The Week on Planet Trump: Syrian Air Strikes End a Chaotic Week

Monday: Trump’s Chaos Not Working as President

Because the American public tends not to pay terribly close attention to the nitty-gritty of a campaign, Trump's one-liner confectionaries were a perfect fit. People ate them up because, well, it was more fun than what the other candidates were saying. Would you rather watch Trump attack "Lyin' Ted" Cruz or "Little" Marco Rubio or spectate a dry policy discussion about tax reform? Be honest.

The problem for Trump is that while his embrace of chaos fit a campaign perfectly, it's turned out to be far less beneficial for him since he's entered the White House. The presidency tends to reward discipline and strategic planning. For the first few years, you are really running a race against yourself: How much can you get done of your agenda before the concerns of Congress turn toward their awaiting fate in the midterm elections?

Chris Cilizza, CNN

Tuesday: Showdown Over Gorsuch

There has never been a successful filibuster of a nominee for associate justice in the history of the republic — and the idea that Gorsuch should be the first is patently absurd. By any reasonable standard, President Trump nominated a jurist of impeccable temperament, character and intellect who has won plaudits from across the political spectrum. Liberal Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe has declared that “Gorsuch is a brilliant, terrific guy who would do the Court’s work with distinction.” Former Obama acting solicitor general Neal Katyal, who introduced Gorsuch at his confirmation hearings as a “wonderfully humane and decent person,” penned a New York Times op-ed in which he suggested that “liberals should back Neil Gorsuch” because he would “stand up for the rule of law and say no to a president or Congress that strays beyond the Constitution and laws.”

Marc A Thiessen, The Wall Street Journal

Wednesday: Bannon Demoted

The specific backdrop to the removal of Bannon – a demotion, no matter how the White House spins it – will probably become clearer over the next few days. It may or may not be connected to the ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign’s links to the Kremlin. It obviously comes at the demand, if not ultimatum, of Trump’s no-nonsense National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster, who rejects any semblance of political interference in the National Security Council and who was not privy to the decision to appoint Bannon, which was made during Mike Flynn’s brief tenure as NSA. Bannon’s deposal will also be viewed as a victory for Trump’s increasingly visible and powerful son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has been trying to steer Trump away from Bannon’s alt-right leanings and worldview.

Chemi Shalev, Haaretz

Thursday: China is Complicated

There is a pattern emerging in the Trump White House. After months of promising to repeal and replace Obamacare overnight, the President took his first sustained look at the issue and pronounced it “an unbelievably complex subject,” telling a roomful of governors, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” He would not be the first President to think that he might successfully wing it on China. In the early days of George W. Bush’s Administration, a reporter asked Bush if the U.S. would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack. When Bush replied, “Of course,” the reporter looked astonished, and Bush later asked his national-security aide, Stephen Hadley, “Did I say something wrong?” Hadley was polite. “Well, you’ve blown away twenty years of strategic ambiguity,” he said. Dennis Wilder, a former C.I.A. analyst on China and special assistant to the President, told that story recently at the Brookings Institution, in order to illuminate early moves by the Trump Administration. “There are these problems at the beginning of an administration where you come in, you have some views, but they’re not terribly well-founded, and we may be seeing some of this at this point,” Wilder said.

Evan Osnos, The New Yorker

Friday: Incoherent and Unpredictable Trump Doctrine

We learned last night a little more about how President Trump views the use of force. He is willing to use it with no notice, and narrowly. He chose to retaliate against Assad’s obscene recent use of chemical weapons against civilians, including children, to crush the remaining resistance to his sectarian dictatorship. Trump did so very swiftly — but he chose not to decimate Assad’s entire air force, as Clinton, McCain, and Graham wanted, and as the Pentagon proposed, according to the Intercept.

So what to make of it? On the surface, it seems to follow NSC flak Michael Anton’s view that the best foreign policy is neither interventionism nor isolationism but something he once described as “enhanced whack a mole.”

Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine

Saturday: President Not Obama

Ever since his shocking election upset victory in November, national security hands have been waiting for Trump’s first international crisis to understand more about how an untested president would lead, and this week will undoubtedly be studied as key to decoding his presidency’s emerging—and fast-evolving—approach to the world. So what have we learned from all the months of debating whether Trump will prove to be the “America First” neo-isolationist leader his campaign rhetoric suggested, or a dangerous warmonger who’s promised not to let the United States get pushed around anymore, now that the crisis has actually erupted?

First and perhaps most important: No matter how Trump ultimately comes out of the foreign-policy ideology test, what he really seems to want to be on the world stage is the not-Obama. And when faced with a choice, the best way to understand what Trump will do is to expect he will opt to differentiate himself as much as possible from his predecessor.

Susan B. Glasser, POLITICO

Sunday: A Traditional President?

In some ways, the most remarkable thing about President Trump’s decision to fire missiles at Syria last week was how oddly traditional he made it sound. As he explained his reasons for military action, our normally unorthodox president borrowed a well-worn list of justifications from his predecessors: United Nations resolutions, international norms, compassion for civilians (in this case, “beautiful babies”), even the proposition that “America stands for justice.”

It was as if the Donald Trump who ran as an America First isolationist had suddenly morphed, once confronted with real-life choices, into an old-fashioned internationalist.

Doyle McManus, The Los Angeles Times

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