August 10, 2017


“When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.” -- Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers who preached the morning of his inauguration. 8/08/17

“The reason we were delayed getting off the plane is he was tweeting it as we were on the tarmac trying to get off the airplane. He has to get off first.” — Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), quoted by the New York Post, on President Trump and Air Force One.

‘Climate change’ is in the ‘avoid’ category, to be replaced by ‘weather extremes’. Instead of ‘climate change adaption’, staff are asked to use ‘resilience to weather extremes’. The primary cause of human-driven climate change is also targeted, with the term ‘reduce greenhouse gases’ blacklisted in favor of ‘build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency’. Meanwhile, ‘sequester carbon’ is ruled out and replaced by ‘build soil organic matter’”. -- Email to her staff by Bianca Moebius-Clune, USDA’s director of soil health, lists terms that should be avoided by staff and those that should replace them.

“I take exception to the President’s comments because you gotta be able to do what you say you’re gonna do. In other words, the old walk softly but carry a big stick, Teddy Roosevelt’s saying, which I think is something that should’ve applied because all it’s going to do is bring us closer to a serious confrontation. I think this is very, very, very serious. The great leaders I’ve seen don’t threaten unless they’re ready to act and I’m not sure President Trump is ready to act… It’s the classic Trump in that he overstates things.” -- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Trump’s threat to rain “fire and fury” down on North Korea. 8/08/17

"People who sit out or crank on some candidate because they did this or that that wasn’t to their purity test are basically turning their back on the very people they pretend to represent," -- Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean responding to criticism of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) by what he calls the "whiny" portion of the Democratic Party

“Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us health care!” — Trump on Twitter, apparently not recalling the Cuban Missile Crisis


“Important White House ethics rule: don’t lie to a grand jury.”— Bush White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter, on Twitter.



1. Hamilton 68: A New Tool to Track Russian Disinformation on Twitter

Russia’s activities continue on multiple fronts. One happening right under our nose and in plain sight is its continued information operations aimed at spreading propaganda and disinformation online. Indeed, Russia’s information operations in 2016 did not happen overnight — they were enabled by a foundation built over several years of operations in U.S. information space. Since the election, Russia’s efforts to shape what Americans think has continued.  Americans deserve to know what messages Russian disinformation networks are pushing.

The Hamilton 68 dashboard as part of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, provides a near real-time look at Russian propaganda and disinformation efforts online. The top of the page shows tweets from official Russian propaganda outlets in English, and a short post discussing the themes of the day. This is Russia’s overt messaging.

Check “trending hashtags" by adding the name of the hashtag to

2. Tangled web connects Russian oligarch money to GOP campaigns

Party loyalty is often cited as the reason that GOP leaders have not been more outspoken in their criticism of President Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. Yet there may be another reason that top Republicans have not been more vocal in their condemnation. Perhaps it's because they have their own links to the Russian oligarchy that they would prefer go unnoticed.

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin's favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank. 8/03/17


3. Democratic Gains Likely In Gubernatorial Contests

We are a long way from November 2018, so national conditions could change. Still, Republicans will have so many seats at risk in next year’s gubernatorial elections that they are almost guaranteed to suffer a net loss of seats.”

“Of course, the quality of the respective party candidates and campaigns will be important as Republicans seek to limit potential Democratic gains. Still, based on recent generic ballot results, the GOP loss could be rather substantial. According to the FiveThirtyEight weighted average of recent polling results, Democrats currently hold a lead of about eight points on the generic ballot. A lead of that magnitude in early September 2018 would predict a net Democratic gain of around nine governorships with a two-thirds probability that the gain would be between six and 12 seats.” 8/03/17


My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before… Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world! Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump


A reality check: Trump’s first executive order was on the Affordable Care Act and that none of his orders in his first 100 days were on the nation’s nuclear arsenal. -- Business Insider notes


Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist! … Never in U.S.history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal. He told stories about his Vietnam battles and…. conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion? -- Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump, apparently affer watching Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) on CNN 


This issue isn't about me - it's about the Special Counsel's independence and integrity. ... Mr. President: Your bullying hasn't worked before and it won't work now. No one is above the law. ... Russian financial payouts straight out of their playbook sabotaging democracies. Mueller must follow the money. ... Flynn in legal quicksand—maybe the 1st to face charges. Concealed foreign financial crimes cast light on Trump campaign collusion w/Russians ... With broad mandate, Special Counsel must pursue all financial dealings—past and present—involving Russians and Trump campaign. -- Richard Blumenthal @SenBlumenthal 


