The Abnormal Presidency

The effort to make Donald Trump seem normal is to be expected. American politics works on a script most of the time, with very few surprises. We are all used to the system working as it is supposed to, with people of generally good faith respecting the institutions they comprise.

Sometimes, this falls apart, like when a small band of neoconservatives collaborate with the Vice President to intentionally mislead the public about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But most of the time, it works, and Iraq aside (sigh, I know) even in the Bush administration institutions generally worked as they were supposed to. Because institutions are made up of people, and so long as people of generally good faith are helming those institutions, they will mostly stay within the lines.

This is why the talk of Donald Trump’s normalcy is so important: he is so far beyond the range of what our system was designed to support that it is hard to know what the upper limit really is on the crazy scale. As I detailed the other day, it is astonishing how outrageous his candidacy and transition have been, barely more than a week after winning. There are no cooler heads to prevail against Trump and his innermost circle, the gauzy fever dreams of pollyannas notwithstanding.

Chris Christie has always been the thirstiest of Trump’s groupies: an early defector from the GOP primary who thought Trump would be his ticket to power in Washington. And despite debasing himself into becoming Trump’s McDonalds boy, Christie actually brought with him ties to the modern GOP and to mainstream Republicans that could have tempered the worst excesses of Trump’s newest favorite adviser, white supremacist Steve Bannon.

Well, that’s out the window: Christie is being purged from the transition, and in true gangster state fashion, so are all of his friends and staff as well. Soon we will see what happens when a group of amateurs is placed in charge of a system designed to be run by experts. This is scary. This is not normal.

Normal would be Trump allowing for a difference of opinion. Normal would be Trump rewarding a hardworking national figure who subordinated himself for the cause. But the basic instinct of even a despot escapes him; Trump must revert to having his billionaire son-in-law (who has no policy experience of any sort) pulling the strings, like a family of gangsters. Soon his other born again subordinates will find themselves humiliated once they sniff out of turn. Again, this is simply not normal to have in the White House.

On front after front, seemingly any issue picked at random, the abnormality of Trump is inescapable. For a system designed to run on normalcy it is an unrecoverable disruption, for institutions are people, and when you put erratic and sycophantic people in charge the institutions stop working.

Abnormality abounds.

Donald Trump’s signature new hotel in Washington DC, the one he kept promoting with his political campaign and which stands to make tremendous profits with his team in Washington, is open because of a 60-year lease from the GSA (it is built inside a historic building owned by the federal government). Guess who is about to appoint a new chief of the GSA?Put another way: Trump is going to be in charge of the agency that has oversight over his primary money-making business in Washington DC. This is not normal!

Because of a quirk of how the Secret Service provides protection to the President and his family, Donald Trump stands poised to make millions of dollars in fees each year for his family using their private jet to travel with their security detail. To put it gently, using the president’s bodyguards to enrich your family is not normal. It is the behavior of a gangster state. (I am old enough to remember when Hillary Clinton was the corrupt one, whose financial ties to her lifesaving charitable foundation were disqualifying for millions of Americans.)

To continue, the lead pick for Attorney General, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has said that the Trump administration is already seeking a way to force Muslim immigrants to register with the federal government. To say this is not normal is to do disservice to the trope: forcing any minority group to register with the government is stage one toward ethnic cleansing. When other countries institute these policies, every human rights agency on the planet, from the UN down to Amnesty International and the State Department, throws up a red alert about an upcoming abusive crackdown. To have the United States of America want to mirror the behavior of a third world tyranny is not normal.

Forced Muslim registration in the United States is not just abnormal, it is anti-normal: it is the rejection of everything the United States believes in (starting at the first amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion). The same political party that believes registering gun ownership is step one for tyranny is looking at the merits of registering a people group, as if it is not tyranny.

This is not normal. It is insane.

Equally insane? The Director of the NSA, Admiral Michael Rogers, has now openly discussed the way Russia hacked the Democrats in order to swing the election. This is not just overwhelming evidence collected by cybersecurity firms, along with leaks about the analysis from within the IC and distributed to reporters. It is the chief of a powerful intelligence agency, whose remit is, specifically, to do this sort of thing, saying that Russia interfered with our election in order to help Donald Trump win.

Think about that: the director of the NSA said, as plainly as possible, that Russia put Trump in charge. Congress would investigate, but they’ve decided they would rather not know (too busy investigating Benghazi).

That is not normal. This whole thing is not normal. And the only way anyone can send a message is by refusing to accept it as such. Don’t let the pundits sweet talk you into going along for the ride. Do not let them lecture you about how to feel: if you are outraged, say so. Let them know that this is unacceptable to you, as an American. Do not accept that a man in the White House can treat it like a game to enrich his family while he abuses the vulnerable. Do not accept it when journalists treat white supremacy, treat the oppression of minorities, treat the dismemberment and discount sale of our country as if it is just another type of politics. It is not. It never should be, and we should never let it become normal.

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