Let's Agree That You Just Surrender

E. J. Dionne has a nice proposal. First, agree that Trump is unfit to be President. Second, have his attorney general "immediately recuse himself from all decisions about all aspects of the Russia investigation by the FBI and the intelligence services."

I was way more interested in "Donald Trump is unfit for the office" arguments before the election. This isn't a proposal for an investigation, it's a proposal for Republicans to take the brakes off the deep state. But if Jeff Sessions is unfit to exercise his office, surely so is everyone else in the administration. What's left? Impeachment based on Trump's performance at press conferences or in writing executive orders that he's apparently fine with having courts review? For Trump and his team to resign and... what? Paul Ryan to be President? Or does he need to resign too? Or should we just dispense with having a President, and leave "the FBI and the intelligence services" to determine what is right, with of course the informative blessings of the 9th Circuit Court?

Does anyone else have a more serious proposal?

29 comments:

E HInes said...

Dionne's question was applicable 8 years ago, and we survived exactly his question. Now we have a President that has a chance of correcting at least some of the damage done by that unfit man.

This is a clear and present example of the hysteria and uselessness of the present NLMSM. As was CNN's Jim Acosta's oblivious question in today's press conference: Aren't you concerned, Sir, that you are undermining the people's faith in the First Amendment freedom of the press and the press in this country when you call stories you don't like fake news…?

No, the NLMSM is doing a fine job all by itself in undermining the people's faith in the press—the shot about the First Amendment is both disingenuously irrelevant and illustrative—the undermining needs no help, and is getting none, from Trump.

Eric Hines

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think E J Dionne should take this show on the road, and speak before audiences night after night at a VFW fish-fry in Wichita Falls, a women's Bible study in Davenport, and 100 similar venues. The only requirements would be that he 1) has to explain why this is a good idea without reference to fashion, 2) has to clearly answer every question, and 3) wear a collar around his neck that administers a painful shock whenever he speaks in a condescending tone of voice.

Who among us would not pay $100 to attend such an event?

jaed said...

All right, $#%^! Blogger just crashed my browser after I'd typed in a novel of a comment, and I hadn't copied it. Grr.

I won't re-enter the whole thing (maybe Google is trying to tell me something), but I have a theory that this is tribal panic. The political class, the media, and the "experts" are overwhelmingly aspirational class, while Trump is a prole (in the Fussellian sense—social, not economic), and they are just not used to seeing someone not of their class in a powerful position. When I talk to these people, I get few specifics. I get emotional reactions: It's scary, how he acts. It's outrageous. It's just not right. His attitude and self-presentation bother them at a much deeper level than what he's actually doing.

(And I think this is why turning it around—did Dionne call for Obama to recuse himself from the investigation of Hillary's Sekrit Server once it was known he'd known about it the whole time? Or for Loretta Lynch to recuse herself after her secret meeting with Bill Clinton came out? Ha.—never works to make people re-think. Because it's not the actions that bother them, it's the class disconnect, the mismatch between what they expect a powerful person to be like and what Trump is actually like. It's also why the #NeverTrumpers are continuing to panic, even when they agree more closely with Trump's positions than they ever did with Obama's. Obama is aspirational-class so he didn't scare them existentially, no matter what he did.)

It's why they can't even process the idea that Trump was elected, much less what he's doing, and why they keep talking about overturning the vote or intimidating the Electoral College or impeachment or SOMETHING that will return them to familiar ground.

Grim said...

I have a theory that this is tribal panic.

I think you're on to something, Jaed. In thinking about Wretchard's analogy to Rome, I was looking over the Wikipedia entries for some of the major players of the period. One of them is Septimius Severus, who stands as a major figure right before the time of troubles begins.

What his article says about him includes this: "As a young man he advanced through the cursus honorum—the customary succession of offices—under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus."

Confer with this bit from Vox today, celebrating that Trump's second choice for Secretary of Labor is a better choice from their perspective:

"Acosta should have an easier time getting through. His CV suggests a relatively typical path to the top of the federal bureaucracy — Harvard University; Harvard Law School; clerk on the US Court of Appeals; years in the Department of Justice; work on labor issues for a Washington, DC, law firm."

The cursus honorum of our day! Here is one we know is fit to lead, because he has passed through the customary succession of honors: Ivy League undergrad, Ivy League grad school, Ivy League law school, clerk on the Supreme Court or appointment at Wall Street firm, some sort of D.C. minor supporting office, then...