The Fake News Media will not talk about the importance of the United Nations Security Council's 15-0 vote in favor of sanctions on N. Korea! -- Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump


Literally EVERY major publication has reported this news. -- Bob Cesca @bobcesca_go


“[Y]ou and I are both at a point now where we are both saying we are not to pay for the wall. From a political standpoint, that is what we will say. We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that. I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is okay. But you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall.” -- Trump, in a call to the Mexican President saying he must mislead the American people in order to sail through the turmoil he had created with the Mexican president.


“I have recognized the right of any government to protect its borders as it deems necessary and convenient. But my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.” -- Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's response


There were no Russians in our campaign. There never were. We didn’t win because of Russia. We won because of you. That i can tell you. We won because we totally outworked the other side. We won because millions of patriotic Americans voted to take back their country. Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians? -- Trump at a WV rally.


Nobody ever said there were Russians directly on his payroll. The issue is whether members of his campaign secretly met with Russian operatives, cut deals, or promised to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia in return for material help, then lied about it with Trump’s blessing. -- Matthew Chapman  in Shareblue

5. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

Fox News uses misleading statistics to suggest that white students are underrepresented in college.

A Republican operative’s email, revealed in a new lawsuit, turns the subtext behind the last year of Seth Rich conspiracy theories into text: Conservatives have been cynically deploying the murder of the Democratic National Committee staffer in an effort to protect President Donald Trump from the damning Russia story.

Alex Jones compares being transgender to him deciding he's a "50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe" that gives "birth to leprechauns." ... "This is mental illness ... It's like magic talk."

6. Poll: Party favorability, transgenders in the military, replacing Obamacare

While still negative, the Democratic Party is ahead of the Republican Party in voter favorability: the Democrats get a negative 36 - 48 percent favorability, compared to the Republicans' negative 22 - 64 percent favorability - a new low. 

More acceptance of transgender people would be "a good thing for the country," 46 percent of voters say, as 14 percent say it would be "a bad thing" and 39 percent say it would not make much difference. 

American voters disapprove 80 - 15 percent of the way Republicans in Congress are handling health care. Even Republicans disapprove 60 - 32 percent. Voters disapprove 64 - 25 percent of Republican ideas to replace Obamacare.

Only 22 percent of American voters say President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress should repeal all of the Affordable Care Act. Another 40 percent say repeal parts of Obamacare and 33 percent of voters say don't repeal any of Obamacare.

7. Coincidence??

Percentage of Americans "proud" that Trump is the President: 26% (CNN)

Percentage of Americans who think the Sun orbits the Earth: 26% (NSF)

8. Andy Borowitz: Trump Says Mueller Just Called Him and Said He’s the Most Innocent Person Ever

The special counsel, Robert Mueller, just called Donald Trump to tell the President that he was “the most innocent person ever,” Trump told reporters on Thursday.

“It was the middle of the afternoon, and he just picked up the phone to say how innocent I was,” Trump said. “He said I was the most innocent person he’d ever come across, and maybe in history.”

“He said he had been over all of the evidence and that he and his staff would spend hours just looking at each other in amazement at about how unbelievably innocent I was,” he said.

Trump said that he asked Mueller why, in his opinion, the media had reported so many stories about his campaign colluding with Russians. “Bob said to me, ‘Are you talking about the failing New York Times and CNN?’ ” Trump reported. “ ‘They have been very unfair to you. They are bad (or sick) people. Sad!’ That’s what Bob said to me.”

The conversation wound down with a series of “pleasantries,” Trump said, with Mueller complimenting him on the size of his 2016 victory, including his enormous win in New Hampshire.

9. Egregious Moments From Trump’s Leaked Phone Calls With World Leaders

From his call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto 

Trump claimed he won New Hampshire in the 2016 election because the state is ‘a drug-infested den.’

“We have the drug lords in Mexico that are knocking the hell out of our country. They are sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles, and to New York, up in New Hampshire – I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den – is coming from the southern border.”-- Trump falsely claiming to Peña Nieto that he won the Granite State. 

Trump instructed Peña Nieto to stop publicly refusing to pay for his signature campaign promise, the border wall.


