Donald Trump has been president of the United States for 73 days — and the deeper we get into the woods, the harder it gets to see the forest for the trees. These days, most of that timberland is a deep thicket of sturdy Russian birch trees, some carrying the telltale markings of Vladimir Putin or Trump’s corrupt and money-grubbing inner circle, leaving a strong odor of collusion. Still, I wonder if that scent can throw us off the real trail.
About 80 percent of the TV cable news coverage that I watched last week (why do I torture myself so?…good question) centered on two stories — whether the bizarre doings of GOP congressman Devin Nunes, tasked with leading a House probe of the Russia affair, were a ploy to aid Trump (spoiler alert: they were) and whether ousted Trump aide Mike Flynn gets immunity to testify on Capitol Hill (spoiler alert: he probably won’t, and it’s probably not so important). What worries me is that the growing sense among the anti-Trump majority that the Russia affair, coupled with the health-care fiasco, means that his young presidency is imploding will make it easier for those folks to ignore the disastrous ways Trump is actually not imploding at all.
One has to give a lot of credit to the editorial-page editors of the Los Angeles Times for rising above the dense stand of trees to show us the entire Trump forest, disease-ridden and ravaged by fire. Sunday’s full-page editorial — “Our Dishonest President” — was a reminder of the perilous situation America is facing in April 2017. Here’s an excerpt:
What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.
And this plays out every day in Trump’s Washington. While the Nunes follies were grabbing most of the headlines, the president was successfully rolling back pollution rules on power plants that undid America’s brief era of world leadership on climate change. The bad news for the White House on Flynn and his undisclosed Russia dealings wasn’t bad enough to stop Trump from planning to sign a bill to strip your internet privacy. And when it comes to corruption, Trump’s flouting of conventional norms and actual laws is taking place on such a massive scale that the traditional watchdogs — federal agencies, Congress, the press, the public — seem overwhelmed.
In a Twitter thread on Sunday afternoon. Think Progress editor Judd Legum noted that while the Trump-Russia affair “could be the biggest political scandal in history,” we don’t all the facts yet and, “In the meantime, Trump’s use of the presidency to personally enrich himself is getting less attention than it otherwise would.” The trips every weekend to play golf at his Trump-branded properties. Profiting from his new D.C. hotel that’s leased from the federal government he heads. The myriad, multiple conflicts of interest of the $720 Million Couple, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, as they set policies from the apex of White House power. And so much more.