We Are So F#@ked

There is a dynamic in lots of public schools so common that it's a pop culture fixture: Students get assigned a group project, and they're jumbled into groups they don't choose themselves. Everyone hopes to get put into the group with the Smart Girl—a real Leslie Knope—because they know she'll just do all the work herself and do it better than anyone else in the class.

If you're reading this blog, there's a pretty good chance that you were that girl. (Or her male counterpart.) And, if you weren't, you were probably one of the kids who would hope to be in her group, or do your best in whatever group with which you got stuck.

You almost certainly weren't the self-aggrandizing bully who insisted on leading his group, despite the fact that he hasn't cracked open a book all semester and doesn't want to do any of the work—just wants to boss everyone else around and intimidate them into doing all the work while he flirts with someone who isn't even his girlfriend.

In the last election, U.S. voters decided to give the bully a chance and told the Smart Girl to get lost. Except the project wasn't a multimedia presentation on The Old Man and the Sea. It was running the country.

And it turns out that wasn't a very good idea. What a shock.

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece titled "Trump Was and Remains Catastrophically Unprepared for the Presidency," which opened with a tweet quoting Hillary Clinton, that I fear I will have occasion to repost a million times over the next four years.

What's prompted its appearance once more is a piece at Politico, by Josh Dawsey, Shane Goldmacher, and Alex Isenstadt: "The Education of Donald Trump."

It is another terrifying peek behind the gold curtains at a man who has no fucking clue what he's doing, has empowered people he trusts (namely his kids) over people with anything resembling expertise or even competence in governance, has no fixed principles, and doesn't care about outcomes or consequences, except for whether he gets good media coverage.
It was classic Trump: Confident, hyperbolic, and insistent on asserting control.

But interviews with nearly two dozen aides, allies, and others close to the president paint a different picture—one of a White House on a collision course between Trump's fixed habits and his growing realization that this job is harder than he imagined when he won the election on Nov. 8.
Repeatedly, we've heard how Trump didn't imagine that being president was all that difficult. It is an unfathomable admission, reported as fact without alarm, by a political press who, like anyone with sense, could see plain as day that Trump was catastrophically unprepared before the election, but chose to abet his rise anyway.

And trust that if Hillary Clinton had been elected and then inexplicably started grousing that being president was more difficult than she thought, it would not be reported without explicit comment, or treated like "a rookie mistake."
As president, Trump has repeatedly reminded his audiences, both public and private, about his longshot electoral victory. That unexpected win gave him and his closest advisers the false sense that governing would be as easy to master as running a successful campaign turned out to be. It was a rookie mistake.
From the indignity of judges halting multiple executive orders on immigration-related matters—most recently this week—to his responses to repeated episodes of North Korean belligerence, it's all been more complicated than Trump had been prepared to believe.

"I think he's much more aware how complicated the world is," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who serves as an informal administration adviser. "This will all be more uphill than he thought it would be because I think he had the old-fashioned American idea that you run for office, you win, then people behave as though you won."
People withholding criticism of a president who obviously and ominously has no idea what he is doing, just because that president won, is not an "old-fashioned American idea." It's an idea born of the belligerent egotism of authoritarian despots.
As Trump is beginning to better understand the challenges—and the limits—of the presidency, his aides are understanding better how to manage perhaps the most improvisational and free-wheeling president in history. "If you're an adviser to him, your job is to help him at the margins," said one Trump confidante. "To talk him out of doing crazy things."

...One key development: White House aides have figured out that it's best not to present Trump with too many competing options when it comes to matters of policy or strategy. Instead, the way to win Trump over, they say, is to present him a single preferred course of action and then walk him through what the outcome could be—and especially how it will play in the press.

"You don't walk in with a traditional presentation, like a binder or a PowerPoint. He doesn't care. He doesn't consume information that way," said one senior administration official. "You go in and tell him the pros and cons, and what the media coverage is going to be like."
Elsewhere in the piece, Trump's pal Chris Ruddy is quoted as saying: "Trump is a guy of action. He likes to move. He doesn't necessarily worry about all the collateral damage or the consequences." Indeed not! The only outcome that seems to matter to him at all is what headlines he's going to get—and that is very troublesome for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the media doesn't seem all that concerned about any Trump coverage that isn't good for their ratings.

So we have a president who doesn't know what he's doing and governs for ratings, and a media who covers that president in way that's good for their ratings. Meanwhile, who the fuck is interested in doing what's good for the American people?

And even if someone in the Trump administration empowered with telling the president pros-and-cons children's stories about complex issues did want to do what's good for the American people, ain't no one in sight who knows how to make good governance happen anyway!
"I kind of pooh-poohed the experience stuff when I first got here," one White House official said of these early months. "But this shit is hard."
*jumps into Christmas tree*

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