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Some Anemic Defenses of Trump’s Tweets

In regards to the recent Trump Tweets about Mika Brzenski, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao offers the following pathetic defense:

“The president is a citizen as well, and he says what he wants to say,” Chao said at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. “I think one of the things that’s important is that you have to take a look at his actions, and to a certain … segment [of Americans] the country was too dependent on government. It was going in a direction that they disagreed with, and so he [Trump] was able to touch a chord with a great number of people who felt that somehow this country needed to have their voices heard.”

Chao, who said she did not agree with Trump’s comments, added the president’s remarks may be unfiltered because isn’t a politician.

“He’s not in politics, and so he’s not used to the usual restraints that people in public service have,” she said. “He’s new. He will adapt and he will learn.”

I have three immediate responses:

First, this is not about being a politician or not being a politician, it is about decent human behavior and acting like an adult, not a spoiled child.

Second, if one has navigated a year-campaign to be elected president of the United States, guess what:  that makes one a politician.  The problem is not that President Trump is not a politician, it is the type of politics that he practices, which includes personal attacks of this nature.

Third, no he won’t learn.  This is clear:  he is who he is, and he is not going to change.

In terms of lame defenses, this reminds me of Newt Gingrich’s recent defense in regards to Trumps “bluff” over the “tapes”:

“I think he was, in his way, instinctively trying to rattle Comey,” Gingrich told The Associated Press.

“He’s not a professional politician. He doesn’t come back and think about Nixon and Watergate. His instinct is: ‘I’ll outbluff you.’ “

First, it is stunning to assume that an American of Trump’s age, regardless of profession, wouldn’t see the Nixon/Watergate connection here.

Second, this is yet another very of the odd not-a-politician defense, because it assumes that being a non-politician means one can be an ass in public.  This is a weird line of reasoning. (And, again, while Trump was recently a non-politician, he is now a politician by definition).

Worse than Trump’s behavior are the sycophants and hangers-on who excuse this type of behavior because it profits them.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. de stijl says:

    He will not adapt.

    This is his true nature and his attacks on women will always be this misogynistic.

    And ~30% of Americans are perfectly fine with that.

    _______

    Elaine Chao proved herself a hack.

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders proved herself a fool, a hypocrite and a hack. She invoked God and her faith. Shame on them for defending this. Shame on the President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. Kylopod says:

    Yet another old-school figure of the Republican establishment throwing away their last shred of dignity….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Daniel Hill says:

    At long last, have you left no sense of decency, Senator McCarthy President Trump?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. An Interested Party says:

    Who could have guessed that we would end up with a president who makes both George W. Bush look smart and Bill Clinton look like a chaste gentleman by comparison…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  5. de stijl says:

    @An Interested Party:

    The trajectory is not encouraging let alone optimal.

    I’m tempted to tell young’uns to get offen my lawn whilst shaking my ineffectual fist at the uncaring clouds.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. de stijl says:

    My mother said that she thought that Obama was the most radical / revolutionary President EVAR!1!.

    My response was that I thought that Obama was the modern version of Eisenhower in temperment.

    She was unenthusiastic at my characterization. She remained positive that Obama meant to radically redirect America.

    She is now markedly circumspect at gauging Trumps character. Oddly, she nowadays does not say that she believes Trump is a secret Muslim who is working to undermine America from within because he desires a worldwide caliphate to eliminate Christian Americans. Those comments were common 2008 – 2016. Not so much now.

    She suddenly does not bring up politics impromptu.

    Now, she never broaches any topic that could even skirt towards politics. (I never brought up politics and shut it down when she did.)

    Trump has removed the biggest pebble in my shoe when it comes to my relationship with my mother. She realizes that Trump is toxic to her politics.

    She undoubtedly voted for him, but she is backing away to the extent that if asked, she might forget that she voted at all in 2016.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. Jen says:

    That is a pathetic defense from Secretary Chao. How any woman, whether connected to him personally or professionally, willingly remains in Trump’s orbit is beyond me.

    Mr. Trump just does not seem to be a well man. The lack of impulse control is unnerving. He is childish and vulgar. This presidency already feels as though it has lasted a decade. I truly am tired of all of this “winning.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. al-Ameda says:

    Chao, who said she did not agree with Trump’s comments, added the president’s remarks may be unfiltered because isn’t a politician.

    “He’s not in politics, and so he’s not used to the usual restraints that people in public service have,” she said. “He’s new. He will adapt and he will learn.”

    As @Steven L. Taylor said, he’s not changing he’s not changing.
    He’s been a vindictive boor his entire life.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. grumpy realist says:

    This reminds me of that damned judge who made excuses for the young Stanford athlete found raping a fellow student in an alley.

    At what point will Trump’s sychophants realize that they are defending activity that is really indefensible?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Mr. Prosser says:

    @grumpy realist: ” At what point will Trump’s sychophants realize that they are defending activity that is really indefensible?” They know it, they will defend it to keep their power and influence. As many have said before, they’ll dump him when he’s no longer useful. BTW I like the word sychophants, very good.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Pete S says:

    @grumpy realist: I truly believe that even the ones who feel his actions are awful think it is okay if you are president and addressing someone they do not like. An interesting test would be to see him talk to the daughter of one of his supporters like this.

    And that line that he is not in politics just kills me. Maybe that is why he is so bad at the job, truly none of the people working for him understand what business he is in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. CSK says:

    @Jen:

    The women connected to Trump personally:

    Well, I suspect Melania’s in it for the money, and will remain so till Trump discards her. Of course, she may be betting he’ll die before he can dump her and she’ll inherit a pile. Either way her son–no successful golddigger doesn’t get pregnant quickly in order to plant a financial stake–has a claim on whatever money there is.