Trump and his people are not of that class, even though he did do an Ivy League undergrad. Otherwise, though, they're very much not a part of the system that produces "leaders" for us.

Tom said...

Yeah, I think jaed's theory sounds right as well. Their world has just turned upside down and they don't know how to re-orient themselves.

AVI -- excellent counter-proposal. You do know your audience.

E Hines said...

I think E J Dionne should take this show on the road, and speak before audiences night after night at...a women's Bible study in Davenport....

According to the evening news, apparently the NYT did go to northeast Iowa and ask folks what they thought, and the universal answer they got back was "nobody trusts you. If we see it the newspaper, we assume it's a lie."

Blogger just crashed my browser after I'd typed in a novel of a comment, and I hadn't copied it.

I learned through painful experience (though not crashing) that Blogger has something like a 3400 character limit per comment. MS Word gives word and character counts, and it's a simple cut and paste.

Eric Hines

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"Tribal" is my default explanation for most human behavior, so I'm with ya on that jaed.

jaed said...

Have you read Fussell's book on class? My instinct is that there's a lot of overlap between your concept of Tribe and his concept of Social Class, but I'm curious to hear your take on it.

David Foster said...

"The cursus honorum of our day! Here is one we know is fit to lead, because he has passed through the customary succession of honors: Ivy League undergrad, Ivy League grad school, Ivy League law school"

Yep. More than 50 years ago, Peter Drucker (himself of European origin) remarked that one of the main advantages America had over Europe was that we did not have a distinction between "schools for leaders" and "schools for followers."

"The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim…"

American society has now come much closer to accepting the claim of Grande Ecole status preferences, and this is indeed what a substantial part of the hate directed at Trump is all about. As was also the case with Sarah Palin.

Christopher B said...

Megan McArdle somewhat unintentionally did a column discussing your theory, jaed, and at least her commenters came to exactly the same conclusion.

Cassandra said...

I think it's a combination of tribal panic and having lived in an echo chamber for 8 years, being force fed a distorted view of reality.

At the end of the Bush administration, conservatives had no reason to think most of the nation agreed with them because the media had spent the past 8 years criticizing everything having to do with Republicans. The opposition was front/center and hotly defended by the press.

After 8 years of Obama, I think many liberals did start to believe their values had triumphed. The President continually fed this impression by equating his values with "Who we are as a people" and "the right side of history", and the media dutifully echoed the narrative. Opposition to Obama was demonized and portrayed as "fringe"/extremist/out of the mainstream.

Except it turned out it wasn't.

One of my Democrat friends described driving out from the DC area to see her parents in rural Virginia after the election. She said Trump signs were literally everywhere she looked (she hadn't seen any in her neighborhood, which isn't surprising as that part of Maryland is predominantly Democrat-leaning). She described suddenly feeling like she didn't belong in her own country, and was perceptive enough to make the connection that this feeling (only on the other side) was what had elected Trump.

Texan99 said...

Althouse: "If I were on the receiving end of that question, I’d say: Freedom of speech and the press is only a freedom to speak and to publish things, not an entitlement to be deferred to or shown respect. We all have freedom of speech, and if I criticize you — which I should do to defend myself, especially when you are distorting things — I’m exercising my freedom of speech. And I am speaking or writing to the people just as you are speaking and writing to the people, and the idea of the First Amendment is that the people get to hear and read it all, and they get to think for themselves and talk and write to each other, and we’re all involved in figuring out what is true and what is right. You see, you in the professional mainstream press want to filter it all and serve the people what you say is the truth, all pre-digested and gooey. But the people don’t want that sickly fast-food truth anymore. You can keep serving it, or you can figure out how to serve up something better, but you don’t dominate the truth market anymore, and you shouldn’t. And your effort to invoke law — the First Amendment?! Are you kidding?!! — to force all the other speakers and writers to stand down and let you have your old monopoly back? That’s just plain ludicrous, and I’m embarrassed for you that you would try to palm off an interpretation of constitutional law that’s so blatantly bankrupt."

David Foster said...

"Freedom of the press" means "freedom of the printing press" (or its electronic descendent)..it does not mean that there was created a special class of authorized journalists who had special privileges. At the time the Bill of Rights was written, there were no major media companies such as the NYT or CNN, and the capital costs of becoming a printer were relatively low (just a hand press, no Linotype machine required or available). "The press" in those days was much more analogous to today's bloggers than to today's media empires.

