Via the Free Beacon, I … can’t shake the feeling that the big DREAM compromise might not be happening.
Three things about this hyperbole, tailor-made to emphasize the point about “negative partisanship” in this post. One: Whatever you think of Trump’s character and aptitude versus his 43 predecessors, surely we as a nation should be able to agree that Woodrow Wilson is the worst person ever to occupy the office. “Princeton’s answer to Benito Mussolini and the most dangerous man ever elected to the American presidency,” as Kevin Williamson once described him, “a would-be dictator who attempted to criminalize the act of criticizing the state, dismissed the very idea of individual rights as ‘a lot of nonsense,’ and described his vision of the presidency as effectively unlimited (‘The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can’).” He was a lousy racist too, even by the benighted standards of his day, a vocal Klan apologist who oversaw the resegregation of the federal government 50 years after Reconstruction. He deserves to be remembered, for all the wrong reasons.
Two: Schumer uncorked this shpiel at an event held by the Human Rights Campaign, probably the most influential LGBT lobbyist group in the country. That’s a strange venue at which to make the case that Trump is uniquely bad, as he’s the least socially conservative Republican president in decades, if not longer. He evinces no interest in ending legalized gay marriage; he famously scoffed during the 2016 campaign at Republicans worrying about which bathrooms transgenders might be allowed to use. His personal life prior to the presidency speaks for itself. His chief initiative against LGBT interests as president to date has been to impose a ban on new transgender recruits in the military, but a court put that (temporarily) on ice and the Pentagon has continued to accept trans soldiers in the meantime. Trump rarely mentions the issue publicly. His attitude about the setback seems to be “Whatever.” I think he imposed the ban as a quick and easy way to earn some goodwill with his socially conservative fan base, not much caring what became of his gesture once it was made. He showed evangelicals that he cares about their values, the courts blocked him, the Pentagon continued with business as usual, he moved on. He doesn’t seem eager for a knife fight with gays. Which is not to say they can’t find him bad or dangerous for other reasons, but as I say, this is an odd forum for Schumer to make that case.
Three: Trump is a dangerous president in theory given his loose talk about his “un-American” enemies, changing libel laws to muzzle the press, boasting as a candidate the military would obey illegal orders from him, and a hundred other weird and creepy authoritarian things he’s said since 2015. In practice, though, he’s a weak president, more than willing to defer to the people around him on most subjects — even on one of his core issues like trade, where he has yet to do anything radically protectionist. This is what I meant last month in writing about how he’s exceeded NeverTrumpers’ very low expectations. When the courts block his travel ban, he doesn’t tell them to go to hell, he rewrites it. When he wants health-care reform to pass, he doesn’t stomp down to the Hill and demand that Republicans pass some populist plan to guarantee universal coverage, he lets Ryan and McConnell handle it. When the time comes to make key appointments, he doesn’t install Corey Lewandowski as secretary of defense, he listens to his advisors and appoints James Mattis. It’d be more accurate to say that he’s *potentially* dangerous because he’s so unpredictable and his instincts lean towards authoritarian. He hasn’t fired Mueller — but he’s reportedly come close. He hasn’t nuked North Korea — but he might deliver them a “bloody nose” out of the blue. A loose cannon is dangerous, by definition. But he hasn’t been nearly as loose as his biggest skeptics feared in 2016.
To come back to the Wilson comparison, though, it may surprise you to know that despite being a garbage heap of a human being, Wilson frequently lands among the top ten when historians are asked to rank the greatest presidents. And partly that’s because he wasn’t a weak president. On the contrary, he was a man who tried to assert his will at every opportunity, and assessment of presidential “greatness” almost always involves power-worship of the Great Man who imposes his vision, whatever that vision might be, Which is to say, among the various reasons Trump will never be ranked near the top (his tweets alone are too tawdry to make him eligible for “Great Man” status among scholars) is that he’s simply not assertive enough to be dangerous. Without a certain danger quotient, you can’t be truly Great.