Best columns: The U.S.
Governing without lines of authority
Los Angeles Times
“Get ready for chaos,” said Doyle McManus. Donald Trump and his transition team are trying to rapidly fill out his Cabinet, but he’s fallen far behind in filling about 3,300 jobs in the federal government and has set up a White House without clear lines of authority. “The problem begins with the man at the top.” The president-elect has “the habits of an entrepreneur and showman” whose primary work experience is running a small family corporation where he calls all the shots—not a vast federal government with literally 63 layers of executives and managers and about 3 million workers. The president’s chief of staff usually acts as a gatekeeper, helping set priorities, but Trump has handed diffuse power to multiple aides, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Stephen Bannon, communications strategist Kellyanne Conway, and adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. “We have no formal chain of command around here,” Trump recently told a meeting of tech executives. He also has no clear political philosophy, leaving aides to guess what he wants at any given moment. Now, “Trump could surprise us” with his managerial brilliance. But if he tries to wing the presidency, his administration quickly will be engulfed in infighting and dysfunction.
Which is the real America?
Do any of you journalists know someone who owns a pickup truck? When conservative provocateur John Ekdahl tweeted out that question last week, said Kevin Williamson, it set off a predictable debate about whether big cities or heartland states are the “Real America.” As a Texan, I know that owning a pickup doesn’t signify any particular authenticity; in the wealthy neighborhoods of Houston, for example, the streets are filled with shiny “$70,000 specimens that are never used haul anything other than grass-fed steaks from Whole Foods.” So yes, farmers driving pickups are the real America, but Houston and New York City are also real. “So is Hollywood and Malibu and glorious Big Sur, and Chicago and Detroit and Miami.” Unfortunately, both progressives and conservatives tend to sneer at the places where the other lives as somehow foreign and lesser. This is dumb. Farmers need loans from Wall Street bankers, and bankers need the food the farmers grow. A healthy, vibrant society has lots of different kinds of people, doing lots of different kinds of jobs. “America is a big, splendid place,” and there is room in it for all of us.
Trump’s Twitter vulnerability
Donald Trump’s Twitter account is “the most powerful publication in the world today,” said Joseph Bernstein. It’s also a “disaster waiting to happen.” Recent weeks have shown that a single, 140-character message from the president-elect can change stock prices and move markets, anger foreign governments, and set off media firestorms. But like all Twitter accounts, Trump’s “is shockingly insecure” and vulnerable to hacking. Hacking a Twitter account doesn’t take sophisticated expertise or “the resources of a nation-state.” In the past year, the Twitter accounts of Mark Zuckerberg, Kylie Jenner, and many celebrities were hacked; a number of high-profile celebrity hacks were traced to one Saudi teenager. Imagine the possibilities. You could make a killing in the stock market by posing as Trump and praising or bashing a company; a hacker with a grudge could pretend to be Trump and call out an enemy by name, unleashing attacks and threats from Trump’s 19 million followers. Worst of all, someone could tweet, say, “Nukes on way. Sad!” and trigger global panic. Should Trump stick to the official @POTUS account, which has certain security protocols, such as multiple password layers, it could lessen the danger. “But that seems unlikely.” Chances are, @realDonald Trump will remain a hacking target—and a huge one. Scary!
“There no longer seems to be any consensual definition of ‘America.’ Whatever common ground we all once agreed on—democratic principles, common civility, the basic facts of current events—has vanished under rising sea levels of vitriol. Half of the country seems to feel that this could be a utopia if only the other half were exterminated. It all feels less like the raucous squabble of a democracy than a war, in which the object is to win by any means necessary. Our fellow citizens have become The Enemy, civility is appeasement, and fairness is collaboration.”
Tim Kreider in TheWeek.com