From his call to Australian Prime Minister Turnbull:

It would be “bad” for him to honor a previous agreement for the U.S. to accept Syrian refugees, calling himself “the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country.”

I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local "milk people.”

Trump: “Can Australia give me a guarantee that if we have any problems – you know that is what they said about the Boston bombers. They said they were wonderful young men.”

Turnbill: “They were Russians. They were not from any of these countries.”

Trump: “They were from wherever they were.”

10. Fox News Has Completed Its Transformation Into Trump TV

Fox is ever more firmly entrenched in the official echo chamber of Trump Nation — and ever more divorced from reality. The National Enquirer, owned by Trump friend David Pecker, is Trump’s Pravda (its recent cover story: ‘Hillary Framed Trump Family! How she set up Donald’s son with dirt file emails!’). Breitbart, once chaired by Trump aide Stephen Bannon, is his Sputnik. Fox is the jewel in the crown — Trump’s own version of RT. ‘A lot of people wish President Trump was a dictator,’ Fox host Jesse Watters said on July 27. Perhaps at Fox News.”

In fairness, there are solid, straight-down-the-middle reporters at Fox such as Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, and Shepherd Smith, and a few, increasingly marginalized, commentators such as Charles Krauthammer, Ralph Peters, and Steve Hayes who are critical of Trump. But their work is drowned out by the screeching chorus of Trump toadies that dominates Fox’s evening and morning schedule.-- By Max Boot

11. The Republican rebellion against Donald Trump

President Trump “is facing growing resistance from Republican lawmakers who are both turned off by his chronically chaotic style and increasingly unafraid of his ability to punish them politically as the President’s poll numbers plummet,” CNN reports.

“Trump’s diminishing influence was on stark display last week when his top priority — the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act — failed dramatically in the Senate. Emboldened congressional Republicans are also pushing back on a range of issues including Russia, transgender rights, health insurance subsides for low income Americans, and even whether to reform Senate rules to make it easier for the GOP to pass his agenda.” 8/03/17


12. The 2016 Presidential Election: Who Lied More? It wasn't Hillary!

13. The GOP Just Tweeted a Whopper Lie About Trump's (Alleged) Employment Record

On Monday, the official Twitter account for the Republican National Committee tweeted the following:


The Republican Party is explicitly applauding this "unprecedented" achievement -- in ALL CAPS no less, which means it's extra important. Unfortunately for the GOP, it's a whopper lie -- a lie of Trump-like magnitude. 

There's, in fact, nothing "unprecedented" about it. Under Obama, there were 2.998 million jobs created in 2014, 2.713 million jobs created in 2015, and 2.24 million jobs created in 2016. In other words, there were more than a million new jobs created every six months throughout at least the last three full years of the Obama presidency. Indeed, the last time there were fewer than two million jobs created in a single year (more than a million every six months), was 2010 with the Great Recession still holding back job growth. 

Likewise, unemployment has declined from more than 10 percent to around 4.5 percent throughout the Obama years -- a trend that's continuing now. Chart:

For a group of criminals and thieves who can't stop lying, they're just terrible at it. There's nothing special or unprecedented about Trump's economic record so far. Why? Because it's still Obama's economic record. Check back in a year and see what the Trump-era destabilization has done.

14. Late Nite Jokes for Dems

A transcript from President Trump’s phone call with the Australian prime minister was just leaked and at one point, Trump referred to U.S. dairy farmers as local milk people. Even worse, he referred to cows as spotted milk horses. -- Jimmy Fallon

Trump is also being criticized for his conversation with the president of Mexico, where he called New Hampshire “a drug-infested den.” New Hampshire says it’s furious, while Colorado says it has to find a new nickname. -- Jimmy Fallon

Trump has spent the last year telling us that the mainstream media is “fake news.” So now he’s finally fighting back, because President Trump has launched his own news program on his Facebook page ... that LOOKS like state-sponsored propaganda. -- Stephen Colbert

So the big announcement they were all excited about was that the governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, was switching parties from Democrat to Republican. And he has a lot in common with the president. They’re both former Democrats who switched parties because they love Donald Trump. So now they’re on the same team. -- Jimmy Kimmel

15. Trump Gets Positive News Briefing Twice a Day

Twice a day since the beginning of the Trump administration, a special folder is prepared for the president. The first document is prepared around 9:30 a.m. and the follow-up around 4:30 p.m. Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Press Secretary Sean Spicer both wanted the privilege of delivering the 20- to 25-page packet to President Trump personally.

