Trigger warning:  Reading this blog might ruin your day.

In my September 2016 blog, What is fascism?, I examined each of the core markers of fascism (nationalism, resentment of “others,” fetishization of strength and power, contempt for the rule of law, aggression, disdain for the truth, and rejection of political convention).  I concluded, “As hard as it is to swallow, there can be no denying that by these six measures, Trumpism is a proto-fascist movement ('proto' in this case meaning rising, or precursor to).”   Even those who accepted my analysis believed, as I did, that – in the unlikely event of his victory – the strength of America’s political culture and institutions would prevent Trump from implementing his proto-fascist agenda.

Most turning points in history are visible only in retrospect.  All too often we lack the perspective to see what is happening until it's too late.   I have tried to adopt the perspective of a future historian asking the question whether by 2018 the Trumpist political movement had crossed the line from proto-fascist rhetoric to actual fascism.  I believe our future historian would conclude that it had.  Here’s why:

The GOP Is Now a Cult of Personality.  Our governing political party is no longer defined by an ideological or policy agenda, but primarily by loyalty to Trump.  Almost 60% of registered Republicans now tell pollsters they consider themselves "more a supporter of Trump than of the Republican Party."   This is why virtually all of the GOP has stood silently as the President has reversed its long-standing commitments to, among other things, reduction of federal deficits, free trade, and our NATO alliance.  Those Republicans not unswervingly loyal to Trump are retiring from political life, and those who don’t will be defeated by well-funded Trumpists in GOP primaries.  Wall Street Journal and Fox News commentator Daniel Henninger now refers to “the Trump Party, formerly known as the GOP.”  And Mr. Trump himself dismisses any remaining GOP critics, including most notably the Koch brothers, as not being “real Republicans.”  Most disturbingly, 91% of strong Trump supporters say they trust Trump – more than any other source – for “accurate information,” notwithstanding his astonishing record of mendacity and his own express admission that he uses the “fake news” label to discredit anything critical or inconvenient to himself.   

O'Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended. 'How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?  And if the party says that it is not four but five -- then how many?'”  (George Orwell, 1984, Part 3, Chapter 2.)

When nearly a third of Americans are now in a mind-set where they routinely answer “five fingers,” we have to admit that we are in the grip of a fascist movement.

The Foreign Policy of the USA Is One of Extreme Nationalism and Nativism.  Nationalist and nativist policies can no longer be dismissed as populist rhetoric.  The cowardly Congress of the United States has stood by as the State Department and other institutional stewards of America’s diplomatic values and traditions have been gutted or ignored, allowing the foreign policy of the United States to be defined by the angry whims of one man and conducted mano a mano with the thugs and tyrants that our President finds most congenial.  The President has attacked our core alliances, celebrated and embraced fellow-authoritarians, launched trade wars against our allies, and unilaterally implemented immigration policies that have demolished our country’s reputation and standing in the world.   Travel anywhere outside of the US and you'll be reminded of an incontestable truth:  these are not Tump's positions and actions anymore, they are ours.  America now has a fascist foreign policy.

The Executive Branch Attacks the Rule of Law and Press Freedom.   The President launches personal attacks against judges whose decisions he does not like.  At his behest, millions of Americans no longer trust the integrity of law enforcement or the courts.  He illegally instructed his recused attorney general to terminate the Russia probe following months of relentless attacks on his own Justice Department.  The President has doubled-down on his “enemy of the people” attacks on the free press, which are now escalating and will climax this fall.   In September 2016 these things were the ravings of a populist candidate who few took seriously.  But for the past year and a half they have been the acts and words of the President.  Instead of a virus attacking the system from the outside, the virus now sits within – at the very core of our body politic – and has already started to cripple the institutions at the core of our democracy.

The Rise of Violence.   Most disturbingly, the final line  – the toleration and use of violent means – has been crossed.  Trump the candidate encouraged his supporters to beat-up protesters at his rallies, and now as President he countenances the threat of violence against the news media.  Mainstream media companies now need to engage security guards for their reporters covering Trump rallies.   The White House approvingly tweets videos of crowds threatening the press and declines to criticize their menacing behavior.  In response, left-wing extremists also have menaced Trumpies.  The depth and bitterness of our political divide, engineered and celebrated by Trump and Bannon, is having exactly the effect they intended: the morphing of our politics in the direction of violent conflict.   I predict that the 2018 mid-term campaign will be characterized by steadily escalating political violence.

