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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Mad Trump, Happy W. - The New York Times

"When he froths about crowd size like a bus-and-truck “Caine Mutiny,” when he compares the intelligence community to Nazi Germany and labels the press “the enemy of the American people,” when he insists that black is white and night is day and makes up whoppers about voter fraud, the body politic’s defenses go up on alert against the Trump virus.

But when he behaves more normally, the guard comes down.

It’s an optical delusion. People get terrified by Crazy Trump. But really, that makes it easier to fight back, because we see the crazy right out there on Twitter.

People were relieved at Calm Trump. But really, that’s more potentially dangerous because if he learns how to behave in a more measured, charming way on the surface, he can put a disarming face on harsh policies or duplicitous practices.

If he seems less like a mad man aiming to rip everything apart, he can more easily rip everything apart.

When I asked Silicon Valley mogul and Trump adviser Peter Thiel recently if he was worried about Trump appointing heads of agencies who wanted to blow up those agencies, the contrarian replied that I had it backward.

“If you actually want to change things in D.C., who should you appoint?” he said. “Maybe if you appoint someone who says, ‘I want to shut down this whole agency,’ then that person will just have to deal with a staff revolt. And everybody will ignore their orders for three or four years.

“So I think, in theory, to probably change things the most, it’s better if you appoint someone who sounds like they’re not that controversial but then will just really work at changing things.”

As W. ambled back on to the public stage a few days ago, promoting his new book of paintings and stories, “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors,” we had a vivid illustration of how far likability can get you.

When Jimmy Fallon ruffled Trump’s hair during the campaign, it was treated as a hideous breach, normalizing the invading vulgarian.

But when Jimmy Kimmel joked with W. on Thursday night, the audience reacted warmly. Compared to Trump, it was like W. was the soul of decency and self-deprecation, on his way to Mount Rushmore.

So does it really matter that his policies helped contribute to the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression and the worst foreign policy blunder in American history?

Asked by Willie Geist on “Sunday Today” about his decision to send soldiers into Iraq and Afghanistan, W. replied lamely: “I don’t regret sending soldiers into battle. I regret they got hurt.”

Chatting about the Oscar flub, Kimmel noted that W. had also been “involved in many notable faux pas,” as W. laughed.

“Mission accomplished,” W. replied, smirking.

It’s still too soon to laugh about “Mission Accomplished,” especially when peddling anguished portraits of wounded veterans. In fact, it will always be too soon to laugh about “Mission Accomplished.”

Mad Trump, Happy W. - The New York Times

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