From a Washington Post article: ‘The president fired all the ambassadors! He’s issuing executive orders! He’s putting political cronies into trusted positions! He’s declaring his inauguration to be a special national day! Well, of course he is. It’s what presidents do in their first weeks in office. It’s what Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama did, too.’
An incisive, informative, sobering read, which gets better and better:
‘Trump’s opponents — especially in the media — seem determined to overreact on even ordinary matters. This is both unwise and damaging to our political culture. America needs an adversarial press and a sturdy system of checks and balances. Unmodulated shock and outrage, however, not only burn precious credibility among the president’s opponents, but eventually will exhaust the public and increase the already staggering amount of cynicism paralyzing our national political life.’
See, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Protest too much, all the time, and be too righteous, too anxious and neurotic, and you end up losing credibility. You lose the will of the citizenry to listen, and with it goes much of the political goodwill needed to stand up for what is decent.
You also lose sight of reality. For example . . .
‘When the Trump administration tweaked Obama’s order on Russia sanctions — in a move to correct an obstacle even Obama did not intend to place in the way of U.S. exports to Russia — several members of Congress charged the White House with rewarding Russia’s interference in the U.S. election. Trump, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said, was easing sanctions against Russian hackers and the Russian security services, and allowing Russia “to sharpen its knives and import tools from the United States to hack us again.” On the other hand, even Russia hawk Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the change seemed to be a “technical fix.” But the accusation of lifting sanctions has now been made; should the day arrive when the White House actually does want to alleviate the sanctions against Moscow, such complaints might have less force with a public who has heard it all already.’
Like I said, too much of a good thing — of ANY thing — and the position weakens, and the argument short-circuits.
In summary, the author notes:
‘There’s plenty of cause for worry. I wrote at length for more than a year about why I thought Trump should not be president, and nothing since has eased my concerns about his temperament or policies. I am grieved at the needless insults to our allies in NATO; I believe his phone call with Taiwan was reckless; I am appalled at the closeness between an American administration and the Russian enemy regime led by Vladimir Putin. I could go on . . .’
In fact, he does:
‘Unfortunately, our national debate is instead consumed with overreaction and hysteria, which not only cloud important questions but in the short term paradoxically play to the president’s advantage, no matter how much his opponents wish otherwise. For example, Trump promised a Muslim ban during the campaign. But the executive order now running into multiple challenges is not actually a Muslim ban: It affects the citizens, regardless of faith, of several Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa but has no relevance to persons of Islamic faith who carry the passports of almost 200 other countries. Nonetheless, pundits and critics — and some Trump surrogates — are happy to call it a Muslim ban. This sends a message to Trump’s voters that he is a decisive leader who has fulfilled his promise, even though he has done no such thing. “I love it when they bash him, because it tells me he’s doing the right thing,” a Wisconsin retiree told the New York Times.’
In fact, the closer you look, the plot thickens . . .
‘I, too, was upset about the dissolution of the VOA [Voice of America] board and the shift toward using presidential appointees in place of a bipartisan group of governors. I was upset about that, in fact, last year, when that provision was slipped into the National Defense Authorization Act. [note: a bill approved by Obama’s administration!]’
See the problem?
And on the National Security Council debacle . . .
‘It is perfectly reasonable to argue that political advisers should be kept off the council, and it is worrisome, at least to me, to see the roles of senior military and intelligence officials scaled back. Right now, however, we are having very few such discussions. Trump critics instead are in a full-blown outrage over the reality that presidents can pretty much staff the National Security Council the way they want — which has always been the case — thus chasing down a blind alley while leaving aside far more important points [i.e. the scaling back of military and intelligence officials from matters that concern the military / intelligence community].’
In closing, the author warns:
‘A continual state of panic serves no purpose and will eventually numb voters and their institutions to real threats when they inevitably arise.’
From your infuriatingly discerning and ever-collected Spin Doctor, quoting an article in the Washington Post by Tom Nichols,
Eyes open, mind sharp.