*    *    *

Trump’s approval ratings stand at 40%, including 84% of Republicans.  34% of all voters strongly approve.  History teaches that in Trump’s unshakable 34% of Americans we have a political base sufficient to support and sustain a fascist populist regime.   Unless, that is, the rest of us turn out to vote and are unified in our opposition.  History might well show that the 2018 midterms were the last moment when Trumpist fascism could have been derailed.

Fascism is a heavy charge, which many will dismiss as alarmist.  But for those uncomfortable with drawing parallels to the 20th century, please consider what our future historian will see, looking back at 2018:  fascist or near-fascist regimes in countries as diverse as North Korea, Venezuela, Russia, Turkey, Hungary, the Philippines, Turkmenistan and elsewhere.  America is not alone in its struggle with this scourge.  And remember that political science and history teach that fascism comes in many flavors, but all are ultra-nationalist, all are designed to restore lost national “greatness,” all admire the strong-man in politics and are based on loyalty to a strong-man ruler, and all are fundamentally hostile to the rights of minorities, rule of law and pluralist democracy.   In addition to their fundamental political character, historians recognize fascist regimes by a certain style and rhetoric:  large theatrical rallies, repetitive chants, extreme and provocative speech, and the toleration or promotion of violence in political life.   We have been warned.   We’ll find out on November 6, 2018, how many of us listened.






America’s allies quickly discovered, as we did, that Trump the President is exactly the same as Trump the man: an untrustworthy ignorant braggart without the sophistication, knowledge or temperament to participate in matters of state.  

The idea that any head of state would defer to his judgment as “leader of the free world” is laughable. And yet the country he leads, by virtue of the size of its economy, its traditional values and its military might, is the indispensable player in any world crisis. And there you have the conundrum faced by the world today, brought sharply into focus by the crisis with North Korea.

Imagine the nightmare being lived by the leaders of South Korea and Japan, whose populations face annihilation should Trump make an impetuous move. Imagine the nightmare of waking up to find the ally on which they have bet their existence, the most reliable of countries, the nation built on checks and balances, now led by a fickle buffoon whose capricious whims go unchecked by the institutions of government or established practices of our political culture. A man uninterested in the collective wisdom and experience of the tens of thousands of foreign policy professionals employed by his government. A man utterly convinced of his ability to manage the crisis single-handedly in the only way he knows:  dangerous bluff and bluster unleashed via Twitter that escalates, as opposed to diffuses, the risk of conflict. 

The crisis is of course a political gift to Trump. The instinct of the nation is to forget the niceties of the constitution and rally around the President when facing a significant threat from abroad.  

But there is something greater at stake here. Over ten million people inhabit Seoul.  Nine million people inhabit Tokyo. They must not be treated as pawns in a celebrity feud. History will never forgive the Secretaries of State and Defense if they don’t force the President to change course, or lose their jobs in the attempt. If Congress stands by without asserting its authority, it will create a stain on our democracy that can never be erased.






Illegitimacy is defined as “the state of not being in accordance with accepted standards or rules; lack of authorization by the law.” We have crossed some kind of line when serious people on the right start down the path of questioning the “regularity” and “legal soundness” of Trump’s presidency.

Jack Goldsmith is a conservative lawyer and scholar. A fellow of the Hoover Institution and Professor at Harvard Law School, he served as a senior official in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush. A serious man and a leading conservative voice.

In an extraordinary eruption of 17 Tweets yesterday, he wrote “Trump’s actions since January, and especially in [the] last month, take us so far beyond normal that it’s hard to have any faith in [the] Executive Branch.” He argued that the President’s personal actions have undermined the deference that our political culture says we owe to the Presidency and the Executive Branch.   “The impulsive, uncontrolled, ill-informed President infects the legal soundless of everything his administration does. As best I can tell, no President’s actions have ever so adversely affected trust in his administration, including Nixon during Watergate.” So we now have a presidency that has deviated so far from accepted standards and rules that it does not deserve even the simple presumption of regularity and legal soundness. In other words, a presidency that has squandered its legitimacy.

This is an extraordinarily consequential analysis. Goldsmith argues that the incessant lying, the manifest instability, the firing of Comey, the intemperate attacks on judges, legal process, long-standing allies, the intelligence services and the press exonerate us from having to afford the office the normal presumption of “regularity.” We – the people, the Congress, the courts, even the lawyers charged with representing him and Executive Branch employees who work for him ­– no longer need to presume that any of his words or actions are taken in good faith or constitute the regular lawful exercise of Executive Branch authority. 