These sensitive papers… are not top-secret intelligence or updates on legislative initiatives. Instead, the folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.

16. Trump Approval Sinks to New Low In Another Poll

A new IBD/TIPP poll finds President Trump’s approval rate at a dismal 32% to 59%.

Key findings: Trump lost significant support across the board, but saw big declines among areas of core support, including Republicans, Midwesterners, middle-income families, white men and the high-school educated.

17. Our Broken Economy, In One Simple Chart


The message is straightforward. Only a few decades ago, the middle class and the poor weren’t just receiving healthy raises. Their take-home pay was rising even more rapidly, in percentage terms, than the pay of the rich.

In recent decades, by contrast, only very affluent families — those in roughly the top 1/40th of the income distribution — have received such large raises. Yes, the upper-middle class has done better than the middle class or the poor, but the huge gaps are between the super-rich and everyone else. 8/08/17

18. Scientists Fear Trump Will Dismiss Blunt Climate Report

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.



1. Jonathan Chait: Australia’s Prime Minister Slowly Realizes Trump Is a Complete Idiot

The transcript of Donald Trump’s discussion with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull obtained by the Washington Post reveals many things, but the most significant may be that Trump in his private negotiations is every bit as mentally limited as he appears to be in public. At issue in the conversation is a deal to settle 1,250 refugees who have been detained by Australia in the United States. I did not pay any attention to the details of this agreement before reading the transcript. By the time I was halfway through it, my brain could not stop screaming at Trump for his failure to understand what Turnbull was telling him.

Australia has a policy of refusing to accept refugees who arrive by boat. The reason, as Turnbull patiently attempts to explain several times, is that it believes giving refuge to people who arrive by boat would encourage smuggling and create unsafe passage with a high risk of deaths at sea. But it had a large number of refugees who had arrived by sea, living in difficult conditions, whom Australia would not resettle (for fear of encouraging more boat trafficking) but whom it did not want to deport, either. The United States government agreed under President Obama to vet 1,250 of these refugees and accept as many of them as it deemed safe.

In the transcript, Trump is unable to absorb any of these facts. He calls the refugees “prisoners,” and repeatedly brings up the Cuban boatlift (in which Castro dumped criminals onto Florida). He is unable to absorb Turnbull’s explanation that they are economic refugees, not from conflict zones, and that the United States has the ability to turn away any of them it deems dangerous.


2. Paul Krugman: Obamacare Rage in Retrospect

Much of Obamacare rage was orchestrated by pressure groups like Freedom Works, and it’s a good guess that some of the “ordinary citizens” who appeared at town halls were actually right-wing activists. Still, there was plenty of genuine popular rage, stoked by misinformation and outright lies from the usual suspects: Fox News, talk radio and so on. For example, around 40 percent of the public believed that Obamacare would create “death panels” depriving senior citizens of care.

The question then becomes why so many people believed these lies. The answer, I believe, comes down to a combination of identity politics and affinity fraud.

Whenever I see someone castigating liberals for engaging in identity politics, I wonder what such people imagine the right has been doing all these years. For generations, conservatives have conditioned many Americans to believe that safety-net programs are all about taking things away from white people and giving stuff to minorities.

And those who stoked Obamacare rage were believed because they seemed to some Americans like their kind of people — that is, white people defending them against you-know-who.

It’s certainly not encouraging to realize how easily many Americans were duped by right-wing lies, pushed into screaming rage against a reform that would actually improve their lives.

On the other hand, the truth did eventually prevail, and Republicans’ inability to handle that truth is turning into a real political liability. And in the meantime, Obamacare has made America a better place.


3.  Eugene Robinson: Are Trump Voters Running Out of Patience?

Trump's outrageous statements on Twitter and in campaign-style rallies sound fresh and encouraging to his diehard supporters, not vicious and loopy. Trump gets it, too, and that's why I doubt anyone will ever be able to pry his smartphone from his dainty clutches. Some of his tweetstorms are primal screams from an insecure man who is in way over his head, but others are carefully crafted to show he is keeping the faith with those who elected him to break the rules.

