Trump’s ugliness – Charlottesville and after

What happened in Charlottesville last weekend looked ugly. Protesters congregated from around the country, many of them representing ugly and extreme views. Ugliness and extremes were on display. Counter protesters stood up against this, and there was no doubt some ugliness from some of them too, but the focus was rightly on the ugly right.

Many looked to President Trump for some appropriate condemnation. He disappointed for two days. This may have been in part because the ugly right have championed Trump, and in Charlottesville they cheered Trump.

Eventually Trump read a statement condemning the ugly right. It sounded like a carefully constructed statement, delivered without conviction.

The next day Trump reverted to type in an impromptu media conference. He swung back to defending his adoring ugly supporters and spreading the blame. He disappointed many people across the political spectrum. He was cheered by David Duke, ex leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

One disturbing aspect was Trump’s use of terminology repeated often online by those promoting white ‘supremacy’ and trashing anyone deemed different in race or religion.

Trump stirred up an ugliness that has long been in America. This ugliness has voted for him and applauded him, and he has effectively applauded this ugliness back.

RCP: A Defiant Trump’s Combative Homecoming

Donald Trump returned to his famed Fifth Avenue home this week, outwardly unchanged by the past seven months at the White House or the weight of the presidency.

Appearing at Trump Tower for the first time since taking the oath of office, the president rejected calls from within his own party and administration to reset his tone in the wake of a violent white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., and instead dug in his heels in vintage fashion.

During an impromptu press conference in the marbled lobby of his Manhattan property, flanked by members of his Cabinet, Trump defended his original statement on the protests—re-reading it from a paper he pulled from his blazer pocket–and criticized the “alt-left” and “very, very violent” groups that ran counter-demonstrations in Virginia. The president condemned neo-Nazis who organized the weekend protest, but argued there were some “very fine people” who came to the rally simply to protest the city’s planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The president’s frustration with the bipartisan political pressure he faced on his response to Charlottesville was palpable. Earlier in the day, Trump lambasted chief executives who resigned from his manufacturing council in protest of the president’s handling of the weekend’s events. The previous evening, he blamed the media for the way in which his more pointed Monday comments were received. And so, the president dismissed the advice and counsel of his staff who aimed to refocus the nation’s attention on the agenda, and instead embraced his comfort with combat and impulse. New chief of staff John Kelly stood nearby, arms folded and head down.

Trump blasted the press for not covering the counter-protesters, a minority of whom represented the anti-fascist “Antifa” group that has engaged in violence and vandalism, in the same way as the white nationalist organizers. “I only tell you this, there are two sides to a story,” Trump told reporters. “I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides.”

And with that, the president erased any goodwill he established with both liberal and conservative critics with his statement from the White House the previous day, in which he singled out the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists after coming under fire for initially arguing there were “many sides” of violence in Charlottesville.

Concerns about Trump’s pandering to the ugly right have been expressed from elsewhere on the right.

While the president had previously echoed some of the grievances of the GOP base, his unplanned press conference garnered little support. Several Republican lawmakers quickly came out to out to counter Trump’s remarks. “White supremacyis repulsive,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “There can be no moral ambiguity.”

Kansas’ Jerry Moran, a red state senator who once chaired the party committee focused on getting Republicans elected to the Senate, called out the president specifically. “No one — especially POTUS — should ever tolerate” white supremacy, bigotry and racism.

In a series of tweets, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio raised concerns the president’s statements would further fuel hate groups. “Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame,” he wrote. “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win.”

But pointedly…

David Duke, former KKK grand wizard, applauded the president’s remarks.

The ugly right may be all Trump has left to applaud him.

NY Daily News: Both Bush Presidents, McConnell horrified by Trump’s Charlottesville response: ‘There are no good neo-Nazis’ 

The only two living Republican ex-Presidents joined a growing chorus of conservatives criticizing President Trump’s Charlottesville response and denouncing extremism.

“America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism and hatred in all forms,” former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush said in a joint statement Wednesday.