As a result, Goldsmith writes, Executive Branch officials find themselves in a nearly impossible position. Is it morally or legally acceptable to defend Presidential prerogative when the President has proven he cannot wield it responsibly? How far can they go before resignation is their only option?

With Goldsmith’s analysis, we are starting to get a clearer picture of the slowly emerging constitutional crisis. This type of illegitimacy is not anticipated by the constitution. It is not simply incompetence; it is willful incompetence. It is not simply mis-government, it is the systematic undermining of government. It is a profound corruption, where the corrupt spoils are not so much in material gain as in the satisfaction of the ego; where the interests of the nation are traded for the indulgence of the man’s momentary impulse, narcissistic self-image and lust for attention. It is a pervasive and corrosive bad faith, where the crime is not just convenient mendacity, but a willful disdain for expertise and even objective truth. It is disinterest in details. It is disdain for advice.  It is failing to take the business of governing seriously. It is a perpetually raised middle finger aimed at our political culture and traditions.  At our friends and allies. At the very idea that relations with others can be anything other than a zero-sum transaction. At a world order painstakingly built over generations. It is “the state of not being in accordance with accepted standards or rules.” It is illegitimate.

Trump is no longer a president in any conventional sense. His tweets and words deserve no more respect than the blather of a reality TV star or the ignorant ranting of a crank. He is viewed as ridiculous by virtually all the rest of the world and by the majority of Americans. In that respect he is no longer a president. He may be the president under law, but he is not a president.  

Nothing in our constitution or political culture suggests how to deal with this. Nixon resigned because his confrères in the party told him it was over. Even if today’s Republicans had the same wisdom and courage, he would mostly likely refuse to go. He will hole up and lash out. We must prepare for the constitutional crisis that will follow.



June 1, 2017

In my book Christian Nation, the fictional narrator writes, “They said what they would do, and we did not believe them. Then they did what they said they would do.”

Trump told us what he believed about climate change and told us what he would do about the Paris Agreement. And now he has done it.

Ironically for a man who purports to be dedicated to the restoration of America’s prestige and power, he has at a stroke squandered much of the moral authority and prestige built up over the past century. America may be “first” in his alternative universe, but in the real world we now inhabit an exclusive club of climate non-participants with Syria and Nicaragua.  

Mr. Putin’s authoritarianism, supported mainly by fossil fuel sales, is now assured. China will pivot cynically but effectively into a climate leadership role, assuring that its workers, and not the disgruntled Americans who handed Trump the Presidency, have the millions of 21st century jobs in green energy.      

Earth is of course the biggest loser here. But close behind is American democracy. In polling after the election, 69% of voters said they supported remaining in the Paris Agreement. This included a majority of voters in every state. And even among voters who voted for Trump, only 28% said they favored withdrawal. 

Post-enlightenment civilization has been based on reason and science. Today my country repudiated both. I often wondered what it felt like on August 24, 410, when Rome fell to the Visigoths.   Now I know.



I learned everything I needed to know about Donald Trump years ago when an environmental organization whose Board I chaired opposed his plan to build gated gilded skyscrapers on the Hudson River waterfront, blocking views and waterfront access for the rest of the citizens. He wrote me a letter in which he stated that his new buildings would be terrific, that if we withdrew our opposition we would receive a great contribution, and that if we didn’t he would destroy us. Sound familiar? The art of the deal. 

So now “Trump First” has morphed into “America First” and European leaders last week were on the receiving end of the only way of behaving the man knows.   

A few things are notable about the trip. After only five months of Trumpism, U.S. foreign policy has ceased to exist. Since the end of World War II U.S. foreign policy has reflected a complex vectoring of national security, commercial, ideological, and political objectives. The official positions of the U.S. government emerged and evolved from a broad and inclusive process played out within the framework of a professional State Department and national security staff, the constitutional role of Congress, the limitations of multilateral and bilateral commitments, and the participation of a wide variety of private sector and political interests. Today, U.S. foreign policy appears to be whatever slogan pops into the head of a single spectacularly ill-informed man, who exists in a cocoon of ideologues and billionaires, does not read or absorb briefings, and has ignored and marginalized the entire foreign policy establishment. “I alone,” he says, will decide.   