But Trump is genuinely delusional about both his talents and his popularity. A day after he grudgingly signed the Russia sanctions bill, Trump tweeted, "Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us HCare!"

Apparently he's never heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which Washington and Moscow came close to nuclear war. But why is he going out of his way to attack a Congress led by his own party? Senators, especially, do not take kindly to such abuse, as Trump should have learned from the health care vote. It might be different if he were a popular president. But he is not.

How long will Trump's base stay with him? I don't know, but clearly he's worried. Even Rasmussen, the generally conservative survey that usually shows him as having more support than other pollsters detect, released a poll this week showing Trump's approval below 40 percent for the first time. He makes laughable claims about having accomplished more than any other president in his first months because he knows his support will slowly leak away if he fails at his central promise, which is to get stuff done. Thus far he has been a failure.

Trump voters are not blind to that fact. And their patience won't last forever.


4. Zerlina Maxwell: Kamala Harris is one of the most progressive (and attacked) leaders in America

The junior senator from California, Kamala Harris — who has already made her mark on the Senate in a few short months — is now in the spotlight facing unprecedented scrutiny. Alongside that is a movement that’s already begun on the progressive left to discredit Harris, brand her as a tool of mass incarceration for her time as a prosecutor, and to caricature her as a supporter of prison slave labor.

If this sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is.

Yes, Harris was a prosecutor. So was Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, but there are no hit pieces calling him a sellout. Curious.

What truly matters are Harris’s positions on issues of policy. And on that front, Harris has already taken a strong stance in critical criminal justice reform issues, including bail reform. She introduced legislation to reform the bail system with the most unlikely of allies, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul.

Where it counts — on votes and substance — Harris is making her positions clear, and we should pay attention. It’s anyone’s guess if, as many people surmise, Harris has her eyes set on 2020. But as a movement, it’s critical to push back against wildly unfair characterizations of the left’s brightest stars before they even get started.

5. Sheryl Gay Stolberg: Many Politicians Lie. But Trump Has Elevated the Art of Fabrication.

From his days peddling the false notion that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, to his inflated claims about how many people attended his inaugural, to his description just last week of receiving two phone calls — one from the president of Mexico and another from the head of the Boy Scouts — that never happened, Mr. Trump is trafficking in hyperbole, distortion and fabrication on practically a daily basis.

In part, this represents yet another way that Mr. Trump is operating on his own terms, but it also reflects a broader decline in standards of truth for political discourse. A look at politicians over the past half-century makes it clear that lying in office did not begin with Donald J. Trump. Still, the scope of Mr. Trump’s falsehoods raises questions about whether the brakes on straying from the truth and the consequences for politicians’ being caught saying things that just are not true have diminished over time.

Many of Mr. Trump’s lies — like the time he boasted that he had made the “all-time record in the history of Time Magazine” for being on its cover so often — are somewhat trivial, and “basically about him polishing his ego,” said John Weaver, a prominent Republican strategist.

But other presidential lies, like Mr. Trump’s false claim that millions of undocumented immigrants had cast ballots for his opponent in the 2016 election, are far more substantive, and pose a threat, scholars say, that his administration will build policies around them.

The glaring difference between Mr. Trump and his predecessors is the sheer magnitude of falsehoods and exaggerations; PolitiFact rates just 20 percent of the statements it reviewed as true, and a total of 69 percent either mostly false, false or “Pants on Fire.” That leaves scholars like Ms. Goodwin to wonder whether Mr. Trump, in elevating the art of political fabrication, has forever changed what Americans are willing to tolerate from their leaders.

“What’s different today and what’s scarier today is these lies are pointed out, and there’s evidence that they’re wrong,” she said. “And yet because of the attacks on the media, there are a percentage of people in the country who are willing to say, ‘Maybe he is telling the truth.’”

6. Paul Waldman: The debt ceiling is madness

The fact that there is a debt ceiling is just an accident of history. The only other OECD country that has a debt ceiling is Denmark, and they set theirs high enough that it doesn't precipitate a political crisis when it approaches.

Up until recently, the Trump administration itself couldn't even decide what it wanted to do about the ceiling. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was begging for a "clean" increase, one that didn't have policy changes attached to it that would become the cause of political squabbling and potentially a stalemate that could result in default. But he was being contradicted by Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, who until this year was one of those anti-government Tea Party congressman for whom "Burn it all down!" sounded like a sensible political philosophy. Mulvaney was advocating that the ceiling only be increased if spending cuts were attached, which could have caused another game of chicken, with the American (and the world's) economy in the balance.

