are not gone completely, but theyâ€™re much weaker than I think most people assume,â€ť Eric Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said. â€śCongress has delegated a great deal of power to the President, Presidents have claimed power under the Constitution, and Congress has acquiesced.â€ť The courts, Posner added, are slow. â€śIf you have a President who is moving very quickly, the judiciary canâ€™t do much. A recent example of this would be the war on terror. The judiciary put constraints on President Bushâ€”but it took a very long time.â€ť
Some of Trumpâ€™s promises would be impossible to fulfill without the consent of Congress or the courts; namely, repealing Obamacare, cutting taxes, and opening up â€śour libel lawsâ€ť that protect reporters, so that â€śwe can sue them and win lots of money.â€ť (In reality, there are no federal libel laws.) Even if Republicans retain control of Congress, they are unlikely to have the sixty votes in the Senate required to overcome a Democratic filibuster.
However, Trump could achieve many objectives on his own. A President has the unilateral authority to renegotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, to order a ban on Muslims, and to direct the Justice Department to give priority to certain offenses, with an eye to specific targets. During the campaign, he has accused Amazon of â€śgetting away with murder tax-wise,â€ť and vowed, if he wins, â€śOh, do they have problems.â€ť
Any of those actions could be contested in court. The American Civil Liberties Union has analyzed Trumpâ€™s promises and concluded, in the words of the executive director, Anthony Romero, that they would â€śviolate the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution.â€ť Romero has said that the A.C.L.U. would â€śchallenge and impede implementation of his proposals,â€ť but that strategy highlights the essential advantage of the President: the first move. â€śThe other branches are then presented with a fait accompli,â€ť according to a 1999 paper by the political scientists Terry M. Moe and William G. Howell. After the September 11th attacks, Bush signed an executive order authorizing warrantless surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency, and, though lawmakers voiced concerns, and lawsuits were filed, the program continued until 2015, when Congress ordered an end to bulk phone-metadata collection. Similarly, Obama has used his powers to raise fuel-economy standards and temporarily ban energy exploration in parts of Alaska and the Arctic Ocean.