Imagine what they were thinking. The leaders of Europe, all sophisticated, serious, informed, briefed. All facing critical challenges such as the future of the EU, the refugee crisis, climate change, and the terrifying specter of a newly assertive Russia. Now the door closes and they are alone with Trump, one moment behaving like a star struck B-lister giddy with excitement that he’s reached these rarefied heights, and the next moment a sneering bully, compensating for his ignorance and insecurity with aggression and bombast. Even the Wall Street Journal called his behavior on the trip “undiplomatic, and sometimes rude,” “embarrassing for most Americans,” and “dangerous.” And that from a conservative publication that attempts daily to put a positive spin on each day’s debacle.

So there they are, the leaders of Europe. For 60 years they relied on their U.S. ally as the bulwark against a repeat of the catastrophic 20th century. And now: NATO is obsolete (maybe, depends on who he spoke to last), extortionate threats that the US will not fulfill its mutual defense commitments unless they pay up (at the end of the day it’s all just about money, right?), and abandonment of generations of GOP and American support for free trade. After all, who cares about all these foreigners, since “from this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.”

Is it any surprise that Angela Merkel, citing “what I experienced in recent days,” uttered the obvious? Europe can no longer rely on America. Welcome to the club, Angela. America can no longer rely on America.

The Press Conference

All you need to know is this: there is and always will be only one Donald Trump. Thinking that he can or will suddenly become fit to be President is like thinking that a paraplegic will leap from his wheel chair at any moment. Just as a damaged spinal cord disables a person from walking, Trump’s life-long severe narcissistic personality disorder disables him from accepting any truth that contradicts the narrative of his greatness, taking advice, or behaving in public in any manner that is remotely appropriate for a head of state. It’s not going to happen because it cannot happen. Character is destiny and the flaws in Mr. Trump’s character are so deep that his presidency is destined to be – at best - a chaotic lurid spectacle.

All this was apparent prior to the election. And to those who indulged in the fantasy that he might change, it should be apparent now that he will not. If you still have doubts, just watch the video of yesterday’s bizarre and terrifying press conference.

In September, I wrote that Trump world is “a type of theater of the absurd, in which the boundaries of the possible dissolve. It is the world of the preposterous.” Is there a better word to describe the nonsense which we face daily? The White House said five days ago “We have a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration.” What can you say other than preposterous. Yesterday the President said “This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.” He has already made the world a better place through his “great conversations” with foreign leaders. Yup, a few incoherent phone calls from the Donald and the world is already a safer place. Plants and factories “are already starting to move back into the United States, and big league.” “Jobs have already started to surge.” And he solved the problem of attacks on cops, “directing federal agencies to ensure they are protected from crimes of violence.” That is sure to do the trick. 

Perhaps most revealing at yesterday’s news conference was his defense of his incorrect assertion about his Electoral College margin of victory being the biggest since Reagan: “I'm skipping that information, I don't know, I was just given . . .Well, I don't know, I was given that information. I was given -- I actually, I've seen that information around.” And there you have it. We have a President who makes public assertions about matters of objective fact based on “I’ve seen that information around.” It is shocking when he states it so plainly, but no one should be surprised. Many of the core arguments of his campaign were based on information he saw around the dark fringes of the Internet, such as Breitbart. And now the purveyors of that information sit in the West Wing, having discredited and marginalized the 16 intelligence agencies on which a president usually relies, giving the man the false facts required to feed his voracious vanity, indifferent to whether it becomes apparent to the world that the President of the United States lives in a world of fantasy and misinformation.   

And Mr. Bannon is not the only person who has learned how to manipulate our President. Trump said this in response to the stew of Russia related issues that has already brought down his National Security Advisor: “President Putin called me up very nicely to congratulate me on the win of the election. He then, called me up extremely nicely to congratulate me on the inauguration, which was terrific. But so did many other leaders, almost all other leaders from almost all of the country. So that's the extent. Russia is fake news. Russia -- this is fake news put out by the media.” Got it? Putin flattered him twice, nicely and then extremely nicely, including taking his side on the question of whether the inauguration was the best ever, so all the rest is fake news. 

