Best columns: The U.S.
When power resides in one person
“We live in the age of unilateral rule,” said Rich Lowry. Barack Obama and Donald Trump have little in common, but as presidents, both have been impatient loners who have preferred governing by executive action to the tediously glacial grind of wooing public opinion and Congress. Obama “pushed the constitutional envelope” with his Clean Power Plan, executive immigration amnesty (both blocked in the courts), and federally mandated school bathroom policies. With a stroke of his pen, Trump has reversed many of Obama’s unilateral actions. Whether or not the U.S. should be part of a 195-country climate treaty has been purely “the whim of one man”—Obama said thumbs-up, Trump thumbsdown. The same goes for immigration enforcement and environmental regulations. “Congress is a spectator,” largely through its own acquiescence and incompetence. Paralyzed by partisanship, the legislative branch has been unable to pass “almost anything except last-minute omnibus spending bills.” Trump has taken presidential power “to another level,” with only “a small group of loyalists and family members” jostling to influence his decisions. “Until further notice, this is the American model—government by and of the president.”
The fault is not in Hillary’s stars
Why did Hillary Clinton lose the presidential election? asked Jonah Goldberg. During a conference last week, she gave a long list of reasons, including FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the email investigation, Facebook, Macedonian “fake news” websites, unfair media coverage, voter suppression, and the deep-seated misogyny of the American public. “From one perspective—i.e., hers—she’s right.” When you lose a presidential race by 10,000 votes in Michigan, 22,000 votes in Wisconsin, and 46,000 votes in Pennsylvania, every single factor could be blamed for the loss. But Clinton’s “martyr complex” has blinded her to the primary cause of her defeat: herself. If she hadn’t schemed to use a private email server, that never would have been an issue. If she hadn’t called Donald Trump’s supporters “deplorables,” so many of them might not have turned out at the polls. If she’d been a more compelling candidate, more Democrats might have shown up on Election Day. Was Clinton sometimes attacked personally and viciously? Yes, but so was her husband, and so was Barack Obama. They won elections anyway. Blaming “misogyny,” the media, and Comey is a cop-out by someone who refuses to be judged “on her own merits—or lack thereof.”
‘The Swamp’ hasn’t been drained
Remember Donald Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp”? asked Matthew Yglesias. It turns out to have been a con. The Office of Government Ethics revealed last week that Trump has already granted 17 waivers of lobbyist rules to members of his White House staff—more ethics waivers in four months than President Obama granted in eight years. Trump hired Andrew Olmem, a financial-industry lobbyist, as a special assistant for financial policy, and he’ll help decide whether a former client, MetLife, continues to get enhanced regulatory supervision. A lobbyist for a coal-burning utility is watering down “Obama-era regulations on coal-burning utilities,” while a lobbyist for Fidelity Investments now oversees tax and retirement policy. Trump’s top aides also have egregious conflicts of interest: Jared Kushner’s sister was using his name to sell visas to Chinese firms; Health Secretary Tom Price has been caught using “insider information” to make stock trades. Trump himself has reneged on his pledge to turn over all hotel profits from foreign-government visitors to taxpayers. Under this administration, “the lines between private financial interests and public policy have never been blurrier.”