Grim said...

Althouse answers as a constitutional law professor. It might be best for everyone if Donald Trump were not to try to speak in those terms.

The Executive branch has a duty to interpret the Constitution, as do the other two branches. The President doesn't personally have to be the one who does that. It's perfectly acceptable for a President to say, "I'm not a constitutional law scholar, but I do have a complete staff of them who review my proposed actions and advise me accordingly."

Otherwise, we couldn't reasonably elect anyone who wasn't a scholar of the right kind -- and that's not what the Founders intended, nor is it consonant with democratic or republican forms.

jaed said...

Grim, you don't need to be a con-law scholar to understand clearly, and say out loud, that the mainstream media's conceit that the freedom of the press clause gives them, as a profession, special legal privileges—that the freedom of the press applies only to them, not to everyone—is self-serving nonsense, and the media's longstanding attempts to steal this freedom from everyone else in order to elevate themselves is both risible and disgusting. I could use stronger language.

When a media person attempts to do this, it is completely appropriate for any citizen within hearing to set them back on their heels. I would be disappointed if Trump responded to such a challenge to the universality of *any* 1A right with some sort of mealymouthed muttering about how he has a legal staff who will "review" the idea.

Grim said...

Fair enough. I'm probably just reacting to Althouse's proposed closing: "I’m embarrassed for you that you would try to palm off an interpretation of constitutional law that’s so blatantly bankrupt."

Probably a lot of people have constitutional law interpretations that are blatantly bankrupt, including -- I'm going out on a limb here -- Donald Trump. It's an obvious argument for Althouse to make, but not obviously a place where Trump will shine.

jaed said...

Christopher B., the comments along these lines in McArdle's comments section were actually mostly from me. (I don't want you to think the idea has more people's support than it does.)

I was puzzling over Megan's consistent, visceral, vocal opposition to Trump over many months, combined with great difficulty in making her objections concrete and specific; she usually is analytical and not very emotional in her reactions, but with Trump it's been different. So I was looking for an explanation as to why this might happen.

Gringo said...

Texan99's Althouse quote was preceded by a journalist's comment to President Trump:


QUESTION: When you call it “fake news,” you’re undermining confidence in our news media (inaudible) important.

The irony here is that it wasn't the POTUS who began the "fake news" meme. The MSM started the "fake news" meme, and the POTUS just threw it back in their faces. If the press doesn't like that game, then it shouldn't have started it.

I get the impression that many in the MSM believe before Donald Trump started firing back at them, the public had a high regard for the MSM. Au contraire. Polls from last year show that confidence in the MSM/press is at an all time low. It has been falling for years.

Cassandra said...

I think there's a fairly simple explanation for McArdle's reaction that doesn't invoke partisanship or tribalism.

Trump does not observe the niceties and conventions (cultural norms, if you will). In fact, he delights in ignoring them. His speech, compared to the overly modulated style of professional politicians, often comes across as unfocused and somewhat erratic. He plays very loose with facts, often seeming to either not know or not care what the facts of a particular situation are. Finally, Trump is unabashedly male (by which I mean he isn't the least bit afraid of the "masculinity is Evil/Wrong/Bad" mob). One characteristic associated with both masculinity and entrepreneurs is risk taking and even rashness.

Many on the right (but not all) see a man who is (a) authentic rather than polished, (b) not afraid to act like a man (c) willing to fight back. They see a man strong and aggressive enough that he can take on a corrupt media and the shaming tactics of the Dems and win, because he doesn't buy into their notion that he has anything to be ashamed about. Even his impulsiveness has a positive aspect - he keeps Dems/the press off balance. He disrupts their rhythm.

Now if you don't agree with Trump (or don't understand him), you see the flip side of those characteristics. You see a man who, (a) doesn't respect social norms, (b) can be feisty, aggressive, rash/impulsive, (c) either doesn't know the facts or doesn't care about them.

Now put those things together in the form of the man who is leading the world's largest superpower. If you want Trump to beat down Dems and the press, his personality isn't threatening - it's essential. But if you want Trump to heal the divisiveness of the Obama years or create consensus, his personality looks very, very different. It absolutely does look threatening.

I'm somewhere in the middle. I find him very hard to watch at times. After 8 years of Obama, I've had enough hubris to last me a while. Obama was arrogant and thought he knew better than everyone else. I don't want a righty version of that. I want a President who can fix things, not smash them to pieces.