In offering prayers for the Virginia city, the politicians invoked its most “prominent citizen,” Thomas Jefferson, quoting his words in the Declaration of Independence: “We are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — responding to Trump defending Charlottesville white nationalist protesters as “fine people” — emphasized “there are no good neo-Nazis.”

NY Post: Trump’s horrifying ‘take three’ on Charlottesville

On Tuesday afternoon, we learned yet again that the president of the United States is against neo-Nazis, which is nice. They’re “very rough,” he said at an impromptu Trump Tower press conference — by which he likely meant some of the people he saw on TV in Charlottesville this past Saturday had beards and leather jackets and swastika tattoos and were overweight.

The night before, by contrast, Trump said there had been some “very good people” rallying with “a permit” by a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. Maybe he thought so because the photographs we all saw showed clean-cut young men in Polo shirts and Dockers.

The rest of us also saw them engaging in Nazi salutes and carrying torches.

Those images seem to have eluded the president.

Trump did not note that they were not locals with aesthetic concerns but rather had been summoned from all over the country under the slogan “Unite the Right.”

The ad promoting the “Unite the Right” rally, which ran on far-right websites all week, did not even mention the statue. It was designed to evoke a fascist poster with birds similar to the Nazi eagle in the sky over the marchers and Confederate flags taking the place of swastikas.

It invited people to join speakers like Mike Enoch, who hosts a podcast called “The Daily Shoah.” And Augustus Invictus, an alt-right figure who once said, “I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War; that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War I would begin it myself.” And Christopher Cantwell, who calls himself a “fascist,” along with Johnny Monoxide, who just labels himself “fashy.” And Michael Hill, an ex-professor who said, in 2015, “Never underestimate the perfidy of the organized Jew.” And Matt Heimbach, who says only 27,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

The march’s own organizer, Jason Kessler, described the view of those who wanted to move the statue thus: “You don’t give a damn about white people. You people are implementing policies which are displacing us in our home countries, and we will not be allowed to survive.”

As David French writes, “When Trump carves [the alt-right] away from the Nazis and distinguishes them from the neo-Confederates, he’s doing exactly what they want. He’s making them respectable. He’s making them different.”

This has been ugly from America’s right, and it has been ugly from Trump.

Even Fox sees this.

WSJ:  Trump Loses Corporate America

There is no point in taking brickbats for a president who does not deliver.

Mr. Trump’s administration is turning out not to be the administration they were hoping for, though probably the one they realistically expected.

Especially he has not made headway on corporate taxes—the issue that bought him whatever benefit of the doubt America’s CEO class was willing to give him.

Now a handful are fleeing his advisory council because he didn’t say the right words over Charlottesville, or didn’t say them quickly enough. This is big news because the media can’t get enough Trump. He insists on making himself the lightning rod. That’s one problem.

If the president or a scraggly someone close to him in the West Wing is soft on white supremacists because he thinks these groups are a vital bloc, this would be the miscalculation of the century. Their adherents couldn’t swing a race for dogcatcher. It is precisely the left’s fantasy of the right that these people constitute a useful electoral base.

None of the departing CEOs likely believe Mr. Trump is a white supremacist or Nazi sympathizer. They just see no upside to being associated with him.

The Charlottesville protests, which included an attack by vehicle that killed one person and injured many others (similar looking attacks in Europe have been called terrorism), has looked ugly, and Trump’s response has been uneven and increasingly ugly.

It looks like Trump is becoming toxic to Republicans, and toxic to corporate America.

And with Trump remaining defiant it is likely to get uglier.

Trump irony: “I need the facts”

An ironic excuse from  President Trump for taking two days to condemn extreme groups involved in the Charlottesville protests.

Also from CNN today:

Trump condemns “white supremacists” and “neo-Nazis”

It has taken a while but US president Donald Trump has condemned extreme groups after the violence, protests, and death and injuries in Charlottesville over the weekend. He referred to ‘racist violence’.

Fox News: Trump condemns ‘white supremacists,’ vows ‘justice will be delivered’ in Charlottesville attack

After facing bipartisan criticism for his initial statement over the weekend, Trump was direct in his condemnation Monday.