In a moment that gave me hope for the future of journalism, CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked the obvious question: “You said that the leaks [regarding the Russia connections] are real but the news [that is, the reporting of the leaked information] is fake. I guess I don't understand. It seems that there's a disconnect there. If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake.” In a bit of revealing mental gymnastics, the President replied, “the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.” You understand? It’s really not so complicated. The media (other than Fox) are dishonest enemies. This is what makes their reporting about Trump “fake,” not the truth or falsehood of their reports.

There is one advantage to the man’s off-the-cuff style; it tends to be much more revealing about what he believes and how he thinks than the carefully prepared statements of most presidents. Consider this: “Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It's a disaster. I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people that our representatives are representing.” Where to start? Were that it was merely incoherent ranting. But it’s not. Among the possible insights into the man’s mind: People who need health insurance are homeless people in alleys? Homeless people in alleys “got there” through some conspiracy? But the people who need insurance are not, in any case, Republicans? And therefore it doesn’t matter because Republican control means that the House is now representing only Republicans? Unfiltered Trump is the real Trump.

Finally, an attack on the press and the courts, really the only two institutions in our democracy that stand in his way, was woven through the long press conference. These were the themes to which he returned in his answers to many unrelated questions. Most ominously, he announced yesterday that the press is “out of control” and we have to “find out what is going on,” which I took as a promise to use the tools available to the Federal government to investigate and then solve the problem. As I argued in my book Christian Nation, authoritarians usually announce in advance exactly what they will do and then do it. As the narrator says, looking back from a future where American democracy has been lost, “They said what they would do and we did not listen.  And then they did what they said they would do.”

No Room at the Inn

On Friday afternoon the man in charge, seeking to burnish his tough guy image, took his limo to the Pentagon and signed a bit of paper that upended the lives of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people, betrayed America’s deepest values, and is almost certain to harm the country it is designed to protect.   

The weekend’s events again demonstrate that the man’s personality flaws and personal history – not politics – will be the primary driver of what emerges from this administration.

·      He did not first attempt to forge an immigration reform policy that could attract the support of Congress, the representatives of the people.  President Obama signed executive orders regarding immigration, but only after years of attempting to work with Congress to accomplish immigration reform.

·      He acted without the analysis, planning, or preparation that normally would have preceded a similarly consequential change in policy. This has been his MO for years in business, where the frequent result was a moment of publicity for him, followed by chaos and failure.  

·      He took this action impulsively, without (or perhaps in disregard of) consideration of its many dangerous consequences. Apart from the human tragedy, American business, together with the thousands of Americans who live, do business, and travel overseas, all will suffer. And many experts believe that the jihadist narrative will be reinforced, domestic counter-terrorism efforts will be compromised, and America's global standing and leadership diminished.  

·      He left thousands of government employees, sworn to uphold the rule of law, struggling to understand what he had done, what it meant, and what they should do. Again, this is his hallmark:  leave others to pick up the pieces.

·      By giving preference to Christian refugees and contemplating that immigrants would be chosen based on their “attitudes,” he demonstrated a typical populist/authoritarian indifference to the niceties of the constitution.

·      The arguments proffered in support of the order (i.e., that his order would have prevented 9/11, or that current vetting can be improved, or that immigrants are more prone to crime than others) all are false. Welcome to the world where policy is made based on “alternative facts.”

·      The policy, like the man, is cruel and reckless. Like all severe narcissists, he lacks empathy.   The consequences of this are on full display.

The innkeeper, indifferent to the suffering of a pregnant traveller about to give birth, relegates Mary and Joseph to the stable. The Bible story celebrated each Christmas has inspired generations of believers and non-believers alike to the necessity of embracing -- and even sacrificing for -- the weak and vulnerable. Instead, exit polls showed 80% of Christian evangelicals again chose to slam the door of the inn. If He exists, Jesus weeps.

The First Week

I am breaking my silence regarding the man who now holds the office of President out of frustration at the lack of context and completeness in the media’s reporting and analysis.  (Sorry for the awkward elocutions, but I will not feed his lust for attention, even in the tiniest way, by writing the man’s name.)

Reporters seem completely befuddled by the two major “stories” of the first few days of the administration. First the President falsely stated that the crowd at his inauguration was the largest ever, a statement that his people then had to defend with the Orwellian construct of calling it an “alternative fact.” Then the President again falsely bragged that he won the popular vote, claiming the officially reported tally was off by more than three million due to “massive voter fraud.”  

