Magazine article Foreign Affairs

Present at the Destruction?

Magazine article Foreign Affairs

Present at the Destruction?

Article excerpt

Covering the Trump administration is difficult because it requires disentangling three strands of its behavior: the normal, the incompetent, and the dangerous.

The normal aspect-the administration’s conventional Republican policies and appointments-is, broadly speaking, politics as usual. The amateur aspect- its early fumbling and bumbling-is what one finds every time power changes hands, exacerbated by an unusually inexperienced incoming team. The danger is unique.

Every administration spins, fights with the press and the bureaucracy, pushes its own agenda, and tries to evade intrusive oversight. But ordinary White Houses do not repeatedly lie, declare war on mainstream media institutions, pursue radical goals while disdaining professional input, and refuse to accept independent scrutiny.

How seriously you take these behaviors depends on how you assess the motivations behind them, generating a game that some have taken to calling “Stupid or nefarious?” or “Veep or House of Cards?” Do slow appointments signal poor management or a deliberate attempt to “deconstruct the administrative state,” as Trump guru Steve Bannon says? Is dismissing experienced senior officials en masse just a clumsy way of handling a presidential transition or a purge of potential obstacles and whistleblowers? …

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