John Cassidy writes: As a Presidential candidate, Donald Trump led a charmed existence. Whatever he said, no matter how outrageous, it didn’t seem to hurt him. He could insult his Republican opponents, make misogynistic comments about female journalists, call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, describe Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, trot out blatant falsehoods by the dozen, encourage the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s e-mail account—none of it proved damaging to his candidacy. As he famously remarked, it was as if he could go out and shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue “and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
Now things have changed. He might never admit it, but Trump has belatedly discovered a basic principle of politics: words matter. They matter so much, in fact, that they can make or break a Presidency. That’s why every one of his predecessors—during the modern era, at least—has chosen his words carefully. It took a few weeks for it to become clear that President Trump, as opposed to candidate Trump, would be subject to this principle. But, at this stage, there can be no doubt about it. Virtually every day brings a fresh example of his own loose words coming back to hurt him.
Take the legal setback to the Administration’s revised travel ban, which was supposed to go into effect on Thursday. Derrick Kahala Watson, the federal judge in Hawaii who, on Wednesday, halted the measure on constitutional grounds, said that the public record “includes significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the Executive Order.” Among other things, Watson cited a Trump campaign document that said, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” On Thursday, another federal judge, Theodore D. Chuang, of Maryland, issued a separate injunction against the revised ban. Citing statements from Trump and his advisers, Chuang said that they indicated the new executive order represented “the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban.” (My colleagues Benjamin Wallace-Wells and Jeffrey Toobin have more about both judges’ orders.)
It doesn’t stop there. As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern has pointed out, even a staunchly conservative judge who has taken the Administration’s side in the fight over the travel bans has criticized some of Trump’s public statements. Earlier this week, in a dissent from a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the original ban, Judge Jay Bybee strongly condemned the President’s attacks on James Robart, the district-court judge in Seattle who originally halted the ban. (On Twitter, Trump had referred to Robart as “a so-called judge” and called his ruling “ridiculous.”)
“The personal attacks on the distinguished district judge and our colleagues were out of all bounds of civic and persuasive discourse—particularly when they came from the parties,” Bybee, who worked in the George W. Bush Administration, wrote. “Such personal attacks treat the court as though it were merely a political forum in which bargaining, compromise, and even intimidation are acceptable principles. The courts of law must be more than that, or we are not governed by law at all.” [Continue reading…]
Donald Trump could accurately assert: “I didn’t get where I am today by being honest.”
Like many people who believe in the supremacy of will power, he may believe that being faithful to ones own interests and objectives is all that matters.
Trump is consistent in his unwillingness to bend to the will of others. His America First policy is merely an inflation of his Trump First practice.
The idea that Trump might have the capacity to mend his ways — to see that his dishonesty no longer works — derives, perhaps, from a misreading of his pragmatism.
Trump isn’t bound to any ideology. At the same time, he exhibits no psychological flexibility whatsoever.
Trump believes in his own innate capabilities with which, in his own imagining, he is so richly endowed he has no need to learn anything.
Without an interest in learning, he has no capacity to change.
If for most presidents, two overarching external conditions force adaptation — the prospect of a second presidential election and ties to their own political party — neither seems to apply to Trump.
He may well have no interest in trying to get re-elected and no fear of ruining the Republican Party.
The only situation in which I can imagine Trump becoming more reflective might be in isolation, staring at the gray wall of a prison cell.
Then again, it seems more likely that if ever faced with such a prospect he may well expire in his final fit of explosive rage.