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Paul Waldman

Conservatism Unleashed

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Members of the cabinet applaud during Trump's State of the Union address on January 30, 2018. I n the Netflix science fiction series Altered Carbon , a major plot line involves a ship, hovering thousands of feet above the ground, where the super-rich go to fulfill their most sordid fantasies, involving not just kinky sex but the murder of attractive young women (and the occasional man), the ultimate privilege for a member of the overclass. It's a trope you've probably seen in a dozen films: When a group of people utterly removed from any kind of societal accountability gather to grant license to their desires, those desires turn out to be utterly depraved. Something analagous is happening right now in American politics. The Republican Party, particularly its members in the Trump administration, are engaged in an ideological bacchanal that goes beyond what we imagined would occur when Donald Trump became president. We knew what a disaster he would be as...

The Russia Scandal Is Looking More Like Watergate All the Time

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order in the Oval Office I t was a rather eventful week for President Trump, one that began with the nation debating whether he's mentally unstable and ended with the nation debating whether he's a racist. No reasonable person believes anymore the oft-stated hypothesis that whatever appalling thing he said today is merely a clever misdirection to distract you from some much more serious appalling thing he's up to. It all happens simultaneously, with no plan or strategy driving it forward apart from stupidity, boundless bad faith, and the occasional dollop of panic. And underneath it all is the Russia scandal, like a backbeat to the manic tune being played every day in Washington. While we are often too quick to look for historical analogies, Russia is looking more like Watergate all the time. Unlike our other recent mega-scandals (Lewinsky, Iran-Contra), both Watergate and Russia have their roots in...

A Third-Class Intellect, But a Fourth-Class Temperament

(Rex Features via AP Images)
(Rex Features via AP Images) A fter the 2017 we had, it seems completely appropriate that as 2018 begins, we're arguing about whether Donald Trump is an idiot or a genius. Or perhaps "arguing" is the wrong word. It isn't like there's some kind of grand debate afoot, in which the two parties articulate opposing views, marshall evidence, and work to convince the public that their side is correct. You'd have a hard time finding a Republican not in Trump's direct employ who would say with a straight face that the president is an intelligent man, and with the release of Michael Wolff's book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House , in which Wolff describes how the White House staff has to work to accommodate the fact that their boss is a simpleton, the president's insecurities have come bursting out yet again. Nobody's going to call him stupid without him hitting back! And so he has, announcing on Twitter that "Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental...

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