The Week in Washington

This is an awfully good distillation of what we can all see clearly, whether we’ll admit it or not:

The Trump White House is a mess, but then we knew that. The chaos and self-serving leaks after the Comey firing make the Bill Clinton White House look like a model of discipline and decorum. If Trump aides aren’t trashing each other, they’re trashing the boss, who doesn’t seem to mind humiliating them as he has spokesman Sean Spicer. Then there was this week’s leak—dumped to reporters favored by the Stephen Bannon team—that Mr. Trump is unhappy with General McMaster, who apparently suffers from being too capable.

The historical analogy isn’t Richard Nixon, whose advisers were effective in their abuses until they were finally discovered. This is more like Jimmy Carter —outsiders who arrived to drain the swamp and are swamped by incompetence. The blundering over the Comey decision and aftermath raises serious doubts that this White House has the focus and discipline to manage tax reform.

The main source of dysfunction is the man at the top. The President is his own worst enemy—impulsive, thin-skinned, undisciplined, by now readers know the story. Every time his supporters think he might finally be appreciating the weight of the job, or the gravity of a President’s words, he goes on a Twitter rant.

Rather than focus on his agenda, he keeps the Russia pot boiling by railing against critics. Health care—what’s that? He faults his communications team for mistakes, but they are usually based on incomplete information or an attempt to clean up the boss’s effusions.

Mr. Trump has assembled many able advisers and officials who are trying to serve the country and steer the mercurial President from his own worst instincts. If Mr. Trump won’t heed their counsel, he really will turn into Jimmy Carter.

(A Week in Trump’s Washington, Wall Street Journal)

This fantasy captures the feeling, too:

Donald Trump is going to meet soon with the pope. How do you think that will go? Maybe when Trump emerges, he’ll announce that Francis promised him canonization. Then the Vatican will deny it. Then Sean Spicer will hold a press conference in which he will explain that the president was simply working off a memo written by the deputy secretary of state.

Then a reporter will point out that the State Department doesn’t have any deputy secretaries yet. Then we will hear another complaint about “gotcha journalism.”

Look, it wouldn’t be any weirder than what we’ve been through this week.

(Gail Collins, New York Times)

Donald Trump is giving the commencement address at Liberty University today. Will he stick carefully to a prepared speech, or will he corrupt these fundamentalist lads and lasses by spewing his usual stream of semi-consciousness, leaving them to insist that he made perfect, nay compelling, sense?

With no apparent sense of irony, Melania Trump has made cyber-bullying her First Lady cause.

Finally, to do what only cartoons can do, these from The Week.

Now I hope to do something much more pleasant than thinking about this.

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Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers and physicians. (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address at St. Andrew’s, 1867)

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.