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The absent President
A big void in the White House

Quote:White House staff, congressional Republicans, military leaders, and executive branch officials are increasingly confident simply ignoring President Trump. After Trump tweeted that he wanted the military to ban transgender service members from serving, for instance, the Pentagon quickly said that it had not received an official order and was going to carry on with business as usual until it did. Similarly, after Trump tweeted his threats at North Korea, the key organs of American foreign policymaking — the State Department, the Defense Department, and so on — were quick to declare that nothing had changed, there was no military buildup or new red lines, and everyone should just ignore the commander in chief’s morning outburst.

A list like this could go on. Senate Republicans are ignoring the president’s demand to keep holding votes on health reform. The National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the Treasury Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services are ignoring Trump’s campaign promises to raise taxes on the rich and protect Social Security and Medicaid from cuts. Attorney General Jeff Sessions — one of the few executive branch officials who seems to ideologically align with Trump — is ignoring Trump’s clear desire that he resign, or at least take a more aggressive hand overseeing Bob Mueller.

As CNBC’s John Harwood concluded in a recent overview, “fresh evidence arrives every day of the government treating the man elected to lead it as someone talking mostly to himself.”

American politics is hurtling toward a very strange place. The president of the United States is clearly unfit for the job, but the good news, to the extent that there is good news, is that everyone around him knows it, and he is willing to be sidelined as long as no one takes away his phone. Whether he is being marginalized by his own administration or choosing to marginalize himself I don’t know, but Bannon’s ouster is another piece of evidence that Trump is interested in Twitter, not Trumpism.
Steve Bannon believed in Trumpism. Donald Trump doesn’t. - Vox

Remarkable article
Quote:Lowry thinks that Trump weakened his sway over his own subordinates by first harshly criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then failing to follow through on that criticism. The original action made his other appointees less inclined to feel loyal, and the subsequent inaction made them less afraid to act on their feelings. Lowry concludes that White House chief of staff John Kelly needs to crack some heads to keep the administration from disintegrating. The phenomenon to which Lowry is pointing is real. But the root problem isn’t insubordination; it’s a lack of presidential seriousness. A new example came in recent reports that Trump is angry with his aides over Chinese imports. He keeps telling them he wants tariffs, he reportedly said, and they keep moving forward with milder policies. Yet it is within a president’s power to make himself be taken seriously by his underlings. Other presidents have all done it — or, rather, they have been taken seriously by default. They have rarely had to exert themselves to make sure their commands are being executed.
Does Anyone on Trump's Team Take Him Seriously? - Bloomberg
Quote:You’d be forgiven if you hadn’t noticed. His verbal bombshells are louder than ever, but Donald J Trump is no longer president of the United StatesBy having no constructive response to any of the monumental crises now convulsing America, Trump has abdicated his office. He is not governing. He’s golfing, watching cable TV and tweeting. How has Trump responded to the widespread unrest following the murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for minutes as he was handcuffed on the ground? Trump called the protesters “thugs” and threatened to have them shot. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted, parroting a former Miami police chief whose words spurred race riots in the late 1960s.

On Saturday, he gloated about “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons” awaiting protesters outside the White House, should they ever break through Secret Service lines. In reality, Donald Trump doesn’t run the government of the United States. He doesn’t manage anything Trump’s response to the last three ghastly months of mounting disease and death has been just as heedless. Since claiming Covid-19 was a “Democratic hoax” and muzzling public health officials, he has punted management of the coronavirus to the states. Governors have had to find ventilators to keep patients alive and protective equipment for hospital and other essential workers who lack it, often bidding against each other. They have had to decide how, when and where to reopen their economies. Trump has claimed “no responsibility at all” for testing and contact-tracing – the keys to containing the virus. His new “plan” places responsibility on states to do their own testing and contact-tracing. 

Trump is also awol in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. More than 41 million Americans are jobless. In the coming weeks temporary eviction moratoriums are set to end in half of the states. One-fifth of Americans missed rent payments this month. Extra unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of July. What is Trump’s response? Like Herbert Hoover, who in 1930 said “the worst is behind us” as thousands starved, Trump says the economy will improve and does nothing about the growing hardship. The Democratic-led House passed a $3tn relief package on 15 May. Mitch McConnell has recessed the Senate without taking action and Trump calls the bill dead on arrival. 

What about other pressing issues a real president would be addressing? The House has passed nearly 400 bills this term, including measures to reduce climate change, enhance election security, require background checks on gun sales, reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and reform campaign finance. All are languishing in McConnell’s inbox. Trump doesn’t seem to be aware of any of them.

There is nothing inherently wrong with golfing, watching television and tweeting. But if that’s pretty much all that a president does when the nation is engulfed in crises, he is not a president.
Fire, pestilence and a country at war with itself: the Trump presidency is over | Robert Reich | Opinion | The Guardian

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