    Ivanka? That’s troubling. The photographs taken of her from childhood on–perched on his lap, stroking his face while he fondles her hip, entwined on a bed with him–suggest a relationship I’d rather not contemplate.

    Tiffany? Her mother seems to have removed her from her father’s sphere of influence. He, in turn, appears to have little use for her. She may be better off than any of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  13. Franklin says:

    I haven’t seen this discussed elsewhere, but do we see a serious primary challenge to Trump in 3 years? (Assuming he hasn’t been impeached, which I doubt he will be.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. James Pearce says:

    if one has navigated a year-campaign to be elected president of the United States, guess what: that makes one a politician.

    While I agree that President Trump is, in fact, a politician now and will go down in history as one, he is also an amateur outsider.

    The part that Chao and the rest of Trump’s defenders miss is that Trump being an “amateur outsider” would be fine if he was suited for the job. The problem with Trump is that he’s an amateur outsider who should not be inside.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. CSK says:

    @Franklin:

    So much can happen between now and then. If he loses the people who really believed he was going to expel all Mexicans and Muslims and build a wall, possibly. He seems to have lost a lot of independents already.

    I doubt he’ll be impeached, but if he carries on in his current vein, some parties could try to force a resignation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. de stijl says:

    @CSK:

    Anti-Trump moderate Republican could be a massive built-in vote come 2020 if Trump keeps “winning” at the pace he has set so far.

    But only if he / she got to the general.

    The liklihood that R’s acknowledge failure is low because it requires honesty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Kylopod says:

    @Franklin:

    do we see a serious primary challenge to Trump in 3 years?

    Keep in mind that primary challenges usually happen to presidents who already in trouble: think LBJ in ’68, Ford in ’76, Carter in ’80, GHWB in ’92.

    Obviously we don’t know what the state of the world will be 3 years from now. Still, let’s imagine Trump’s still president and his approval rating is still abysmal. Even then, I’d be cautious about assuming he’d face a serious challenge from within his party–one that will attract a sizable number of voters. First of all, as I’ve said before Trump’s low poll numbers tend to create the illusion that the party is more fractured than it actually is. A lot of voters say they disapprove of the president but in practice still support him–“Yes, Trump is awful, but…” And keep in mind that he remains fairly popular among Republicans. That could change, but so far we’re not seeing the kind of intra-party numbers that normally presage a primary challenge.

    Second of all, whoever would challenge him would have to be someone willing to risk the wrath not only of Trump himself, but others within the party who will try to punish and ostracize anyone who takes him on. This especially applies to Congressional figures such as Ted Cruz or Ben Sasse who could face negative repercussions in their career from such a move.

    Third, it goes back to the very reasons why the party isn’t likely to pursue impeachment: while in theory they might prefer a more conventional Republican in the Oval Office, they’re absolutely petrified of upsetting the voters who brought him to power. Like the attempts to get him removed from the GOP ticket last year, a primary challenge would be tearing the party apart. It also would manifestly not follow the pattern established when Reagan challenged Ford in ’76 or when Buchanan challenged Bush in ’92: those were examples of conservative icons challenging an establishment Republican who was regarded by the right as a moderate squish. A challenge to Trump, especially from someone like, say, John Kasich, would be practically the opposite effect, and it’s hard to see how that garners the type of grassroots excitement normally associated with this sort of thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Franklin: I don’t know. Should Ted Cruz be considered a “serious challenge?” (This is the choice of being hanged from a new rope or a used one BTW.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. al-Alameda says:

    I continue to believe that until the GOP achieves passing their radical agenda they’re going to stay with this charlatan.

    I’m sure that many some in the GOP are appalled by Trump but they’re willing to set those feelings aside until the base starts jumping ship.

    If in 2018 Democrats take back the Senate or the House – unlikely IMHO – then a Dump Trump situation might emerge, in which case guys like Cruz and Rubio would be front and center.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: I think you sum it up well and would only add that even if Trump declines to run again (because he’s sick of winning) no first stringer would want the nomination. He would have to be a total suck up to Trump. If he wasn’t Trump would attack him in a heartbeat. And the third rafters who would be willing to suck up would still find that Trump was getting all the air time. He would end up being a pathetic but of jokes ala Chris Christie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Not the IT Dept. says:

    I can’t think of Elaine Chao without remembering that this is the woman who looked at Mitch McConnell and thought, “Now there’s some good husband material!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. Franklin says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: I hadn’t realized their relationship until now. Well, McConnell does have more chins than a Taiwanese phonebook, maybe that’s the attraction?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Franklin says:

    @Kylopod:

    And keep in mind that he remains fairly popular among Republicans.

    I continue to be surprised by not only their tolerance, but their exuberance for someone who “Tells It Like It Is (TM),” even when it isn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Steve V says:

    @Franklin: Talk radio and other conservative media continues to enthusiastically defend every idiotic thing he does. If they ever give up, then I could see Republican support falling … which is why they will never give up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. James Pearce says:

    @al-Alameda:

    then a Dump Trump situation might emerge, in which case guys like Cruz and Rubio would be front and center.

    Those omegas don’t stand a chance….

    As for a “Dump Trump situation” that window has passed. He’s in his first term as POTUS. He’ll probably get a second and then we’ll probably be dealing with “zombie Trumpism” for the rest of our natural lives. Anything can happen, of course, but that doesn’t mean that anything will.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. An Interested Party says:

    She undoubtedly voted for him, but she is backing away to the extent that if asked, she might forget that she voted at all in 2016.

    She definitely won’t be the only person like that…hell, eventually there could be literally millions of people with the same faulty memory…

    So much can happen between now and then.

    Oh please, look at all that has happened in just six stinking months

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0