The president on Saturday had condemned violence and hatred on “many sides,” but faced swift criticism as video emerged from the scene in Charlottesville showing a car ramming into a crowd of counter-protesters. One person died in that attack; two state police also died in a chopper crash.

Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in saying Trump should call out white supremacists directly.

The president, after meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray in Washington, said his Justice Department has opened a civil rights probe into the deadly car attack on Saturday.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America”.

“Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

That is clear.

Trump may disappoint a few supporters with these remarks, but he may be less likely to lose more.

His remarks Monday could ease some of that outcry, at least from his own party. Trump said Monday that anyone who acted criminally will be held “fully accountable.”

“No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God,” Trump said.

A shame about the god reference – there’s a wide range of religious and non-religious views in the US.

He lengthy statement unequivocal on equality race, and the abhorrence of violence and division. As he needed to be.

Trump’s response to Charlottesville troubles

Donald Trump’s reaction to the problems in Charlottesville has been controversial.

He had tweeted:

We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!

But he also spoke (from one of his gold clubs where he is on holiday):

 “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

This was controversial because it didn’t name what the main offenders where.

NBC:  Trump Takes Heat for Blaming Charlottesville Violence on ‘Many Sides’

President Donald Trump sparked a backlash Saturday when he suggested “many sides” were to blame for the deadly violence at a white nationalist rally in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.

Democrats criticized the president for failing to single out white nationalists, and several Republicans issued statements mentioning white nationalism or white supremacists. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said on Twitter: “We should call evil by its name.”

He added that hate and division in the country must stop, but that it is not linked to his presidency because it has “been going on for a long, long time.”

“No matter our color, creed, religion, our political party, we are all Americans first,” he said, adding that he’d like for his administration to “study” why such violence is occurring. He didn’t take questions from reporters.

Asked for clarification, a White House official later said: “The President was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter protesters today.”

And his very temporary ex-communications director:

Al this reaction seemed to lead to a more specific condemnation.

Fox News: Trump condemns ‘white supremacists,’ other extremists behind deadly Virginia rallies

President Trump specifically condemns “white supremacists” and other extremist groups as forces behind the deadly protests and counter-protests this weekend in Virginia, a White House spokesperson said Sunday.

“The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together,” the spokesperson said from Trump’s private golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

Right wing protesters were reported as saluting while chanting ‘Heil Trump’.

Trump will perhaps learn from this that what a president says can matter. He can’t be blamed for individual acts of violence and terrorism, but inflammatory rhetoric, both past and recent, can have an influence on public discourse and behaviour.

USA v North Korea – increasingly bizarre

The slanging  match between Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un continues to and unprecedented level of bizarreness. Both have backed themselves into tough guy corners that will be difficult to get out of without losing face, or significant numbers of lives.

Fox News:  Trump says US is ‘locked and loaded’ amid North Korea threat

President Trump took to Twitter early Friday issuing yet another stark warning to North Korea that the United States’ military was “locked and loaded,” and urged the rogue regime’s dictator to “find another path.”

“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!” the president tweeted Friday morning.

I wonder if this will result in the first war to be declared by Twitter, or the first military attack (the Korean War of the 1950s is technically not over) to be announced by Twitter. The first nuclear attack by twit?

Earlier this week, Trump reacted to reports that North Korea had produced a compact nuclear warhead and warned the country they “will be met with fire and fury” if they carry out an attack. Hours later, state media in North Korea reported that its leaders were seriously considering a plan to fire missiles at Guam.

“Let’s see what he does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before –what will happen in North Korea,” Trump said Thursday, at his property in Bedminster, N.J., in response to Kim Jong Un’s threats to attack the U.S. territory. “It’s not a dare, it’s a statement.”

Trump added: “He has disrespected our country greatly. He has said things that are horrific. And with me, he’s not getting away with it. It’s a whole new ball game.”

An unprecedented exchange – but far to serious to be called a game.

I’m sure South Korea and Japan are a tad uneasy.

