Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Battle Over Intensity

A WaPo, "The midterm elections shape up as a battle over intensity. Are Democrats ready?":

The November election could be about many things. Immigration. Tax cuts and the economy. The Supreme Court and the future of abortion rights. Trade and tariffs. The menu changes with the cascading of events. Ultimately, the midterms will be about intensity. On that factor, Democrats ought not to underestimate President Trump.

Trump dominates like no president in recent memory. He dominates the daily conversation in the country. He manufactures diversions and distractions, starts brush fires or all-out conflagrations. He creates stirs constantly with tools his predecessors never had or imagined using. He says whatever he wants to say, regardless of the truth. He puts the news media on the defensive and calls journalists the “enemy of the people.” He makes himself impossible to ignore. His supporters love it.

As with all presidents, he dominates the executive branch, over which he has superior though not unlimited power, as his unhappiness with and hectoring of the Justice Department reminds. He dominates Congress, because of the acquiescence of Republican elected officials, nearly all of whom fear his wrath and see progress on their own agendas. Thanks to the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Trump soon will put a bigger stamp on the Supreme Court. With the next nomination, he can shift the balance on the court for a generation.

Internationally, he is the dominant figure. He forces other leaders, with the possible exception of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, to react to what he says and does. His disregard for the Western alliances that have held together since the end of World War II have fostered strains and resistance. His pronouncements cause alarm and unhappiness in countries long allied with the United States. Everyone must react to him.

Two years ago, none of this seemed likely, and to Democrats and many others even possible. It was two years ago July 5 that then-FBI Director James B. Comey declared that the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails had revealed that she had been “extremely careless” in handling sensitive information but had produced nothing that warranted prosecution. While not a total clean bill of health, Comey’s findings lifted a burden that had plagued Clinton throughout her presidential campaign. Her path to November suddenly looked more open...