And how do our professional journalists respond? They behave is if the man is a normal head of government whose Tweets and statements deserve some kind of presumption of seriousness or validity, as opposed to the reality-TV blather, WWE trash talk, and narcissistic braggadocio that most of them are. They dignify the gap between his assertions and reality as if there is an actual “issue” that needs to be covered. And when they marshal the evidence that his statement is objectively untrue, the story reads as if it is a case of a conventional politician caught in a lie.

Consider the following. If an alcoholic politician said he hadn’t had a drink in months, and you then discovered he drank shots at the local bar two days prior, could you run the story of the lie without mentioning the alcoholism? Would you write how strange it was that the person told a lie so easily revealed, or leave unanswered the question of why in the world he would do it? No, the only way to understand and report the story is that the politician did what alcoholics do, which is to lie about drinking.  

The man in question entered office suffering from a severe life long case of narcissistic personality disorder. Investing narcissists with power is like putting an alcoholic in charge of a liquor store, it can only exacerbate the condition. And endowing one of the planet’s most afflicted narcissists with the most power and attention that a human being can have, is guaranteed to create a monster.

Narcissists rarely behave as if truth is some static objective reality. Instead, the typical narcissist regards as “true” that which he says and thinks in the moment, that which makes him look good, and that which will get him what he wants. So for him, truth is not the way things are, but the way things ought to be given the overriding validity and importance of the narcissist’s narrative about himself (e.g., everything is transactional, I’m the most successful person ever, I’m always a winner). This deep conviction allows the narcissist to stray from the truth without conscience or shame, because a small thing like objective reality is nothing compared to the greater truth of the narcissist’s specialness narrative and the overwhelming imperative to fulfill his desires. There is no place in his cognitive landscape for facts that contradict his narrative. This has been completely clear throughout his life, it was clear during the campaign, and it is clear now.

So the man was being completely transparent and truthful when he said he would not accept the results of the election if he didn’t win. He is a winner, and thus if he looses, the results must be rigged.  So why the surprise that he doesn’t accept the popular vote? Of course he doesn’t. He’s a winner, and a winner doesn’t lose by three million votes. Asking for his evidence is foolishness.  You might as well ask a child why he wants a cookie. He just knows that he does. Similarly, as the greatest at whatever he does, of course his inauguration turnout was largest. How could it not be? 

Those who now have the unenviable jobs of enabling his narcissism face an impossible task because his cognitive landscape can never be reconciled with the realities of the world. What could Ms. Conway do other than accurately describe her boss’s world as one of “alternative facts.”  

You might want to review my October posting on Trump and the Truth.

And while I have your attention, please indulge four other points.

First, many of us were criticized during the campaign for characterizing his program as populist, nationalist, and protectionist. It is fascinating that he now self-describes in exactly that way. In his inaugural address he was clear that power was not passing between the parties, but from the politicians to the people. He stated that our normal political culture has been replaced by a popular “movement,” a movement which of course bears his name, which has no coherent ideological complexion, and whose only organizing principle appears to be allegiance to him personally. He doubled down on the fascist/nationalist slogan by stating that there will be “only” “America First” which will be the basis for “every decision.” And, in another assertion contradicted by the experience of history, he stated that protectionism will lead to “great prosperity and strength,” as opposed to the mutually impoverishing “beggar thy neighbor” which inevitably results. So the media now has no possible excuse for failing to explain in every instance what populism, nationalism, and protectionism are and where they inevitably lead. (Although he didn’t self-describe as an authoritarian, his administration’s attempts to stifle and control communication at all levels of the EPA and Department of Interior are early signs of an authoritarian tendency.)

Second, those of us who hoped that responsible Republicans might stand in his way, at least when their own core values are challenged, are instead seeing hypocritical accommodation that is nothing less than unpatriotic and morally despicable. The man now President said in the course of a few days that (i) NATO is obsolete, (ii) he is indifferent as to whether the European Community breaks up, (iii) that he would trust equally America’s morally courageous friend Angela Merkel, and the thug that is our most dangerous enemy, Vladimir Putin, and (iv) that he planned to trade away the sanctions against Russia in return for reductions in their nuclear arsenal. Just think if President Obama had taken any of those positions. The entire right would have risen in righteous outrage and accused him of treason. And now, though we know that most of them were privately appalled, almost all of them stayed silent. (History will be kind to the few, such as John McCain, who have had the courage to speak up.)

