Trying to follow the news in another country is always an odd experience. In the old days, an American had to scrounge the news shops for a wildly overpriced International Herald-Tribune that provided all the news that was fit to print 48 hours earlier. Nowadays, in a cosmic act of revenge, the news comes a little too fast even for those of us interested in digesting it.
I was out of the country all last week (more on that later). When I left last Sunday, two stories were dominating headlines. The first was the faux trade deal with China. The second was this:
I was gone for the next seven days. Here’s what I missed:
- The Justice Department providing a Very Special Briefing to Devin Nunes, Trey Gowdy and the president’s lawyer.
- The Trump administration contemplating further abuse of the national security portion of U.S. trade law to slap a 25 percent tariff on automobiles and auto parts.
- An Associated Press expose into Elliott Broidy’s pay-for-play schemes to lobby the Trump administration on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
- Jared Kushner finally securing his permanent security clearance, and Ivanka Trump finally getting her China trademarks.
- The White House announcing via a tweeted letter that Trump would not attend the scheduled June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore without any warning for key allies.
- The subsequent “summit or no summit?” drama that has played out since Trump canceled the summit, including Trump’s optimism that it will take place.
- Poland offering $2 billion to host a permanent U.S. military base.
- Trump claiming that a background White House briefing never took place.
- Continued controversy over the policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.
- Trump continuing to push his “spygate” claims in a conscious effort to sow distrust of law enforcement.
That is a lot of news. Like, a whole lot. Just those 10 items cover the erosion of executive branch norms, trust in institutions and the liberal international economic order; further evidence for how the Trump administration aids and abets the most obvious forms of corruption and bribery; and the ways in which this administration’s immigration policy will have long-lasting consequences.
It could be argued that not all of those stories are quite as earthshaking as the headlines suggest. On trade, it seems very likely that the administration will back down. On North Korea, maybe the summit will happen, maybe it won’t. The point is, each of the stories is simultaneously exhausting and overwhelming. Combined, they presage major shifts in American politics.
It is becoming next to impossible to process the constant assault on the status quo. If my Washington Post colleagues are correct, we can expect more of this chaotic pace going forward, as Trump’s new staff is far more willing to enable almost all of his policy impulses:
Rather than struggling to manipulate the president to follow their personal agendas, the senior staff members of Trump’s Year 2 — or “Season 3,” in Trump’s reality television parlance — focus on trying to curb his most outlandish impulses while generally executing his vision and managing whatever fallout may follow. Most of all, officials said, they “get” Trump.
“Last year was the year of adjustment. He was constrained by an axis of adults and adjusting to be president,” said Thomas Wright, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “This year is the year of action. He’s giving the orders, even if there’s resistance.
“Next year,” he continued, “is the hangover year, the year of living with the consequences.”
The president thinks that he’s running a reality show, and this is a rare instance in which he is not wrong. I just wish there were a summer hiatus.