We can have our arguments about what government should spend money on and how much it should spend, but the debt ceiling does nothing but create opportunities for the least responsible people to do enormous damage to the country. All it would take to get rid of it is an act of Congress and the president's signature. It's long past time we tossed the debt ceiling in the trash where it belongs.

7. Alexander Nazaryan: Trump, America's Boy King: Golf And Television Won't Make America Great Again

Trump is a fighter, but before November 8, 2016, he only fought for himself. He never served in the military. He rarely gave to charity. “He’s a terribly self-indulgent individual,” says Robert Dallek, the noted presidential historian, who doesn’t think the weight of the presidency has “fully taken hold yet.” It may never. In his firing of FBI Director James Comey, his humiliation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his casual disregard of ethics rules, Trump has made it clear that he sees the White House as little more than a branch office of his marketing business, the Trump Organization.

As his crude dismissal of Comey demonstrated, Trump has little interest in understanding the scope of the executive branch, of limits set by tradition and the U.S. Constitution. And he will always defend his gilded image, even when he should be defending loftier goals. There have been countless reports in recent months that Trump supporters “don’t care” about the investigations of his campaign’s potential collusion with Russian hackers and the Kremlin. What that statement—often treated like a revelation—misses is the obvious fact that Trump deeply cares about the Russia probes. Judging by his Twitter account, there are many days when he cares about nothing else.

Trump plainly wants his legacy to reflect that slogan on the baseball hat donned by his supporters. He wants to be the man who pulled America out of its postindustrial malaise, silenced talk of national decline and China’s ascent. But he can’t do that if he keeps sinking into his own debilitating malaise, weighed down by his shortcomings and an unwillingness to address them. He is entitled to rage at insults and defeats. Achilles raged, too. But then Achilles fought, leaving aside personal slights to charge the ramparts of Troy. Trump’s approach is the approach of Al Bundy. It begins in rage. It ends there, too. Both the president and the shoe salesman are driven by their unreasonable demands and unsoothable grievances to the couch, where they sit in front of the television, stewing.


8. Jonathan Chait: Trump’s Fledgling Presidency Has Already Collapsed

After half a year of comic internal disarray, even in the face of broad public dismay, Trump’s administration had, through most of July, managed to hold together some basic level of partisan cohesion with a still-enthusiastic base and supportive partners in Congress. This has quickly collapsed.

Barring resignation or removal from office — which would require the vote of a House majority plus two-thirds of the Senate — we are stuck with a delegitimized president serving out the remaining seven-eighths of his term. Politically gridlocked presidencies have become normal, but for the office to be occupied by a man whose own party elites doubt his functional competence and even loyalty is, to borrow a term, unpresidented. Trump’s obsession with humiliation and dominance has left him ill-prepared to cope with high-profile failure. He seems unlikely to content himself with quiet, incremental bureaucratic reform.”

And yet it is difficult to see what Trump can do to reverse the situation. His next major domestic-agenda item, a regressive tax cut, is highly unpopular. He has inherited peace and prosperity. Nobody in the administration has been indicted. It is far easier to imagine conditions changing for the worse than the better. 8/05/17

9. Peter Baker: Trump Tests a Nation’s Capacity for Outrage

After six months in office, Mr. Trump has crossed so many lines, discarded so many conventions, said and done so many things that other presidents would not have, that he has radically shifted the understanding of what is standard in the White House. He has moved the bar for outrage. He has a taste for provocation and relishes challenging Washington taboos. If the propriety police tut tut, he shows no sign of concern.

After all, this is a president who refused to release his tax returns or divest from his private businesses, who put his son-in-law and daughter on the White House staff, who accused his predecessor of illegally tapping his phones without proof, who fired the F.B.I. director leading an investigation into the president’s associates and who has now undercut his ‘beleaguered’ attorney general in public. When he talked politics, jabbed the news media and told stories about Manhattan cocktail parties before tens of thousands of children at the nonpartisan National Scout Jamboree here in West Virginia on Monday, it was hardly surprising.

