I welcome the perspective of George Will, a Never Trump conservative like myself, who has found “a few vagrant reasons for cheerfulness,” as he writes about in his trenchant Washington Post op-ed, “Trump is something the nation did not know it needed“:
“To see what is in front of one’s nose,” George Orwell wrote, “needs a constant struggle.” An unnoticed reason for cheerfulness is that in one, if only one, particular, Trump is something the nation did not know it needed: a feeble president whose manner can cure the nation’s excessive fixation with the presidency.
Executive power expanded, with only occasional pauses (thank you, Presidents Taft and Coolidge, of blessed memory), throughout the 20th century and has surged in the 21st. After 2001, “The Decider” decided to start a preventive war and to countenance torture prohibited by treaty and statute. His successor had “a pen and a phone,” an indifference to the Constitution’s take care clause (the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed”) and disdain for the separation of powers, for which he was repeatedly rebuked by the Supreme Court.
Fortunately, today’s president is so innocent of information that Congress cannot continue deferring to executive policymaking. And because this president has neither a history of party identification nor an understanding of reciprocal loyalty, congressional Republicans are reacquiring a constitutional — a Madisonian — ethic. It mandates a prickly defense of institutional interests, placing those interests above devotion to parties that allow themselves to be defined episodically by their presidents.
Furthermore, today’s president is doing invaluable damage to Americans’ infantilizing assumption that the presidency magically envelops its occupant with a nimbus of seriousness. After the president went to West Virginia to harangue some (probably mystified) Boy Scouts about his magnificence and persecutions, he confessed to Ohioans that Lincoln, but only Lincoln, was more “presidential” than he. So much for the austere and reticent first president who, when the office was soft wax, tried to fashion a style of dignity compatible with republican simplicity.
Fastidious people who worry that the president’s West Virginia and Ohio performances — the alpha male as crybaby — diminished the presidency are missing the point, which is: For now, worse is better. Diminution drains this office of the sacerdotal pomposities that have encrusted it. There will be 42 more months of this president’s increasingly hilarious-beyond-satire apotheosis of himself, leavened by his incessant whining about his tribulations (“What dunce saddled me with this silly attorney general who takes my policy expostulations seriously?”). This protracted learning experience, which the public chose to have and which should not be truncated, might whet the public’s appetite for an adult president confident enough to wince at, and disdain, the adoration of his most comically groveling hirelings.
- Politico: Jeff Flake, My Party Is In Denial About Donald Trump. We created him, and now we’re rationalizing him. When will it stop?
- The New York Times: Peter Wehner, Declaration of Disruption. Chaotic leadership can inflict real trauma on political and civic culture.
- The New York Times: Ross Douthat, The 25th Amendment Solution for Removing Trump. Removal, not impeachment, for a president unfit for office.
- The Atlantic: Conor Friedersdorf, Depravity is Downstream of Donald Trump. Four ways the president is validating Andrew Breitbart’s dictum on the primacy of culture in American politics.