Fox News: North Korea threat: Pentagon says ready to ‘fight tonight,’ as Trump shows bomber pics

Pentagon officials told Fox News on Friday that the U.S. military stands ready to “fight tonight” on the Korean Peninsula, as President Trump said the U.S. is “locked and loaded” and retweeted images from U.S. Pacific Command showing B-1B Lancer bombers on Guam.

At the same time, a North Korean state news agency statement warned that “even a single shell dropped on the Korean Peninsula might lead to the outbreak of … thermonuclear war.”

“We consider the U.S. no more than a lump which we can beat to a jelly any time,” the Korean Central News Agency said, quoting Institute of International Studies researcher Kang Kum Chol.

After his ‘locked and loaded’ tweet Trump retweeted this:

In contrast from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: War with North Korea would be ‘catastrophic’

Mattis said Thursday that war with North Korea would be “catastrophic,” casting a dire tone after President Trump unleashed a string of warnings to the rogue nation.

“The American effort is diplomatically led, it has diplomatic traction, it is gaining diplomatic results and I want to stay right there right now,” Mattis said while speaking with reporters in Mountain View, California.

“The tragedy of war is well-enough known it doesn’t need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic,” Mattis continued.

Mattis has to try and deal with madmen on both sides of the slanging match.

I’m glad I’m in a different hemisphere.

Meanwhile, Australia’s prime minister said his country would come to the aid of the United States if North Korea attacks Guam.

Oh bugger, our neighbours across the ditch attracting attention.

US-North Korea heat rises

The war of words between the USA and North Korea continues unabated.

Egomaniac idiots.

US versus North Korea

 

The rhetoric between the US and North Korea has ramped up to an alarming level. Donald trump has threatened ‘fire and fury’, and this has dismayed the more diplomatic in his administration.

 

There will be many people around the world hoping he doesn’t use that power.

Fox:  Trump says US nuclear arsenal is ‘stronger, more powerful than ever before’ amid North Korea threat

Trump’s tweets come after his boldly chilling response to reports that North Korea has produced a compact nuclear warhead capable of topping missiles that could reach half of the United States.

Trump also said that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “has been very threatening beyond a normal state” and said the regime “best not make any more threats to the United States.”

The report that Pyongyang has missile-ready nukes, first appearing in the Washington Post, has been confirmed by Fox News. The assessment of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities was prepared in July by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

“The [intelligence community} assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles,” an excerpt from the DIA analysis read.

North Korea has threatened that the United States would pay dearly “thousands of times” for new sanctions passed over the weekend by the United Nations Security Council to cripple the nation’s economy, but U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. told Fox News that America has the upper hand.

Fox:  Secretary Mattis warns North Korea not to invite ‘destruction of its people’

Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis echoed his boss’s fiery warning Wednesday to the dictator of North Korea with harsh rhetoric of his own. And this time, the words came from a battle-tested, four-star U.S. Marine Corps general.

“President Trump was informed of the growing threat last December and on taking office his first orders to me emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces,” Mattis continued.

“While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth.  The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”

 

Trump’s obsession with himself

Another leak, this time of transcripts of President Trumps conversations with Australian and Mexican leaders early this year, have shown again how obsessed with himself and his image that Trump is.

He said “I am the world’s greatest person” to Malcolm Turnbull in January.

And recent reports show how he seems to have trouble understanding the difference between leading a company, where the boss can dictate what he likes, compared to the complexities of the US system of government.

Reuters:  Trump, frustrated by Afghan war, suggests firing U.S. commander: officials

During a July 19 meeting in the White House Situation Room, Trump demanded that his top national security aides provide more information on what one official called “the end-state” in a country where the United States has spent 16 years fighting against the Taliban with no end in sight.

The meeting grew stormy when Trump said Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford, a Marine general, should consider firing Army General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, for not winning the war.

“We aren’t winning,” he told them, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some officials left the meeting “stunned” by the president’s vehement complaints that the military was allowing the United States to lose the war.

Trump seems to have a habit of firing if he isn’t ‘winning’.