10. Jelani Cobb: In Trump’s World, Whites Are the Only Disadvantaged Class

In 2011, the year Donald Trump became the standard-bearer for the racist campaign to challenge Barack Obama’s citizenship, he didn’t just lob conspiracies about the President’s birthplace; he also questioned how Obama gained admission to two Ivy League universities. “I heard he was a terrible student, terrible,” Trump remarked, to the Associated Press. “How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I’m thinking about it. I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.” Coming just two days before Obama released his long-form birth certificate, the attack on the President’s educational background tipped Trump’s hand. He was not simply intent on delegitimizing the first black Presidency but also the processes that made one possible in the first place.

This broader theme was easy to miss in the scrum of last year’s campaign, as duelling perspectives debated whether “economic anxiety” or populist racism was the more active ingredient in Trumpism. Trump likely understood that this was always a false dichotomy. The dominant theme in the history of American populism, from the days of Tom Watson through those of George Wallace, is that resentful whites understand their economic status not in absolute terms but relative to the blacks whom they perceive as the true barometer of their standing. The question is not whether C.E.O.s have salaries hundreds of times larger than their own but whether black people have salaries comparable to theirs. The forces that have ravaged the American working classes were set loose four decades ago and were turbocharged by the end of the Cold War, but it took two terms of a black Presidency for much of this public to recognize that its fortunes were in a tailspin. Until 2008, this group had lacked a static landmark against which to measure whether it was moving backward or forward. Obama became that.

Thus Barack Obama and Donald Trump don’t simply represent successive Presidencies; they personify rival genealogies of our current moment, warring claims to history. Where Obama built a movement to shake off the dead hand of history, Trump was hoping to reanimate that hand and clench it into a fist.


11. Robin Wright: Why Is Donald Trump Still So Horribly Witless About the World?

Max Boot, a lifelong conservative who advised three Republican Presidential candidates on foreign policy, keeps a folder labelled “Trump Stupidity File” on his computer. It’s next to his “Trump Lies” file. “Not sure which is larger at this point,” he told me this week. “It’s neck-and-neck.”

Six months into the Trump era, foreign-policy officials from eight past Administrations told me they are aghast that the President is still so witless about the world. “He seems as clueless today as he was on January 20th,” Boot, who is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said. Trump’s painful public gaffes, they warn, indicate that he’s not reading, retaining, or listening to his Presidential briefings. And the newbie excuse no longer flies.

“Trump has an appalling ignorance of the current world, of history, of previous American engagement, of what former Presidents thought and did,” Geoffrey Kemp, who worked at the Pentagon during the Ford Administration and at the National Security Council during the Reagan Administration, reflected. “He has an almost studious rejection of the type of in-depth knowledge that virtually all of his predecessors eventually gained or had views on.”

Criticism of Donald Trump among Democrats who served in senior national-security positions is predictable and rife. But Republicans—who are historically ambitious on foreign policy—are particularly pained by the President’s missteps and misstatements. So are former senior intelligence officials who have avoided publicly criticizing Presidents until now. 8/04/17

12. Maureen Dowd: Bobby Sticks It to Trump

At a boisterous West Virginia rally Thursday night, Trump was back in fiery campaign mode, mocking the idea that he was the Siberian candidate.

“Are there any Russians here tonight?” he said. “Any Russians?”

All I can say is: Hurry up, Bobby Three Sticks. (Mueller got this moniker from F.B.I. agents because of the three Roman numerals at the end of his name.)

There may be no more bizarre, byzantine mystery in the history of American politics than Trump’s insistence on dancing with the red devil in the pale moonlight. Even for this most unlinear, illogical, uninformed president, it is flummoxing.

On Thursday, the president pout-tweeted that it was Congress’s fault that “our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low.” So he was blaming lawmakers who punished Russia for a cyberattack on our election rather than blaming Russia for sticking a saber in the heart of our democracy.

Hustle, Bobby Three Sticks.

13. Denise Clifton: A Chilling Theory on Trump’s Nonstop Lies

“26 hours, 29 Trumpian False or Misleading Claims.”

That was the headline on a piece last week from the Washington Post, whose reporters continued the herculean task of debunking wave after wave of President Donald Trump’s lies. (It turned out there was a 30th Trump falsehood in that time frame, regarding the head of the Boy Scouts.) The New York Times keeps a running tally of the president’s lies since Inauguration Day, and PolitiFact has scrutinized and rated 69 percent of Trump’s statements as mostly false, false, or “pants on fire.”

