A friend has directed my attention to Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States.
The whole section, which sets forth the president’s powers, is worth pondering. But given the fact that the Democrats in Congress seem to be slow-walking (that’s bureaucratese for “obstructing”) Donald Trump’s nominations, I would like to call the president’s attention to the interesting concluding passage of Section 2:
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
Recess appointments have been made from the time of George Washington on down, sometimes for simple administrative reasons, to keep the wheels of government turning, sometimes for political reasons, to smooth the road for a candidate unpopular with the Senate. Ronald Reagan made 240 recess appointments during his tenure, Bill Clinton 139. I think Donald Trump should take a page from his predecessors. He should sit down for lunch with Mitch McConnell (salad, with Russian dressing, bien sûr) and convince him to declare the Senate in recess. Then he should go to work.
While I am in the advice-dispensing mode, I would also like to revert to a point I made a couple of months ago: Donald Trump could learn a thing or two from the Clintons about wielding power. One of Bill Clinton’s first actions upon taking office was to install Margaret Richardson, a friend of his and Hillary’s, as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. You never know when you might need a friend in that high place.
Back in May, I noted that many conservatives must wonder why John Koskinen is still head of the IRS. If you haven’t watched Koskinen’s testimony before Congress lately, take a look. It’s depressing, but revelatory. Then take a look at Lois Lerner’s testimony. Then note that you, a taxpayer, are helping to pay for this disgusting person’s pension (the amount, of course, is undisclosed).
Since I am apparently in an advice-giving mood today, let me also revert to a column I wrote at the end of December and iterate the advice I gave then. It comes from Chapter VIII of Machiavelli’s The Prince. It is this: if you have to do unpleasant things, “do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily.”
People, I noted, have short memories. They will forget a leader’s burst of activity directed against opponents, especially if it is followed by various benefits and largesse for the people as a whole. There can be no doubt that the Left has absorbed, whether by reading or by osmosis, this important lesson. It is less clear that Donald Trump has.
Back in December, I wrote that
The success of his administration will depend on many things: luck, skill, effective alliances. But all will be for naught if he tarries. It’s not just the first 100 days that will matter. It’s the first week, nay, the first 48 hours. His team should come to town ready to undo, right now, today, every executive order promulgated by Obama. Every appointment that can be made should be made instantly, every nomination should be put forth and, so far as is humanly possible, fast-tracked. It should be a shock-and-awe performance. The media will howl. The political establishment will squeal. But they will have been rendered irrelevant before they knew what hit them. It will be a spectacle worth watching.
Now, you wouldn’t know it from watching CNN or reading The Washington Post or The New York Times, but the Trump administration has, to a large extent, followed the positive bits of the course of action outlined above. The young administration already has a long list of accomplishments to its credit. Yes, there have been some conspicuous failures (health care) and IOUs (tax relief), but that is chiefly because Congress, though nominally controlled by Republicans, seems determined to drive the congressional approval rating to zero by doing nothing. (Everyone seems exercised by Trump’s low approval ratings: it is still about twice what Congress’s approval rating is.)
What I think Trump has not done with sufficient vigor is exploit the many levers of power available to the executive branch. Recess appointments are one expedient. But there are many others. Again, he has attempted several initiatives, only to be stymied by the Deep State (consider the preposterous response to his travel ban, for example). Still, he could do more, and he will have to do more if he is not going to be paralyzed by his opponents in Congress, the media, his own party, and the administrative apparatus of that Deep State I just mentioned.
Mention of Trump opponents in his own party brings me to that new charity I mention in my title. No one can regard the scourge of Trump Derangement Syndrome without a pang of pity. All those vibrant minds, young and not so young, blighted in mid-flight, reduced to gibbering, paranoid hysteria. Consider Ralph Peters or Max Boot on Tucker Carlson: who can witness those mental train wrecks without feeling, like Ophelia, that “Oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!”? Really, the effects of TDS are alarming. Even basic reading comprehension is affected, as the former conservative Gabriel Schoenfeld has repeatedly demonstrated.
Schoenfeld’s latest exhibition of debility was on view in the several hyperventilating articles he wrote about Donald Trump Jr.’s emails regarding his meeting last June with Natalia Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower. I think that Schoenfeld’s recent columns are evidence of mental derangement generally, but what especially caught my eye in the recent spate was his observation that “Roger Kimball . . . opined . . . that our sub-literate president is an orator on a par with Pericles of Athens.”
What Schoenfeld had in mind were some of my comments on Trump’s magnificent speech in Warsaw. Here’s what I said: “I have no idea who wrote the rousing speech that Donald Trump delivered Thursday in Warsaw. But I think I know who might have provided a model: Pericles of Athens.”
OK, class. Does that state or imply or hint that Trump is “an orator on a par with Pericles”?
No, it doesn’t. As I say, I have no idea who wrote the speech. But when I heard Trump’s invocation of the cultural vibrancy of the West, I thought: “That remind’s me of an important bit of Pericles’ Funeral Oration.” Here’s what Trump said:
The world has never known anything like our community of nations. We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers.
And here’s Pericles (ventriloquized by Thucydides):
Our love of what is beautiful does not lead to extravagance; our love of the things of the mind does not make us soft. . . . Mighty indeed are the marks and monuments of our empire which we have left. Future ages will wonder at us, as the present age wonders at us now. . . . For our adventurous spirit has forced an entry into every sea and into every land.
Of course, that verbal similarity might be coincidental. But the obvious similarity also makes the comparison plausible.
You’ve seen the patently devastating effects of Trump Derangement Syndrome in action. Are you going to stand by idly and watch it swallow up more erstwhile conservative talent? Of course you aren’t. What is needed now is action, not words. I would like to call on all philanthropically minded persons to join me in founding a new charity to help the victims of this ill-understood but wasting condition. I am still contemplating the best name for the initiative: Maybe “GiveToGabe.org” or “RescueRalph” or “MakeoverMax.” There are many possibilities. I invite readers to submit appropriate names for this new charity, for which I fully expect (since, like the Black Death, the malady knows no national borders) the support of Médecins Sans Frontières and other humanitarian organizations. Don’t let these victims languish in the harsh contempt of their fellow man. With your help, a cure is possible.