CNN: Trump’s Russia statement proves he doesn’t understand separation of powers

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed the Russia sanctions bill that the Republican-led Congress had approved overwhelmingly. But he made sure everyone knew he wasn’t happy about it — and in so doing revealed, again, that he has either little understanding of or little care for the separation of powers built into the US government.

What makes Trump’s derision of the division of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches different is both how brazen he is about it and how many times he has expressed sentiments in his first six-plus months in office that suggest he simply doesn’t understand the fact that everyone in the government doesn’t work for him.

And the latest leaks from Washington Post: The Post’s latest bombshell 

Produced by White House staff, the documents provide an unfiltered glimpse of Trump’s approach to the diplomatic aspect of his job, subjecting even a close neighbor and long-standing ally to streams of threats and invective as if aimed at U.S. adversaries.

With Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull:

The Jan. 28 call with Turnbull became particularly acrimonious. “I have had it,” Trump erupted after the two argued about an agreement on refugees. “I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day.”

Before ending the call, Trump noted that at least one of his conversations that day had gone far more smoothly. “Putin was a pleasant call,” Trump said, referring to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. “This is ridiculous.” … “This is going to kill me,” he said to Turnbull. “I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people.”

With Mexican President Peña Nieto:

“On the wall, you and I both have a political problem,” Trump said. “My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language.”

Trump seemed to acknowledge that his threats to make Mexico pay had left him cornered politically. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” he said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.” …

Peña Nieto resisted, saying that Trump’s repeated threats had placed “a very big mark on our back, Mr. President.” He warned that “my position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for the wall.”

Trump objected: “But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that, and I cannot live with that.”

Jennifer Rubin at WaPo: Why the leaked presidential transcripts are so frightening

It is shocking to see presidential conversations released in this way. Some in the executive branch, as Anthony Scaramucci aptly put it, are intent on protecting the country from Trump. This is a good thing, by the way. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has obviously failed to plug the flood leaks.

These transcripts may have been leaked before Kelly took over.

Trump is frighteningly obsessed with himself and his image to such an extent that he cannot fulfill the role of commander in chief. He cannot frame logical arguments based on public policy, and therefore comes across as, well, a fool to foreign leaders.

His desire to maintain his own image suggests he’d be more than willing to make the country’s interests subordinate to his own need for personal affirmations.

Trump’s narcissism leaves him open to flattery and threats (to reveal embarrassing material, for example). That’s the worry in the Russia investigation — namely, that Vladimir Putin has “something” on Trump, which compels Trump to act in ways inimical to U.S. interests.

Trump’s interests are paramount, so a cagey adversary can easily manipulate him.

There is no easy solution.

One cannot be impeached and removed for being an embarrassment to the United States or an egomaniac temperamentally unfit for the job (that was the argument for not electing him). Unless he really goes off the deep end, invoking the 25th Amendment is not a realistic option.

That leaves members of Congress and his administration with a few options.

And Trump keeps blaming everyone else. He recently tweeted:

But he can’t fire Congress, nor the Senate. He is stuck with the political and judicial system that the US has got. And the US is probably stuck with him until he throws a major hissy fit for not getting his own way and chucks the job in.

In the meantime it is likely that Russia, China, North Korea, and much of the Middle East will be trying to work out how they can exploit Trump’s ego.

With the amount of fire power available to lash out with this has to be a major concern.

One slightly reassuring thing – Trump seems to be relying more on generals to run his administration. They may be the best chance of keeping his flaws in check.

Trump’s stable approval rating

Since mid May Donald Trump’s approval rating has remained fairly stable around 40%. (His disapproval rating has also been fairly flat between 54-56%).

RCPTrumpAapproval2Aug17

His presidency seems to have been far from stable punctuated by significant events and actions, so why is his approval not changing much?

Analysis at RCP:  Five Theories on Trump’s Stable Approval Rating

So why are these numbers so stable when events are anything but? The world of political data has been busy debating this topic, so rather than simply lay out one view and argue for it, I’m going to describe five different views that have popped up.

Theory 1: The GOP Base and Strong Democrats Are Immovable Objects

The situation is simple: Trump has a high approval rating among the GOP base and low approval ratings among the Democratic base, and unless there are truly exceptional circumstances, neither group will change their mind.

