First, a quick recap.
In the, what, 100 hours or so since Donald Trump’s swearing-in as the 45th president of the United States, his administration has, among other horrors:
- Put a gag order on wide and vitally important swaths of the federal bureaucracy, choking off the public’s access to information about what its government is doing;
- Reinstated the Global Gag Rule withholding foreign aid and federal funding from organizations that so much as mention abortion as part of their reproductive health or family planning services;
- Ordered the diverting of resources to the construction of Trump’s insane and utterly pointless border wall project;
- Begun systematically starving federally-funded research into climate change and environment science;
- Made clear that the new president will not be divesting from the private business interests that compromise his relationships with multiple foreign powers.
Next up is a de facto ban on Muslims and refugees entering the country. Trump himself took to Twitter yesterday to threaten one of America’s largest cities with martial law. Meanwhile, Congress appears ready to rubber-stamp into office all of Trump’s cabinet appointments, without exception a collection of obscenely unqualified stooges and lunatics chosen all but explicitly to both indicate and enact the administration’s hostility to the very concept of responsible governance.
All horrors. All of a piece with an outright assault on civil society and the rule of law. And all amid an unending stream of bald-faced lies and unhinged threats from Trump and his mouthpieces.
The Atlantic thinks he’s doing a great job.
Now, of course the post’s author, David A. Graham—last seen pooh-poohing the concept of government transparency in an article scolding BuzzFeed for reporting the news—would not put his own performance of virtuous political agnosticism at risk by forming and expressing a reasoned judgment of the actual substance of any of the Trump administration’s actions, no no, of course not. The piece is assiduously free from any consideration of whether Trump’s actions—sorry, Dave, I meant to say his successes—since taking office are, or will be, good for the United States or the world or the human race or any members of it who are not members of Trump’s administration or family or network of cronies. I mean it’s not like he’s the president or anything. It’s not like the success or failure of his office is meant to be measured by the health and prosperity of the society it governs. Of course not.
For David Graham, you see, is writing here in his guise as Savvy Impartial Politics Knower. He is the gimlet-eyed grownup in the room, above the messy and childish business of weighing the morality or consequences of politics, too wised-up to be suckered by the suggestion that any of this might be about anything more than the pure acquisition and exercise of power. As a sober, serious journalist, Graham knows that the actual currency of politics is reelection, and not the provision of government to hundreds of millions of real people; therefore he judges an administration only against its interest in assembling good propaganda.
Barack Obama struggled to get some of his first appointees confirmed; a couple of them had to withdraw. Forget the reasons for that, or the consequences, or whether the nominees who eventually got the jobs were well suited to them, or whether the departments they ran performed well under their stewardship. They were not victories. Therefore he was less successful than Trump, because Trump met no significant resistance to, for example, appointing Ben fucking Carson to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Trump’s presidency has been successful, because he has accomplished putting Ben fucking Carson in charge of federal housing policy and the former CEO of ExxonMobil in charge of foreign policy.
What other successes has he rung up, so far?
Or take Trump’s promise to intervene to prevent jobs from leaving the country. That vow, particularly targeted at the air-conditioner manufacturer Carrier, was dismissed during the campaign. But Trump quickly swung into action after the election, and announced a high-profile deal with Carrier to keep jobs in Indiana. The devil was in the details, of course: Carrier was still moving jobs to Mexico; Trump had unusual leverage over Carrier’s parent company, a major contractor; the deal cost taxpayers dearly; many of the “preserved” jobs might still be automated in the future.
But Trump got his symbolic win, and he’s since collected a host of others.
Sure the Carrier deal, by Graham’s own admission, “cost taxpayers dearly” and amounted in all to Trump paying a ransom that will subsidize Carrier’s efforts to replace its workers with robots; sure it was actually a shit deal, very much consonant with the business record of the serially bankrupt incompetent conman and minor hustler now occupying the White House. It looked good, for a second, for long enough to snow a public Graham’s profession exists to inform. Therefore it is a success.
Anyway, those suckers—the dupes who bought Trump’s touchdown dancing over the Carrier deal—don’t read The Atlantic. The Atlantic is for similarly wised-up politics knowers, who, like Graham, will feel the stakes of that bad deal and the lies that sold it a million times more acutely in social media debates about the competence of the Trump administration than in the government-subsidized erasure of a few hundred factory jobs.
And hey, from that perspective, you gotta say: that Trump guy, he’s kicking some tail! Successes everywhere. Good for him. I mean, okay, yeah, sure, the trains were running to Birkenau. But they ran like clockwork.
This is cynicism so profound, contempt for the public so black and bottomless, that P.T. fucking Barnum would hurl into the back of his mouth if he read it. No despot has ever had a better friend than a journalist who writes this shit.