Politics Magazine

Trump Is The Weakest President In Modern U.S. History

Posted on the 02 August 2017 by Jobsanger
Trump Is The Weakest President In Modern U.S. History (Caricature of Donald Trump is by DonkeyHotey.)
Donald Trump likes to present himself as a strong, decisive, and ultra-competent leader. The sad fact is that he is none of those things -- and may, in fact, actually be the weakest president in modern American history.
Following is much of an excellent article on this by Jack Goldsmith at Lawfare. Mr. Goldsmith writes:
The Trump Presidency is a strange combination of menacing and impotent.  It is also fractured internally like no presidency in American history. The menacing element is plain.  Trump sets everyone on edge with incessant verbal attacks and relentlessly indecorous behavior.  The maelstrom that is his presidency seems like it could at any moment push the country off the rails—massive pardons to kill the Russia investigation, a Justice Department meltdown as a result of firings and resignations, a North Korean miscalculation, or who-knows-what-other-crazy-thing.  Many people worry how the impulsive Trump will handle his first crisis.    As for impotence, Trump has accomplished nothing beyond conservative judicial appointments.  His administration is otherwise a comedy of errors in the exercise of executive power.  What is most remarkable is the extent to which his senior officials act as if Trump were not the chief executive.  Never has a president been so regularly ignored or contradicted by his own officials.  I’m not talking about so-called “deep state” bureaucrats.  I’m talking about senior officials in the Justice Department and the military and intelligence and foreign affairs agencies.  And they are not just ignoring or contradicting him in private.  They are doing so in public for all the world to see. . . . As others have noted, it’s all a remarkable inversion of the unitary executive.  Even Trump’s hard power to fire subordinates—the crux of unitary executive power—hasn’t worked so well.  Comey’s firing led to a more vigorous independent investigation, thanks to Trump-angering actions by Sessions and Rosenstein.  Trump may well fire Sessions, but last week he suffered the embarrassing spectacle of Senate Republicans and conservative commentators warning him not to.  It’s clearer now than a week ago that firing Sessions would bring Trump to yet a worse place vis a vis his own administration and Congress.  The exercise of hard power won’t help him. The fractured executive branch is partly a result of terrible executive organization but mainly the product of an incompetent, mendacious president interacting with appointed or inherited executive branch officials who possess integrity.  The President says and does things that his senior officials, when asked, cannot abide.  And so they tell the truth, often with an awkward wince, or they ignore the President.  And in response to this overt disrespect, President Trump does … nothing. The president seems scary, and he is, but he also has no control over his administration.  There is lots of talk about Trump’s threat to the independence of the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence community, and the like.  But the truth is that these agencies are operating with an independence to presidential wishes like never before.  It’s a very strange state of affairs.  

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