Is Trump dangerously strong or perilously weak?

The coronavirus crisis has exacerbated this elemental confusion. Here's the truth.

President Trump.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

How disorienting is political reality in the Trump era? So disorienting that people who devote their lives to observing and analyzing politics can't even agree on whether President Trump is inches away from abolishing democracy and turning himself into a dictator — or if, instead, he's a pitifully weak president who regularly demonstrates his impotence.

This elemental confusion has reached a crescendo during the coronavirus crisis of the last six weeks. Faced with a genuine emergency, Trump has responded by holding daily press briefings in which he rails against journalists, spreads propaganda and disinformation, and demonizes scapegoats. He's also proclaimed that his office gives him the power to do anything he wants and that he could summarily adjourn Congress and use his recess appointment power to bypass the Senate's role in confirming judges. And then there's the most bizarre and irresponsible example of all: the president using Twitter to foment civil unrest against state governments attempting to combat a pandemic.

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