In other words, Trump’s 40 percent approval rating might represent something close to his floor. On Election Day 2016, 37.5 percent of voters viewed candidate Trump favorably, yet he won 46 percent of the vote.

Since then, Trump may have lost some of those general election voters by pushing an unpopular health-care bill (or through some other actions they disapproved of), but this 40 percent approval rating represents party stalwarts sticking with him.

Trump’s brash manner, his habit of repeating falsities, his obsession with tweeting, and his ego were all well known when he became president.  He hasn’t changed apart from his expectation that he be adored and obeyed so there may be no strong reason for his core support to be disappointed.

Theory 2: Nothing “New” Is Happening

This might seem like a strange argument. News junkies remember James Comey’s testimony before Congress, Donald Trump Jr.’s emails, the ups and downs of the Senate’s efforts to repeal Obamacare and the whole host of related breaking news stories over the past few months.

But it appears that this information isn’t moving voter preference much.

If this theory is correct, we should expect Trump’s approval rating to change only if truly new events or information are introduced to the electorate. If the economy suddenly boomed or tanked, if Trump decided to push a popular infrastructure bill instead of a relatively unpopular health care bill, if the situation in North Korea escalated and Trump had to respond to it — basically if the national political conversation changes in a meaningful way — Trump’s support might change.

His approval was also down at 40% in April but rose when he visited the Middle East and Europe, then settled back down after a few weeks. Nothing much of importance for the country happening.

Theory 3: It’s the Domestic Policy, Stupid

It’s also possible that Americans don’t really care about Russia and that Trump’s approval rating is simply a result of the public’s mixed opinion on his domestic record.

The RealClearPolitics average shows that Trump has a 44.7 percent approval rating on economic issues, which isn’t so far off the 46 percent he won in the 2016 popular vote. Yet Americans are currently focused on health care. A July Bloomberg poll showed that 35 percentof respondents (a plurality) said that health care was the most important issue facing the country. And although it’s tough to compare polling results that differ the wording of the question, most polls show that the current GOP bill is unpopular.

This adds up to a dynamic where a decent economy is trying to pull up Trump’s job approval numbers, but his policy focus is pulling those numbers down.

That being said, Theory 3 does paint a very different portrait of voters and their concerns than Theory 2 does. Under this version, news about Russia doesn’t matter too much.

But it seems to matter a lot to Trump, he has helped keep it in the spotlight. He seems easily distracted from the things that matter most, or should matter most.

Theory 4: This Is the New Normal

It’s possible that there isn’t much to explain about Trump’s 40 percent approval rating. Someone could argue that this low, stable rating is almost unavoidable in our current political moment.

To see how this argument would work, imagine that Hillary Clinton had swung enough voters away from Trump in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to become president. She would have come into the office with a low favorability rating and likely wouldn’t have had much of a honeymoon period. She might accomplish some of her goals via executive action, but it would to be hard to get her policy priorities through a Republican-held Congress. Others have examined this possibility more thoroughly, but the point is that in some alternate universe there are other presidents who would also have a low approval rating.

It’s quite likely Hillary Clinton as president would have had consistently poor approval ratings too.

A President Rubio or a President Biden might take some similar actions to Trump or Clinton, respectively, yet have better approval ratings due to sheer likability.

A President Biden or Sanders would have had to battle against Republican majorities in the Senate and in Congress.

Would a President Jeb Bush have been more popular than Trump? We can only wonder.

Theory 5: We Don’t Know What’s Going On

This might sound like a cop-out, but it’s important to acknowledge the possibility that none of our other theories is right.

So it’s possible that we simply don’t yet know why Trump’s approval is low and consistent.

The reality is that it is likely to be some combination of all of these things and there are probably other reasons too.

Leadership approval requires tangible signs of leadership, and Trump hasn’t really done much of that yet.

He has had trouble leading his White House, and he has had difficulty getting the Senate and Congress to follow his lead, or do what he demands.

A solid core remain dedicated and hopeful he will achieve big things, and seem prepared to wait for him to figure out what leading a country actually means and involves.

