Memoirs of the Addams Administration 7.

Democrats are unhappy with the outcome of the November 2016 presidential election.  It is easy to understand why.  With the House and the Senate already in Republican hands, winning the White House offered the only way for Democrats to check potential Republican legislation and to prevent Republican control of judicial appointments that will control the interpretation of laws for a generation.  So, their fallback positions have been to allege that Trump is an authoritarian and to raise the possibility of impeachment.[1]  Democrats have been quick to characterize President Trump’s behavior as “crazy.”[2]

In a recent Twitter post, President Donald Trump called the mainstream media (MSM) “the enemy of the people!”  One journalist quickly analogized Trump to Hitler, Mao, and Lenin, who all used the same phrase.[3]  (He left out the noted Scandinavian tyrant Henrik Ibsen, who seems to have originated the phrase.)  Another journalist argued that Trump seeks a country where “there is no such thing as truth.”  Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), who has eclipsed David Brooks as the Republican-Democrats-love-to-quote, said that attacking the press is “how dictatorships get started.”  Picking up on Senator McCain’s line, one journalist argued that President Trump’s long-running and now-escalated criticisms of the MSM constitute “something new and potentially dangerous for our democracy.”[4]  How so?  Is journalism a bulwark of democracy that—like Joe Friday—is committed to placing “just the facts” before voters?  Are journalists going to bend before the broken wind of criticism emerging from the White House?  Is the MSM going to lose credibility in the eyes of the Americans who have been fleeing from the MSM’s print and digital formats in immense numbers for two decades?  A recent Gallup Poll reported that less than one-third (32 percent) of Americans have “a great deal” or a “fair” amount of confidence in the media.  This seems to be the lowest level since whenever they began tracking this issue.[5]

President Trump added Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster to his team as National Security Adviser to replace Michael Flynn.  McMaster is a highly-regarded-in-some-quarters combat commander, counter-insurgency expert, strategist, and military intellectual.[6]  Although the New York Times has castigated the Trump administration as “packed with radicals and amateurs,” so far as national security goes, the reality is different.  McMaster fits into a larger pattern.  Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were all lauded for their achievements in their previous fields of endeavor. [7]  Mattis, Kelly, Tillerson, and McMaster have all distanced themselves from policies proclaimed by President Trump.[8]  One issue here is whether the settled culture of official Washington can tolerate non-traditional experts—military officers and business executives—as leaders of important agencies.  A second issue is whether only non-traditional experts—military officers and business executives—can make Washington work.

[1] Impeachment would put the conventional—but extremely conservative—Vice President Mike Pence into office.  I’m not sure that it would alter conditions for the better for Democrats.  So, I’m not sure that they are thinking about things in a clear-headed way.

[2] “Trump: the sanity question,” The Week, 3 March 2017, p. 16.  In any event, see:

[3] At some point, an intrepid researcher is going to have to go back to figure out where the name-calling originated.  Neither side seems able to achieve a degree of objectivity on the relationship.  See: “The War of the Roses” (1989, dir. Danny DeVito).

[4] “The press: Are journalists ‘the enemy of the people’?’ The Week, 3 March 2017, p. 6.

[5] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 3 March 2017, p. 17.

[6] To declare a personal interest, I once heard General McMaster speak.  I thought at the time—it was a juvenile response—that I would follow him into the mouth of Hell.  I have not changed my position.  See also: Thomas Ricks, The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today (2013) on the tribes within the army.

[7] Really, who would you rather have negotiating on behalf of the United States, the former head of a ferocious oil company or the guy in the pink tie?  See:

[8] As has Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.  King Frederick the Great of Prussia once proclaimed that “I and my people have come to an agreement.  They may say what they want and I may do what I want.”  What if the reverse situation prevails here?

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