At the same time, I'm incandescently furious with the press and I absolutely love watching them get their a$$es handed to them on a platter. But I do worry that will backfire.

There are enough people on both sides of the spectrum who see cause for both hope and anxiety in this President. I'm inclined to give him a fair chance, but I do see what worries many people about him.

That said, the hysteria is more harmful (IMO) than anything I've seen Trump do.

Cassandra said...

The irony here is that it wasn't the POTUS who began the "fake news" meme. The MSM started the "fake news" meme, and the POTUS just threw it back in their faces. If the press doesn't like that game, then it shouldn't have started it.

Amen.

Grim said...

I find him very hard to watch at times.

I have long had the habit of not watching politicians speak, but instead reading the transcripts of their remarks, because rhetorical skill can often mask a weak argument. If you think the arguments are the important part, it makes sense to find ways to create distance from the rhetorical flourishes.

Trump has a real rhetorical skill, if you're part of the audience to whom he's appealing. If you came for the arguments, well, he's not your guy.

For a long time, that made it impossible for me to understand why anyone was taking him seriously. It wasn't until I actually watched a performance that I could see his mastery of the crowd, his use of flourish, his playfulness, his encouraging of a sense of joy and unity in his audience. He's very good at that.

And now, opposing the press, he's doing something similar (although often opposite in emotional tone).

But if you came for the arguments, well, it's very hard to watch or to hear. It's going to be a significant adjustment for many of us to accept that the defense of ideas or policies isn't going to appear in any other form. Not, at least, coming from the President or his circle.

jaed said...

Cassandra, this:
Trump does not observe the niceties and conventions (cultural norms, if you will).
is pretty much what I mean when I say this is a class disconnect. The niceties and conventions (I allege) are class-related, and so is the perception of how important it is to observe them (as opposed to how important the substance of one's actions is). Aspirational-class people have very specific expectations and practices in this area. There are certain things you don't say, and a lot of things you can say,but only in the way that's expected.

Trump complained about the ruling of "this so-called judge" and then complied with it. I suspect Megan might have been less disturbed by a president who responded with the expected deferential tone... and then ignored the ruling.

jaed said...

I don't think Trump is trying to make arguments so much as lay out positions in his speeches. He doesn't really seem to be trying to convince. When he speaks to people face to face, maybe this is different.

Obama didn't make many arguments either, unless shaming ("That's not who we are", etc.) counts as an argument.

Cassandra said...

It wasn't until I actually watched a performance that I could see his mastery of the crowd, his use of flourish, his playfulness, his encouraging of a sense of joy and unity in his audience. He's very good at that. And now, opposing the press, he's doing something similar (although often opposite in emotional tone).

Grim, I also prefer reading transcripts to watching speakers live, and for many of the same reasons (I also like having time to re-read sections if something strikes me before moving on).

And this is part of my difficulty with Trump - I'm mostly immune to his charm, though I can see flashes of it. Palin had the same effect on me - I could see she had charm, but frankly it was lost on me. And I'm generally suspicious of appeals to emotion or unity/tribalism. I understand their value, but I'm never going to prefer them to a sound policy argument.

To me, an argument needs to be able to stand on its own legs. Obama was far too often glib and his rhetoric deliberately short-circuited rational thinking. I hope he can find someone on his staff to fill that gap for him.

Cassandra said...

Trump complained about the ruling of "this so-called judge" and then complied with it. I suspect Megan might have been less disturbed by a president who responded with the expected deferential tone... and then ignored the ruling.

I couldn't agree more, jaed. Frankly, the "so-called judge" thing didn't bother me much, and I'm an unrepentant stickler for the "so-called niceties". So it's not only the aspirational class (I had to look that up, being a product of the old fashioned middle class) who value politeness, self restraint, decorum, and respectful treatment of others. Those used to be solidly conservative values, but I suspect I'm just getting old and the world has moved beyond what my Republican parents and my church upbringing taught me :p

That said, one can criticize a particular judge without dissing all judges. My take on that remark was that Trump thought the judge issued a crappy ruling (his work was unprofessional). Saying that, to me, falls far short of disparaging the entire judiciary. Where's the sting in suggesting he's not a "real" judge if you think every other judge is just as bad?.

I would never have said that - it was unnecessary and alienated many people who agreed with him. But it wasn't as "in your face" as, say, disparaging half of SCOTUS to their faces on national TV.

Texan99 said...