The Oaf in the Oval Office

What sort of game changer will it take to sort out the Oaf in the Oval Office?

It has been an eventful week in US politics. The inability of Donald Trump and Republicans to progress major legislation was highlighted by the failure of a watered down (‘skinny’) health repeal bill failing to overturn ‘Obamacare’.

WSJ:  The Republican ObamaCare Crack Up

After promising Americans for seven years that it would fix the Affordable Care Act, the Republican Party failed. This is a historic debacle that will echo politically for years.

A divided GOP Senate could not muster a majority even for a simple bill repealing the individual and employer mandates they had long opposed. Nor were they able to repeal the medical-device tax that some 70 Senators had gone on record wanting to repeal in previous Congresses.

The so-called skinny bill that failed in the Senate would have gone to a conference with the House, which had signaled its willingness to work out a compromise. That arduous process is the way the American legislative system works. A strong majority of the GOP caucuses on both chambers supported the effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, but that was undone by an intransigent and petulant minority

The sacking of Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus was done in a public and ugly way, but it may do something to sort out the chaos in the White House. May. Trump seems to be a significant cause of the chaos and may not be controllable.

Trump had campaigned he would ‘drain the swamp’, an attack on the mess that Washington politics has become and something that was a popular aim. If he cleaned up US politics he would deserve a lot of credit. But the jury is still not even out yet to decide whether trump is making Washington murkier, with his apparent inability to separate business interests from politics.

Trump’s declaration by tweet that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the US military seems to have been a decision on personal whim that blindsided just about everyone, including the military and his own staff.

I think of greater concern is Trump’s concerted effort over a week to publicly undermine his attorney general Jeff Sessions.The legal balance and checking of political power and abuse of power is a fundamental cornerstone of US democracy. Trump seems to be prepared to drain judicial independence, which is alarming.

Andrew Sullivan sums up A Week of Reckoning

We have become, at this point, inured to having an irrational president in an increasingly post-rational America. We’ve also come to tell ourselves that somehow

(a) this isn’t really happening,

(b) by some miracle, it will be over soon, or

(c) at some point the Republican Party will have to acknowledge what they are abetting, and cut their losses.

And yet with each particular breach of decency, stability, and constitutionality, no breaking point seems to have arrived, even as the tribalism has deepened, the president’s madness has metastasized, and the norms of liberal democracy are hanging on by a thread.

But surely this week must mark some kind of moment in this vertiginous descent, some point at which the manifest unfitness of this president to continue in office becomes impossible to deny.

Compare it with any other week in modern political history. Day after day, the president has publicly savaged his own attorney general for doing the only thing possible with an investigation into a political campaign he was a key part of: recusing himself. And the point of the president’s fulminations was that the recusal prevented Sessions from obstructing that very investigation.

The president, in other words, has been openly attacking his own attorney general for not subverting the rule of law.

After the last few days, someone in the GOP leadership somewhere is surely going to have to take responsibility for running this country since we have a president who cannot.

Sullivan sees some hope that the system will hold out on a reckless president.

The Congress as a whole has effectively torpedoed any intention the president might have of lifting sanctions against Russia, by passing a bill by massive margins to prevent it.

And on the related matter of the investigation into Russian interference in the last election, Senator Chuck Grassley made it clear this week that, if the president were to fire Sessions, his Judiciary Committee would not hold any hearings on a successor.

That’s a checkmate for Trump for the time being, because it would leave the Justice Department under the control of Rod Rosenstein, who hired Robert Mueller in the first place. Put all these developments together and you have an inkling of how the Constitution can still protect us from the worst of this presidency — if the Senate wants to play the role it is designed to play.

Shunting Sessions sideways would look as bad as firing him.

Finding someone willing to replace him given Trump’s public displeasure at not being able to subvert justice may not be easy, especially if it is not a candidate who is widely considered to be credible and able to be act independently of the White House.

As new chief of staff John Kelly may be able to sort out most of the White House, but it must be doubtful he can straighten out the crucial part – the Oval Office, more particularly the Oaf in Office.