Dateline, Jerusalem (The Trump era is just as ugly from a distance):
Donald Trump has been president for a week. In that brief span, he’s made many moves regarding many issues.
Is there a single issue on which he has sought to bring people together? Is there a single issue in which he’s been the least bit conciliatory?
No, on every issue he’s been divisive. On every one he’s gone for conflict.
This is who he is: a man who insists on picking a fight.*
Trump has now been consistent in all three phases of his march to power. As a candidate, as a President-Elect, and now as the President of the United States, Trump has consistently chosen conflict.
So long as Trump is president, we will have two choices: yield to him or fight. We cannot afford to yield to such a man– for our children, for American democracy, for the order of the world and the health of the planet.
So the path forward is clear– in principle if not in detail. Fight back and fight to win.
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi were right, in the aftermath of the election, to express willingness to work with Trump if he offered anything good. It’s the right position, and it’s good politics.
But Trump’s opening moves indicate that he has no intention of offering anything good. Because he is a man at home only in a fight.
He can be defeated. Or, more specifically, he can be led to destroy himself. His narcissism leads him to disconnect with reality and make a fool of himself when he is deftly provoked. (This, as some have noted, was the effect of “Crowdgate”– his wounded insistence on the patently false assertion that his inauguration was less supported than the protests against him.)
What is needed for victory is mastery of the art of provocation. Because the battle is one for public opinion, it is important that the provocation be through conduct that is entirely acceptable according to the rules of American politics and civic behavior. (Like the Women’s March; like appropriate questions and challenges from Democratic leaders.)
The public must approve of the provoker, and then be disgusted with the reactions — infantile, enraged, deranged, undignified, unpresidential, dishonest, destructive, contrary to the spirit of the Constitution and American democracy — of a man who never, never, never should have been entrusted with the powers of the presidency.
(I agree with Frank Bruni’s recent New York Times column arguing that protests that are rude and offensive and incendiary play right into Trump’s hands: “There’s so much substantive ground on which to confront Trump. There are acres upon acres. Why swerve into the gutter? Why help him dismiss his detractors as people in thrall to the theater of their outrage and no better than he is?”)
Ceaseless well-mannered provocations generating ceaseless disgraceful presidential behavior can bring him down.
*(Even when he cozies up to someone, as with giving a green light –unprecedented from an American president to the expansion of Israeli settlements — more fundamentally than his supporting an ally is his fostering greater strife in the region.)