Wednesday 2/15/17

  1. Draining the Swamp?
  2. On political blogging on Trump’s Administration
  3. This is conservative?!
  4. Deep state takes a scalp
  5. A narcissism distinction


Friendly media coverage casts the pontiff as a man of the center, an ecclesiastical equivalent of Angela Merkel or Barack Obama or David Cameron, menaced by authoritarians to his right. But he is no such thing, and not only because his politics are much more radical and apocalyptic than any Western technocrat. In the context of the papacy, in his style as a ruler of the church, Francis is flagrantly Trumpian: a shatterer of norms, a disregarder of traditions, an insult-heavy rhetorician, a pontiff impatient with the strictures of church law and inclined to govern by decree when existing rules and structures resist his will.

His admirers believe that all these aggressive moves, from his high-stakes push to change church discipline on remarriage and divorce to his recent annexation of the Knights of Malta, are justified by the ossification of the church and the need for rapid change. Which is to say, they regard the unhappiness of Vatican bureaucrats, the doubts of theologians, the confusion of bishops and the despair of canon lawyers the way Trump supporters regard the anxiety of D.C. insiders and policy experts and journalists — as a sign that their hero’s moves are working, that he’s finally draining the Roman swamp.

(Ross Douthat)


A word about political blogging.

I’m aware that many are fatigued by today’s politics, especially on social media. So am I — especially fatigued by those people who still have a faint glimmer in their brain stems that something is amiss, but who insist publicly that the incumbent President is brilliant and masterful.

Why is it so hard to say “We had a lousy choice, and the one I voted for, who won, is living down to my expectations”? Does that unsettle your American Exceptionalism or something?

So why blog about it? Because “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,”particularly in this singular moment when our countrymen have been pleased to elect an extreme narcissist and possible sociopath to the office of the Presidency, and when our now-President shows not a sign of becoming more “presidential” and less madcap about trifling personal and family slights.

This is not normal. We must never allow ourselves to define deviancy down to the point where it passes for normal.

It’s a virtual axiom that we got the President we deserved in 2016, but if we’re vigilant, deo volente, we might deserve better next time.

Vigilance does require reckoning with the legitimate beefs of tens of millions of Americans who either were ready to watch things get smashed or who at least thought Trump less crooked than Hillary. That’s hard for people who have done okay, let alone fabulously well, in the New World Order, but short of vote suppression, it must be dealt with.

At this point, I have few solutions. But if I see some, I’ll try to pass them along.


Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry and Michael Brendan Dougherty are great columnists. Damon Linker is a frequent treat as well. And someone said that the powers behind The Week had put together a really good conservative magazine. So I subscribed.

Why we should all be having sex with robots and The case for polyamory are in no sense I can imagine “conservative” opinions. Try this instead. That doesn’t mean I’m dropping The Week, but I’m lowering my expectations for its conservatism.


I breathed a sigh of relief at the resignation (or firing or whatever it was) of Michael Flynn, but there’s ample reason for concern about how this came down.

Damon Linker at The Week says America’s spies anonymously took down Michael Flynn. That is deeply worrying.

The United States is much better off without Michael Flynn serving as national security adviser. But no one should be cheering the way he was brought down.

Unelected intelligence analysts work for the president, not the other way around. Far too many Trump critics appear not to care that these intelligence agents leaked highly sensitive information to the press — mostly because Trump critics are pleased with the result. “Finally,” they say, “someone took a stand to expose collusion between the Russians and a senior aide to the president!” It is indeed important that someone took such a stand. But it matters greatly who that someone is and how they take their stand. Members of the unelected, unaccountable intelligence community are not the right someone, especially when they target a senior aide to the president by leaking anonymously to newspapers the content of classified phone intercepts, where the unverified, unsubstantiated information can inflict politically fatal damage almost instantaneously.

Linker also quotes Eli Lake:

Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.

Daniel Larison weighs in, too (The Deep State Gets a Scalp), applauding a gesture toward Congressional investigation of the Administration’s ties to Russia — apparently on the theory that the spooks won’t need to do political assassinations if Congress does what it should, even at the risk of The Mad Twitter King’s wrath.


I stand corrected, sort of:

Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.

Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy.

(Allen Frances) Translated to English, I think this means “He may be an arrogant a**h***, but it seems to work for him.”

* * * * *

“The truth is that the thing most present to the mind of man is not the economic machinery necessary to his existence; but rather that existence itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life.” (G.K. Chesterton)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.