In the mean time, Europeans were flabbergasted. Press around the world correctly described these remarks as offensive, absurd, ludicrous, ignorant, incoherent, confused, and mystifying.  In the U.S., they were reported largely without comment for a single news cycle. If the journalism profession does not get its act together and rise to this extraordinary challenge, the man will get away with it all. The fact is that the incumbent U.S. president’s views on foreign policy are no better informed than those of any other reality TV star who does not read books or know history. It is outrageous that he should be permitted by those around him to continue to make these sorts of ill considered off the cuff statements, which render the orderly conduct of U.S. foreign policy impossible. I predict that if he continues this practice, Rex Tillerson will not last the year. 

Third, he has predictably continued as President his business MO which consisted of a lust for splashy launches at which he would take center stage, brag and promise the thing or event would be the greatest, and then pay no attention to follow-through or substance. It didn’t matter if Trump Vodka (or university or shuttle or mortgages or magazine or water) crashed and burned, each remains in his mental world of “alternative facts” “one of the most successful launches ever in the history of this business.” If he liked dramatic entrances in the lobby of Trump Tower to the applause of B list celebrities, he loves sitting alone at the paperless bookless desk in the oval office, the white guys in suits clustered around at a respectful distance, signing and brandishing executive orders (with a signature that a former Secret Service handwriting expert explains is extraordinarily devoid of curves, revealing that the writer is an extreme example of humans who lack empathy and crave power, prestige and admiration). But here’s the thing: most of these executive orders are pure political theater with no legal effect. I don’t mean to underestimate the harm he is doing and can do, but actual implementation of many of the policies expressed in these orders requires concerted effort and follow-through, not to mention Congressional action. The man seems in the grip of the illusion that he can simply sign “orders” to make things happen. The constitution, rule of law, and objective reality (as in Mexico paying, sorry, reimbursing us, for The Wall) get in the way.

Finally, in the search for a silver lining, I had indulged the hope that the man’s lack of ideological or political conviction might mean that the administration’s actual policies would bounce idiosyncratically between right and left. His early interest in a large federal infrastructure program signaled that his agenda might not tow the right wing line. This hope has been dashed. The actions to date are closely aligned with the agenda of the alt-right/far right. This now seems inevitable, because he is surrounded by alt-right/far right advisors, who doubtless are learning quickly that the way to interest him in a policy is not to describe its merits or politics in conventional terms, but to describe how strong and good it will make him look, and to package it with an opportunity for an event or signing. As a result, we are suffering the perfect storm. We are getting the same undiluted far right agenda that we would have had with Ted Cruz in the White House, and at the same time, are suffering all the risks that arise from giving power to a sneering ignorant self-obsessed populist. The only bright side: we can impeach the man and take Pence, because we’d have the same right wing agenda, but at least the nuclear button would not be controlled by an impulsive bully.

*    *    *

I want to acknowledge to readers of Getting to Green that, no matter how predictable, it is hard not to feel shock, horror, and grief as scientists are muzzled, the Orwellian counter-truth of climate denialism becomes the official policy of the U.S. government, and the stewardship of the agency charged with protecting the environment is handed over to someone sworn to cripple or destroy it. But the truth is that the same things would have been done by almost all of his GOP primary competitors. The “day one” reversal of course on Keystone, the Clean Power Plan, and the Paris Agreement demonstrate the thesis of Getting to Green: if the green agenda has no bipartisan support, then even the few federal “victories” achieved by the movement are illusory because they simply will be reversed when the other side takes power. Making policy changes that stick requires changing the politics of the environment. 

When Trumpism, which stands for nothing other than gratification of the man’s narcissistic needs, collapses in chaos and the betrayal of those who pinned their hopes on a delusion, someone is going to have to reconstruct a center-right party. Those rebuilding a GOP that can be competitive in the 21st century would be wise to move to the center on green issues, and anyone who cares about the green agenda will work to help this happen.  

In the mean time, my advice is the following: (i) double-down on your environmental and conservation work at the local and state level; even in relation to climate, the collective impact of that work, together with similar efforts by countries around the world, can make a real difference; (ii) if you are in business, become a loud voice within your organization for sustainability, insist that climate risks be analyzed and quantified, and align your business and investments accordingly; and (iii) make politics a personal priority and become more politically active than you ever have been (think like you’re 20 and its 1970 and unless you stop the war, you’ll be sent to Vietnam to die – that kind of politically active).