Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: When things change, you can miss the signs if you’re trained not to see

IoSonoUnaFotoCamera / Flickr Trump...
IoSonoUnaFotoCamera / Flickr

Yes, this week is different. It’s a subtle change but you can feel it. Some reporters and editors have had enough. Some Republicans have had it (see Trump Is Being Manipulated by Putin. What Should We Do?). Some voters have. And they, in November, will have the last word.

Olivia Nuzzi/New Yorker:

The second former official said it was important to remember that “something always goes wrong” with Trump. “There’s always some issue in the White House when it comes to responding to a crisis, and 90 percent of the time, it’s crises that they create themselves, and you have to go in with the understanding that the baseline level for these guys is full retard, basically.”

“When that was their excuse, I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s so ridiculous.”

“The one thing that makes this week so much different is they’re actually trying to fight back. Typically, Trump would say something completely insane and they would just let the media cycle sit. At least they’re trying to fight back. They’re fighting back in the worst possible way, but like, you can see the effort. You know these guys are fucking idiots, but the effort is there.”

The second former official added, “You have a lot of people who are just a bunch of small-timers and clowns, so when they fuck up a response, you almost can’t blame them because you knew what you were getting, you know? When you have people who suck at this and then they fuck up a response, you can’t really be angry. This is what you have. It’s like having a puppy that shits on the floor, you can’t get angry at the puppy. The puppy doesn’t know any better.”

Josh Marshall/TPM:

The Bigs Are Starting to Accept the Unimaginable

Sometimes it’s specific, some kind of corrupt alliance; other times it’s amorphous, some kind of inexplicable hold Putin has over Trump by force of personality. But the kind of people who never said this kind of thing are saying it now. Somehow the President is compromised. Putin has something on him, or he has tempted his avarice with something. But there’s simply no innocent explanation for what we’re seeing.

That’s the shift. The Monday press conference made cautious, prominent people start to come to grips with the reality that Donald Trump, as crazy as it sounds and as difficult as it may be to believe, is under some kind of influence or control by a foreign adversary power, whether by fear or avarice or some other factor.

As yet, there’s little difference of behavior from elected Republicans. And I don’t expect any. What veteran foreign policy or diplomatic hands say on CNN is not the most important thing. But I think they are indicators of a change, a change of perception I expect is occurring among many who can’t yet speak.


Even the tweets don’t have the same impact.

Max Boot/WaPo:

This conservative would take Obama back in a nanosecond

How I miss Barack Obama.

And I say that as someone who worked to defeat him: I was a foreign policy adviser to John McCain in 2008 and to Mitt Romney in 2012. I criticized Obama’s “lead from behind” foreign policy that resulted in a premature pullout from Iraq and a failure to stop the slaughter in Syria. I thought he was too weak on Iran and too tough on Israel. I feared that Obamacare would be too costly. I fumed that he was too professorial and too indecisive. I was left cold by his arrogance and his cult of personality.

Now I would take Obama back in a nanosecond. His presidency appears to be a lost golden age when reason and morality reigned. All of his faults, real as they were, fade into insignificance compared with the crippling defects of his successor. And his strengths — seriousness, dignity, intellect, probity, dedication to ideals larger than self — shine all the more clearly in retrospect.

Here’s an idea for a fall slogan:

Jeremy Stahl/Slate:

More Evidence Emerges That Trump Intended for Family Separation to Be Permanent

“[During a Wednesday meeting], Trump Administration officials made a startling confession—they had no interagency plan in place to reunite children with their parents when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced President Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy in April,” the trio of Congressmen announced on Thursday. “Even if they believed their new policy was the right one, how could they have been so heartless not to have planned to reunite these children with their parents?”

This is a question that should haunt this country for years: Did our government plan to make effective orphans of thousands of children who came here with loving parents?

Again, the plain answer seems to be: “Yes.”


Trump promised them better, cheaper health care. It’s not happening.

A key small business group says Trump’s new insurance rules are unworkable, after pushing the idea for nearly 20 years.

President Donald Trump handed an influential business advocacy group what should have been a historic lobbying victory when he recently rolled out new rules encouraging small businesses to band together to offer health insurance.

Trump, who’s touted the expansion of so-called association health plans as a key plank in his strategy to tear down Obamacare, even announced the rules at the 75th anniversary party of the National Federation of Independent Business last month, claiming the group’s members will save “massive amounts of money” and have better care if they join forces to offer coverage to workers.

But the NFIB, which vigorously promoted association health plans for two decades, now says it won’t set one up, describing the new Trump rules as unworkable.

Daily Beast:

Poll: Half of Americans Think Trump Acted ‘Treasonous’ in Helsinki

Only 5 percent of respondents to a new Daily Beast/Ipsos poll think the United States benefited from the summit more than Russia.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly defended his extraordinary performance at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in Helsinki, dismissing the “many haters” who wanted to see “a boxing match.”

Americans are far from convinced, according to a new Daily Beast/Ipsos poll.

Ron Brownstein/National Journal:

The Seeds of a GOP Anti-Trump Movement

Can a new vehicle for intraparty critics make a dent in the president’s support?

