Littwin: Fever is gone; world is still upside down
December 10, 2016
Careful readers may have noticed I haven't written this past week. I've been out sick, coughing and wheezing and fearful that I had come down with a fatal case of Trumpitis. It turned out only to have been bronchitis, which in some cases, it seems, can be cured with a little less chicken soup and a lot more antibiotics. Science, huh?
Let's just say I'm glad I was able to get the drugs before the new FDA director gets in. (According to reports, the leading candidate is Jim O'Neill, a Peter Thiel buddy who apparently believes that the FDA should work only on proving whether drugs are safe but not on whether they actually work. You see, that's for the consumers/chumps to determine and, believe me, that's not his wackiest take on medical science. Read on and you may see a trend developing.)
I have had a lot of time to think, though, which can be a dangerous thing, especially now. For example, I've thought long and hard about how this whole Trump phenomenon could have actually happened. After much consideration and basically getting nowhere, I decided it must have all been a fevered dream, took my pills and went back to sleep.
And yet. I'm well. The fever's gone. I'm wide awake. And Mitt Romney really did dine on frog legs with Donald Trump. And Trump, the military school boy with the five Vietnam-era deferments, really does plan to have as many as five generals in cabinet-level jobs (he's up to three now). He really has loaded his advisory team with people from once-demonized Goldman Sachs, although no word on whether he's reaching out to Heidi Cruz. He really did, when he wasn't chatting up the Taiwanese, invite the murderous demagogue Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House.
Meanwhile, Trump is still tweet-slamming. He's still conducting rallies. Fans still want Clinton locked up. And Trump is apparently is ready to solve his global conflict-of-interest business problem by not personally divesting but by keeping his share and letting the kids run the business. It will all work out, believe him. (As this happens, by the way, keep careful watch on one-time Trump disavower Cory Gardner, who's now in charge of getting Republican senators re-elected in 2018, for the watchdog role he plays here. I don't want to give away the plot, but as one D.C. insider told me, Gardner's best/only hope is for Trump to implode and quickly.)
But the thing to note, in what must be the most fevered dream of all, is that although Trump's approval numbers are still terrible for a newly elected president — according to the latest Pew poll, 35 percent think he'll be a good or great president compared with 38 percent who think he'll be poor or terrible — his numbers are getting better. Just before the election, only 25 percent thought he'd be good or great and 57 percent thought he'd be poor or terrible. This is what you call normalization. While half the nation is in mourning, the other half is ready to root Trump on.
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Yes, up really is down. Down really is up. Dems don't know what to do. They look and sputter in disbelief at the EPA pick who's a climate-change denier and has sued the agency, the Education pick who doesn't believe in public schools, the Housing and Urban Development pick who doesn't believe in the safety net, the Health and Human Services pick who doesn't want to stop at dismantling Obamacare but also wants to turn Medicare into Paul-Ryan-style vouchercare, the Labor pick who's a fast-food CEO who opposes expanding minimum wage or overtime rules, the Treasury pick who wants to end Dodd-Frank, the Attorney General whose nomination for a federal judgeship was turned down by a Republican Senate in 1986 on charges of racist behavior.
They shout that the cabinet of billionaires is a trick on the little guy, the faux populism they always said it would be. Just look. Look! Look!
So we look. I'm waiting for someone to start a pool on who the most dangerous cabinet-level pick will turn out to be. If I find one, I'm putting my money on Gen. Michael Flynn, the Strangelovian would-be national security adviser, whose son and chief of staff was just fired from the Trump transition team for retweeting fake news. That wouldn't be so bad if Politico hadn't counted 16 times in which the father also had retweeted fake news, including accusations that Clinton, despite having stamina problems, was participating in child-sex rings and that her campaign manager, when not writing emails, was busily drinking blood. No, really.
But there's a new candidate here. The latest news is that someone finally had to tell mad dog Rudy Giuliani ("mad dog" is not his nickname; it's just a description) that he's no longer on the list of secretary of state contenders.
And while that should produce a nationwide sigh of relief, it won't, not if, in fact, the new leader in the clubhouse is actually ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. It's not just that Big Oil would speak for the United States — sort of cutting out the middle man — or that when Exxon/Mobil wasn't polluting the world it was accused of purposefully misleading the public on climate change or that Tillerson himself has no government experience. The real issue is that, according to the Wall Street Journal, few Americans are closer to Vladimir Putin than Tillerson, who has spoken out against Russian sanctions.
If Trump isn't Putin's best buddy yet, they can at least have a best buddy in common, the guy heading up the U.S. Department of State. Oh, I forgot, Flynn, Trump's national security adviser, also is Putin's pal. Does anyone see a problem here?
Maybe it's just me. But someone recently showed me a cartoon in the New Yorker of this couple climbing into bed and setting the alarm for 2020. If only it were that easy.
Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.
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