"I suspect Megan might have been less disturbed by a president who responded with the expected deferential tone... and then ignored the ruling."--Yes, we had enough of that during the last administration. I much prefer this approach.

Trump's rambling does bother me, but I didn't find Obama's arguments any less hollow, though more polished, and at least I find Trump's actions pretty coherent. I can see why he's taking the actions he does, what he thinks will result from them, and the connection he sees between the action and the intended result. Maybe it's easier for me to see because I agree with the results (for the most part), and on the whole with his views on how things actually happen in the world rather than in seminars. When Obama or Pelosi spoke, it was always a message I'm either incapable of hearing or one I'm too hostile to listen to patiently. When they acted, I often had trouble not only understanding why they'd want what they claimed to want, but how anyone could believe what they were doing would lead to what they said they wanted. So I'm prepared to be annoyed by a rambling and incoherent ad hoc speech style for a while, as a reasonable trade-off.

And I really hope that a few complacent people, somewhere, finally get the message that the great bulk of Americans are unimpressed by the press's fainting spells at being treated with disrespect. They can whine on camera all they like, but they don't have the public behind them the way they did a generation ago. Some really ugly chickens have finally come home to roost. Evidently they thought they could lie more or less forever without losing their credibility and prestige. Pres. Trump calls them liars to their faces, and the polls suggest he's no outlier in that opinion. Congresscritters ought to be watching closely, too.

Cassandra said...

They can whine on camera all they like, but they don't have the public behind them the way they did a generation ago.

Yep. Largely because they don't behave like the media did a generation ago. Maybe if they started acting more professional, I'd begin to think of them as professionals again.

Trump's rambling does bother me, but I didn't find Obama's arguments any less hollow, though more polished, and at least I find Trump's actions pretty coherent. I can see why he's taking the actions he does, what he thinks will result from them, and the connection he sees between the action and the intended result.

Agreed. Though as a practical matter, I do think Trump's rambling makes it easier to dismiss what he's saying (even when he's 100% correct). That bothers me, but actions > words.

Maybe it's easier for me to see because I agree with the results (for the most part), and on the whole with his views on how things actually happen in the world rather than in seminars. When Obama or Pelosi spoke, it was always a message I'm either incapable of hearing or one I'm too hostile to listen to patiently.

When Obama or Pelosi spoke, I usually found myself shaking my head in disbelief and thinking, "But that's not how the real world WORKS!"

When they acted, I often had trouble not only understanding why they'd want what they claimed to want, but how anyone could believe what they were doing would lead to what they said they wanted.

Bingo.

Cassandra said...

I don't think Trump is trying to make arguments so much as lay out positions in his speeches. He doesn't really seem to be trying to convince.

If you're right, then I think that's a bad thing. Leaders are supposed to build support for their positions and make the case for action. It's part of the job.

I agree Obama sucked at this, by the way. His idea of a convincing argument took one of three forms:

1. Telling his opponents they were unAmerican.
2. Telling his opponents they were on the wrong side of history.
3. Telling outrageous, easily fact-checked lies that no one in the press seemed inclined to correct (as in, no other industrialized nations have as many mass killings as we do, 1 in 5 college women are raped, voter ID is a racist, uniquely American legacy of Jim Crow laws, etc.).

jaed said...

I think Trump is expecting the results to convince people of the wisdom of the policies. He made some very Trumpish remark several months ago, for example, to the effect that 95% of African Americans will vote for a second term for him, because they'll see the good results for their communities. Now I don't know about 95%, but it's not hard for me to imagine that if his policies do result in noticeable improvements in job availability, employment, better schools, and so on, a lot more black people will be willing to vote for him to continue than voted for him a few months ago. People are convinced by visible success.

In part, he's also relying on the fact that a lot of people already agree and don't need to be convinced. His marquee positions—that uncontrolled illegal immigration is bad for Americans, for example—tend to be conventional wisdom among much of the electorate, even though they're not in DC. Where I'd make a case based on the rule of law, the basic principle that a country has the right to control its borders and grant or not grant residency based on its self-interest, and so on—and then derive policy from these principles step by step—he is at least somewhat taking his lead from the positions of ordinary Americans and going on from there.

It's a results-oriented approach, rather than one that's based on first principles. So offering an argument will never be as appealing—to someone like Trump who operates this way—as executing the policy and then pointing to the results. In this approach, the support is built along the way, with small successes paving the way for greater trust.