Trump’s chronic duplicity may be pathological, as some experts have suggested. But what else might be going on here? In fact, the 45th president’s stream of lies echoes a contemporary form of Russian propaganda known as the “Firehose of Falsehood.”

In 2016, the nonpartisan research organization RAND released a study of messaging techniques seen in Kremlin-controlled media. The researchers described two key features: “high numbers of channels and messages” and “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions.”

The result of those tactics? “New Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience.”

Indeed, Trump’s style as a mendacious media phenomenon resonates strongly with RAND’s findings from the study, which also explains the efficacy of the Russian propaganda tactics.


14. Charles M. Blow: America’s Whiniest ‘Victim’

Donald Trump is the reigning king of American victimhood.

He is unceasingly pained, injured, aggrieved.

The primaries were unfair. The debates were unfair. The general election was unfair.

“No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly,” he laments.

People refuse to reach past his flaws — which are legion! — and pat him on the back. People refuse to praise his minimal effort and minimal efficacy. They refuse to ignore that the legend he created about himself is a lie. People’s insistence on truth and honest appraisal is so annoying. It’s all so terribly unfair.

It is in this near perfect state of perpetual aggrievement that Trump gives voice to a faction of America that also feels aggrieved. Trump won because he whines. He whines in a way that makes the weak feel less vulnerable and more vicious. He makes feeling sorry for himself feel like fighting back.

In this way he was a perfect reflection of the new Whiny Right. Trump is its instrument, articulation, embodiment. He’s not so much representative of it but of an idea — the waning power of whiteness, privilege, patriarchy, access, and the cultural and economic surety that accrues to the possessors of such. Trump represents their emerging status of victims-in-their-own-minds. 8/07/17


15. Molly Ball: The Trump Show Never Ends

The presidency in crisis! How can this possibly be sustained? Where will it end? What is going to happen? But the answer is right in front of us: It’s happening right now, on an endless loop. This is what’s going to happen, day in and day out—nonstop chaos, plot twists and cliffhangers, a furious, embattled president who finds new ways to shock while never seeming to change.

The show goes on. The ratings are terrific! Trump keeps campaigning for the election that happened nine months ago, determined to keep that feeling alive.

He lashes out at the Congress, including his own party’s failed health-care vote: “The Republicans and Democrats let us down on that.”

He laments the Russia investigation: “A total fabrication.” It is, he says, “just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. It just makes them feel better when they have nothing else to talk about. What the prosecutors should be looking at is Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails.”

At that, the crowd erupts into a sustained roar, and the old, gleeful chants of “Lock her up!” can be heard.

The message to the faithful is clear enough: You are on the hook for this. An attack on me is an attack on you. To stop believing would be a betrayal.

16. Bob Dreyfuss: Why Trump Should Be Afraid With Robert Mueller on the Case

By now, it's clear: Robert Mueller, the special counsel looking into Russiagate and related matters, is a determined, relentless inquisitor whose investigation could lead to criminal charges against a wide range of Donald Trump's staff, associates, former campaign officials and members of his immediate family. And, when its work is complete, it isn't out of the question that Mueller's team could deliver a report triggering Trump's impeachment.

From the start, Mueller had a broad mandate – and it isn't limited to the question of Russia. The statement appointing Mueller authorized him to investigate "any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Trump," along with "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation," plus "any other matters within the scope" of the law. That statement also gave Mueller the job of looking into efforts by Trump or others to impede or block the inquiry.

What that means, and what's scariest for the White House, is that Mueller isn't limited just to the question of collusion between Trump and Moscow. Mueller might suspect that the ties between the Trump organization and the allied financial and real estate empire run by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to Russian banks and various Putin-linked oligarchs, even going back years, might help explain Trump's ties to Russia – making that fair game for the special counsel's office. In addition, should any evidence of other crimes emerge while looking into the Trump-Kushner businesses – such as financial misdeeds, involvement in money-laundering or improper real estate deals, for instance – well, that too could lead to indictments.

And then there's the question of obstruction of justice. Even if Mueller can't prove collusion with Russia and doesn't find any financial or real estate wrongdoing, he can still nail the president if he determines Trump tried illegally to obstruct the investigations that are underway – not only by the special counsel, but by the FBI itself, the Department of Justice and the several congressional committees that are looking into Russiagate