Quick Takes: Donald Trump is Not Well

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* A little over a year ago, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough summed things up pretty well with a simple headline: “Donald Trump is Not Well.” Today the president threw away his prepared remarks at an event in West Virginia and demonstrated that truth all over again. Philip Bump summarized:

President Trump was in West Virginia to talk about tax reform, so, naturally, he began talking about the results of the 2016 election, immigration, obstruction of justice and his idea that millions of people cast illegal votes.

The path he took to discussing voter fraud went like this. (This is not made up.)

* His administration is working on a new version of NAFTA.
* But Mexico was helpful on curtailing the caravan of immigrants coming up from Central America.
* They have strong laws on immigration, but America has weak laws, thanks to Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.).
* We’ve going to get tougher laws and the wall.
* One tougher law will deal with “chain migration.”

That excludes a number of other riffs, including on sanctuary cities, “liberating” towns from the dreaded MS-13, “obstruction of justice” by the mayor of Oakland, Calif., and, naturally, rape.

But this idea of chain migration was his jumping-off point. He talked about a terrorist attack in New York City in October that he blamed on the policy. Democrats like chain migration, though, he said, because they think those new immigrants are going to vote Democrat.

“They are doing it for that reason, because they aren’t going to be voting with us for the most part. A lot of them aren’t going to be voting,” he said. “A lot of times, it doesn’t matter, because in many places, like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that.”

“They always like to say, ‘Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory!’ ” he continued. “Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people, and it’s very hard because the state guards their records. They don’t want to see it.”

* I have given up on keeping track of all of the scandals that are brewing about EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. And yet…

President Donald Trump floated replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Scott Pruitt as recently as this week, even as the scandal-ridden head of the Environmental Protection Agency has faced a growing list of negative headlines, according to people close to the President.

“He was 100% still trying to protect Pruitt because Pruitt is his fill-in for Sessions,” one source familiar with Trump’s thinking told CNN.

Though the President has, at times, floated several people a day for multiple positions in his administration that are already occupied, the proposition reveals just how frustrated Trump remains with Sessions because of his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation more than a year ago, while signaling how confident he has remained in Pruitt despite a dizzying number of ethics issues.

* While Rex Tillerson was Secretary of State, he pretty much hallowed out Foggy Bottom. He obviously had an alternative in mind.

It was one of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s core goals: radically reshaping the State Department to make it leaner, cheaper and modernized to the standards of a former private-sector CEO.

Now that Tillerson has been fired, the vaunted “Redesign” initiative he launched faces an uncertain future, but at least one clear legacy: around $12 million spent just for private consultants who in some cases charged the State Department more than $300 an hour.

* There was a lot of activity on twitter about these remarks by Bernie Sanders yesterday at an event in Jackson, Mississippi to honor Martin Luther King’s assassination.

* Perhaps the best response to the kerfuffle over Sanders’ remarks came from Paul Waldman. This is one that, for those interested in the topic, I highly recommend clicking through to read the whole thing. Here’s a taste:

We’ve already seen a fair amount of this type of coverage around the intra-party battles that have taken shape in some primaries. But this pattern is going to be less consequential than it appears. For one thing, as remarkable as the Sanders 2016 phenomenon was, if Sanders 2020 happens it will be a far diminished force. That’s because in 2016 he became the one real alternative to the boring, establishment, seemingly inevitable nominee, which made him fascinating and cool, especially to young people. In 2020 you’ll have a dozen Democrats running, many of whom will be compelling in their own ways. Most of the people who supported Bernie last time around will peel off to other candidates.

Those who remain with him will be in no small part a rump faction of anti-Democrat Democrats, who share Sanders’ conviction that the party is irredeemably corrupt, a collection of neoliberal corporate sellouts. This is the essence of Sanders’ brand, always has been and always will be. No matter how much the party moves left — and it has moved a great deal in the last few years — there will never be a point where Sanders says, “I’m really pleased with where the Democratic Party is right now.” Because once he said that, there would cease to be any need for Bernie Sanders to exist.

* Alexandra Petri writes: “Ordinary objects magically become guns — as soon as a black man touches them.”

It does not matter what it was to begin with. A wallet. A pipe. A cellphone. It makes no difference. The phenomenon remains the same every time.

In the morning, it is very clearly a cellphone. Anyone who looks at it can see it.

In the afternoon, it is still very clearly a cellphone. It sends texts. It makes calls. Its screen lights up.

But in the evening, the transformation occurs. A police officer sees the cellphone, sees that the hand holding it belongs to a black man, and suddenly, quite without warning, it becomes a gun.

This keeps happening.

* Finally, here is how Stevie Wonder and friends honored the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .