Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Are the Wheels Coming Off?

There has been a cascade of embarrassing news for President Trump and his administration in the last few days. As usual, most of it was generated by the administration itself. Anthony Scaramucci, the new head of communications (and a graduate of the Harvard Law School), accused administration officials of committing a felony(!) by leaking his personal financial disclosure, but then discovered that it is publicly available by law. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke threatened to take revenge on Alaska for Senator Murkowski's "no" vote on the motion to proceed to debate on the Republicans' healthcare bill. Trump threatened to veto a veto-proof bill (this is not necessarily stupid—sometimes forcing Congress to override a veto has a strategic purpose—but in this case it appears the administration can't do basic math). And of course, Trump has launched a Twitter attack on Jeff Sessions!

I could go on, but the point is that the administration is screwing up in ways that demonstrate a shocking degree of ineptitude. But I suspect all of this is invisible to the vast majority of U.S. voters, and in particular to Trump supporters. (The Sessions drama may be an exception.) As a result, while "elites" view the administration as an embarrassing disaster that could implode any day now, I suspect a lot of people think everything is humming along normally.

Probably the truth is somewhere in between! Certainly the administration is staggeringly incompetent, but it is also drama-loving and unconcerned with basic decorum. This can make it look worse than it really is, because normal organizations go to great lengths to keep up appearances, while the administration either doesn't know or doesn't care how ridiculous it looks. And in fairness, if most people aren't paying attention, then it really doesn't matter!

But then, the administration is in fact glaringly incompetent. It's not merely inattentive to appearances, it is also strikingly bad at practically everything it does. (A major exception is enriching the Trump family.) So while the "elites" may get an exaggerated sense of the administration's slide into chaos, I think they also have a more accurate sense of the administration's actual capacity to do... pretty much anything.

I don't have much of a conclusion, but I'll have more to write about this. It is a dynamic that I believe lends itself to a weird kind of polarization and stratification.


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