If anything, these solo flights may have weakened the anti-Trump cause inside the GOP. Other elected officials view occasional Trump critics like Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who are retiring, and Rep. Mark Sanford, who lost a primary, less as an inspiration than a warning. “The individual ad hoc attacks on Trump aren’t effective, and they are potentially counterproductive because it allows Trump to isolate the people who are doing it,” says Pete Wehner, who was director of strategic planning in the George W. Bush White House.

There’s no easy solution to that dilemma. But history suggests the first step may be to find strength in numbers. In recent decades, other factions disaffected with their party’s direction have amplified their influence by coalescing and creating their own institutions. Probably the best-known recent example is the Democratic Leadership Council, which party centrists formed after President Reagan routed old-style liberal Walter Mondale in 1984.

Don’t mourn, GOP. Organize.

Susan B Glasser/New Yorker:

“No Way to Run a Superpower”: The Trump-Putin Summit and the Death of American Foreign Policy

We are witnessing nothing less than the breakdown of American foreign policy. This week’s extraordinary confusion over even the basic details of the Helsinki summit shows that all too clearly. We may not yet know what exactly Trump agreed to with Putin, or even if they agreed to anything at all; perhaps, it will turn out, Putin and his advisers have sprung another clever disinformation trap on Trump, misleading the world about their private meeting because a novice American President gave them an opening to do so. But, even if we don’t know the full extent of what was said and done behind closed doors in Helsinki, here’s what we already do know as a result of the summit: America’s government is divided from its President on Russia; its process for orderly decision-making, or even basic communication, has disintegrated; and its ability to lead an alliance in Europe whose main mission in recent years has been to counter and contain renewed Russian aggression has been seriously called into question.

Stephen Walt/FP:

Why Trump Is Getting Away With Foreign-Policy Insanity

The only people who can stop his sucking up to Russia have lost all their credibility.

But what is to be done? At this point, it is no longer news that the U.S. president is incompetent, careless, venal, an inveterate liar, and concerned only about his own image and the support of his base. Nor is it news that most of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment is horrified by his conduct and deeply alarmed by what he is doing to many of the institutions, commitments, and other endeavors to which they have devoted their lives. Indeed, the establishment’s deep opposition to Trump—an aversion that crossed party lines—has been apparent since the 2016 campaign, when a host of prominent Republican foreign-policy officials publically opposed Trump’s candidacy, questioning his character and declaring him “utterly unfitted to the office.”

How right they were. But what is equally striking is how ineffective their criticisms were then, and how ineffective they have been since he took office. Although “the Blob” has reined Trump in to some degree, the relentless drumbeat of criticism from angry liberal interventionists and equally vehement “never Trump” neoconservatives hasn’t had much impact on Trump’s support or on the president’s own convictions. The question is, why?

The main reason, I suspect, is that the elite foreign-policy establishment doesn’t have a lot of credibility anymore. After all, this bipartisan caste of national security managers are responsible for open-ended NATO expansion, which did not make Europe a reliable “zone of peace”; mishandled the Kosovo War; failed to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks; either conceived, supported, or went along with the invasion of Iraq; have continued to back the 17-years-and-counting-quagmire in Afghanistan; bungled assorted interventions in Libya, Yemen, and Syria; repeatedly mismanaged the Middle East peace process; and have presided over an ever-expanding and apparently endless “war on terror.” Some of these folks also approved the illegal surveillance of Americans, the torture and targeted killings of foreigners (some of them innocent civilians), and any number of other crimes or follies. The credibility of this elite was further tarnished by the 2008 financial crisis and their failure to recognize that globalization and rising inequality were leaving many people behind and were bound to provoke a powerful backlash.

To make matters worse, most members of this elite refused to hold themselves or their friends accountable for all of these failures

An important observation. It’s the failure in Iraq that opened the door for a Donald Trump, and support of that disaster that discredited Democrats as well as Republicans (including Hillary Clinton, which cost her the 2008 nomination). Not acknowledging that has always been an establishment failure and we are paying the price for that failure today.

Jason Sattler/USA Today:

Trump and Russia used race to divide America. Now it’s a national security problem.

The roughly 3,500 Facebook ads created by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency “consistently promoted ads designed to inflame race-related tensions,” a USA TODAY analysis found.

White supremacists who’ve tried to brand themselves as the “alt-right” often demonstrate a Trump-like reverence for Putin’s predominantly white, openly anti-LGBT Russia. And that affection is often rewarded by Russia’s vast propaganda efforts.

Dividing Americans over race is also the true art of Trump’s deal.

By demanding the first black president’s papers, he found a path into politics that he’d been seeking since at least 1988. “As someone possessing perhaps the best raw political instincts of any Republican in his generation, Trump had intuited, correctly, that a racist attack targeting a black president was the surest way to ingratiate himself with grass-roots Republican voters,” Joshua Green wrote.

While mainstream Republicans shrugged off birtherism, vast majorities of the GOP favored the theory that Obama had faked his own birth, even eight years into his presidency.

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