I still may be some chronological distance from being at all useful. While 48 hours away from surgery might seem adequate for the execution of basic cognition within politics, my staring at this partial Ross Douthat sentence for 10 or maybe even 15 minutes, with no real comprehension, was, it seemed to me, a vivid sign of my mental vacuum: "The former Breitbart impresario has a clearer-than-your-average-Republican grasp of the political promise of Trumpism."
Although the sentence raced and reraced across my mind as lucid enough, something about it was nonetheless incomprehensible; indeed, something about Douthat's entire column, as it built on itself, seemed incomprehensible. Where was Douthat going with all this -- this sculpturing of Steve Bannon as the ideological avatar of Trumpism's promise? That was the key, the promise of it all. Trump, Bannon & Co. just rolled out the most bumbling of presidential administrations ever, one so undeniably clumsy, it has freed the right's Douthats to indulge in criticism of it (and today, Douthat indulges quite heavily).
Still, there's the promise. "There is no necessary reason," writes Douthat, "why [Trump] could not wake up tomorrow and decide to show a broad deference to Rex Tillerson and James Mattis on foreign policy." On domestic policy? "Let Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell figure out how to get an Obamacare replacement through Congress and tell Tom Price to prop the system up if they can’t. From the White House, the message should be simple, boring, popular. We want a big infrastructure bill. A middle-class tax cut. Corporate tax reform [etc]...."
Ah but there is a necessary reason -- an enormous, necessary reason -- why Trump could not just wake up tomorrow and show deference, broad or narrow, to anyone. And that reason, of course, goes by the name of Trump.
At the age of 70, will he begin reading Montesquieu, studying Madison, pondering Lincoln and the Roosevelts? Will he suddenly break with a career habit of cronyism ans corruption? Will he develop a love of briefing books? Or will he be, tomorrow, the same Donald Trump who has always scammed his way through life (I shall add no question mark here, since the question is a rhetorical one).
So is it Douthat, driven by his yearning to see Republican Trump succeed, who makes little to no sense in his column? Or is it me, rabidly compelled by the opposite yearning and perhaps by the cognitive aftershocks of major surgery as well, who is making little to no sense? I can't quite tell, but that's only because I feel so confused.