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Trump's fire alarm presidency

When the fire alarm went off in my gym the other morning, barely anyone paid attention. Even though the siren was lou...

Posted: Apr 1, 2018 4:53 AM
Updated: Apr 1, 2018 4:53 AM

When the fire alarm went off in my gym the other morning, barely anyone paid attention. Even though the siren was loud and alarm lights were noticeably flashing, most people kept on working out. With their Air Buds and ear buds blasting music and eyes glued to the morning news shows, they continued pumping iron, running on the treadmill, and staying in the plank position so that the core would be as tight as possible.

It wasn't until some of the staff came scrambling through the gym floor yelling at people to leave the building quickly that it became evident that the smoke was very real. Fortunately, everyone left the building, though some still in shorts and swimsuits, without injury.

It struck me as I walked out of the facility that many of us are equally immune to the political fire alarms that go off in Washington almost every day. From the first day of the Trump presidency, the shocking headlines and unsettling news have been inundating us.

We have seen and heard President Donald Trump take so many actions that unsettle the stability of our democracy that we are reaching a point where this is simply becoming the new normal. The danger is that when an alarm goes off that we really can't afford to ignore, we won't take it seriously. Too many people will say that it's just Trump being Trump. Everything will be ok -- until it is not.

The normalization of presidential instability has been stunning. In a week that saw the unprecedented shakeup of high level executive branch officials continue, and a "60 Minutes" interview with a porn star who claims the President's men threatened her to be silent about their alleged affair, many experts noted how quiet the week had been because Trump didn't tweet too much.

Trump has pummeled our sense of convention to the point where it might be impossible to return to where we were even in the days when President Barack Obama finished his term -- and politics was already pretty crazy by 2016.

President Trump has shattered almost all norms of behavior, randomly attacking institutions that are vital to our democracy: His Twitter-based communications strategy has the potential to create dangerous situations. Unedited and provocative statements from the President can have huge ramifications. So far, the nation has been lucky, even though Trump has taken an ad hoc approach to leadership that leaves the government handling almost every issue with no clear plan.

Sometimes improvisation can result in good things, but other times it is a recipe for disaster. It is the chaos theory of governance. Throw things out in the wind, react and respond, and hope for the best.

Other than with his systematic and focused drive to vitiate the government's regulation of business, Trump has shown very little ability to manage the reins of government -- and that raises vital questions about how he would handle a major crisis. The rotating cabinet, most of which has been filled by individuals with little government experience to begin with, makes the risk even greater, given the President's thin knowledge of policy.

Some of the fire alarm problem stems from the way in which the chaos has been covered. Often there is too much drama in the headlines, too many teasers from reporters who suggest that whatever information comes their way is the "bombshell" that will change everything. A good look at political history shows that those "game change" moments are far and few between.

When we have too many big breaking news stories, it is harder to see when the really significant news happens. Reporters and producers, often doing hard work trying to make sure that the facts are not clouded over by the administration's often deceptive rhetoric, sometimes have gone too far in dramatizing every moment in the Trump presidency to the point that most viewers and readers can't really tell whether they should be worried.

President Trump might be thinking that Americans will become so worn down by the daily revelations in the Russia investigation that they won't be paying attention anymore if Robert Mueller actually produces a damning report.

But there are many big areas of policy where it is easy to imagine that a real fire will ignite in the near future. The situation with North Korea remains extraordinarily tense and the recent foray into diplomatic discussions can quickly go off the rails and turn into a provocative military attack.

Computer hackers, some allied with governments like Russia, have been conducting a series of high level attacks -- on targets ranging from our electoral system to our city governments -- that could paralyze government institutions. Terrorist attacks by assailants -- from people motivated by ISIS to native born Americans -- are a daily threat that can continue and easily get worse. And there are still terrorist networks who pose very real threats to the nation.

The fluctuations in the stock market should be a reminder that at any moment the kind of crash that occurred in 2008 could happen again. A new documentary, "The China Hustle," documents the shaky investments that are still very much part of our markets. It is easy to see how President Trump's initial moves to impose tariffs could deteriorate into a full-scale trade war that leaves communities reeling. We have already seen how the administration failed to handle a number of difficult moments, including the recovery from the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico or the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Given the challenges that the nation faces, we need a President who can handle difficult situations effectively and administration officials who will not make things worse. But in 2018, we are not in a place where we can have confidence in this outcome.

Many of the craziest parts of this presidency are now just fodder for late night jokes, but not serious political conversation -- or, more importantly, political action. There seems to be very little movement in Congress to do anything about the risky actions we have seen from the President and the damaging changes he is making to the presidency. Much of the nation is no longer able to evaluate how serious the governance problem really is.

In season two of the Trump presidency, many of us are no longer paying attention to the alarms.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 266598

Reported Deaths: 5852
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17928195
Hinds17030337
Harrison14510212
Rankin11315223
Jackson11054193
Lee9109147
Madison8663171
Jones6853120
Forrest6260125
Lauderdale6161196
Lowndes5582123
Lafayette5269101
Lamar508765
Washington4965125
Bolivar4164110
Oktibbeha411585
Panola389881
Pontotoc380460
Monroe3727111
Warren3716103
Marshall360172
Union360165
Pearl River3527106
Neshoba3516158
Leflore3132110
Lincoln308389
Hancock300963
Sunflower294277
Tate281862
Alcorn274055
Pike272984
Itawamba271263
Scott264055
Yazoo258456
Prentiss255454
Coahoma252455
Copiah251549
Tippah251551
Simpson244872
Leake238967
Marion228274
Covington224873
Grenada224673
Wayne216336
Adams216271
Winston208271
George206440
Newton201447
Attala197465
Tishomingo196361
Chickasaw190245
Jasper183138
Holmes172568
Clay168637
Tallahatchie158035
Stone153625
Clarke148762
Calhoun142022
Smith131926
Yalobusha124935
Walthall115438
Greene114929
Noxubee114526
Montgomery112936
Lawrence107917
Carroll106922
Perry105931
Amite102727
Webster98024
Claiborne90125
Tunica89621
Jefferson Davis89330
Benton86923
Humphreys85625
Kemper81220
Quitman7169
Franklin71017
Choctaw64013
Wilkinson60125
Jefferson57321
Sharkey45717
Issaquena1616
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 445909

Reported Deaths: 6896
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson651891049
Mobile32138590
Madison28596223
Tuscaloosa21703276
Montgomery20220336
Shelby19584138
Baldwin17496216
Lee13378109
Morgan12741145
Etowah12196189
Calhoun11626228
Marshall10513126
Houston9097168
Limestone842481
Cullman8363125
Elmore8283112
Lauderdale7986112
DeKalb7935112
St. Clair7915139
Talladega6552112
Walker6068184
Jackson605649
Colbert560194
Blount551794
Autauga544065
Coffee470569
Dale415186
Franklin378150
Russell362816
Chilton348079
Covington344681
Escambia342244
Tallapoosa3184109
Dallas314197
Chambers308575
Clarke307339
Pike267735
Lawrence256958
Marion255763
Winston235243
Bibb224751
Geneva214747
Marengo212031
Pickens201831
Barbour188240
Hale187444
Fayette181230
Butler175960
Cherokee167433
Henry161325
Monroe153521
Randolph148236
Washington144027
Clay131050
Crenshaw126245
Macon124337
Cleburne123627
Lamar121324
Lowndes117636
Wilcox109422
Bullock105829
Perry100518
Conecuh98222
Sumter90828
Greene78323
Coosa64619
Choctaw52224
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