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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Trump Has Raised His Approval Ratings by Embracing His Inner Bomb

Since before he became president on Jan. 20, Donald Trump’s approval ratings have been low, to say the least: Trump has consistently registered lower than any president in recent history, even when comparing his performance with predecessors dealing with especially difficult circumstances (the Great Recession, for instance).

As of April 18,—88 days into his term—Trump’s approval rating is 39% according to the Marist Poll, 41% per Gallup, and 40% per a CBS News poll. Low as these numbers may be, there are good news for the president, significantly up from the end of March, when at 35% according to Gallup, Trump had its worst rating ever.

The trend has flipped upward for Trump. And it’s not because his record on keeping electoral promises has significantly improved. No, something else looks to be the cause of his increase in popularity—war, or the threat of it.

Since April 6, the president has turned his attention to military actions. He hit Bashar al-Assad with a Tomahawk-missile strike after the Syrian dictator unleashed a chemical attack on his own people; he threatened North Korea (and its leader—whoever that may be); his air force dropped a huge bomb...

Obama and Trump Are Proof the U.S. Needs Checks on Presidential Power — Whichever Party is in Charge

For nearly 17 years, I have been complaining about US presidents’ executive orders. First under George W. Bush, and then under Barack Obama, I was worried about the use of decrees as a substitute for legislation.

But I noticed a pattern. My Democrat friends shared my worries about Bush’s executive orders. And it’s fair to say Bush was pretty aggressive—restricting travel, authorizing domestic spying, and imposing a near-prohibition on stem cell research. But when Obama was president, they made excuses for his decrees on immigration and health care. “Congress is gridlocked!” they’d point out, noting that Republicans had blocked, and vowed to continue to block, Democratic legislation. “We have to get things done, and this is the only way.” My repeated question—“What if a tyrant ever won the presidency?”—seemed hypothetical and abstract.

After the election of Donald Trump, the question doesn’t seem so abstract to my left-leaning friends anymore. One came into my office and admitted a new interest in the Federalist Papers—the collection of essays explaining the principles that underlie the US Constitution. It’s easy to shrug off presidential power grabs when your own party is in charge. But the...

Trump Goes Back To the Future on Foreign Policy

Since World War Two, there has been a broad bi­par­tis­an con­sensus that Amer­ica must play an act­ive role in main­tain­ing a lib­er­al world or­der. Even if con­ser­vat­ive hawks have been more eager to pro­ject force and lib­er­al in­ter­na­tion­al­ists pre­ferred dip­lomacy, there was wide­spread agree­ment that Amer­ica had an es­sen­tial role in pro­tect­ing the peace and pro­mot­ing shared in­terests. That con­sensus was threatened in re­cent years: first, by former Pres­id­ent Obama’s in­stinct­ive op­pos­i­tion to pro­ject Amer­ic­an power over­seas; later, by Pres­id­ent Trump’s ag­gress­ively isol­a­tion­ist “Amer­ica First” rhet­or­ic that cap­tured the en­thu­si­asm of a world-weary con­ser­vat­ive base.

Trump’s de­cision to strike Syr­ia in the wake of Bashar al-As­sad’s chem­ic­al-weapons at­tack against his cit­izens sug­gests a be­lated re­turn to nor­mal­ity. It’s a...

Why the CBO Scares Donald Trump

The Trump administration declared its war against facts early, and with panache, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer striding to a podium the day after the inauguration to lay out a series of patently untrue assertions, and Kellyanne Conway christening them “alternative facts” the following day.

The White House’s disdain for facts has become such a given that it was quickly invoked to explain the administration’s broadside against the Congressional Budget Office, which began days before CBO had even completed its analysis of the House’s Obamacare replacement plan. New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, for example, tweeted:

But the attempt to undermine CBO isn’t just about independent sources of information so much as independent conclusions. It represents a different war, or at least a different front, than the war on facts. It’s an assault on independent analysis.

CBO has long been an object of derision for partisans of both stripes who have quibbled with the methods the office has used to assess the cost of bills. In 2009, President Obama complained that the...

Even Trump's Staunchest Defenders Won't Back His Wiretap Claim

Donald Trump’s ability to make outlandish claims is not unusual; after all, if you’re unconstrained by facts or evidence, there’s no limit to the claims you can make. His success has depended on convincing other people to agree with, or at least to publicly back his claims. Mexico will pay for the wall? Sure. Widespread voter fraud? Of course. Terrorist attacks in Sweden? Why not?

But for once, the president seems to have made a claim that even his staunchest defenders—including those whose job is to do so—are unwilling to stand behind: his allegation that Barack Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’  just before the victory.”

During an interview with Cleveland TV station WEWS on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence was questioned on the allegation. Reporter John Kosich (no, not a typo, and not the governor), asked, “Yes or no—do you believe that President Obama did that?”

Pence declined to answer directly. “Well, what I can say is that the president and our administration are very confident that the congressional committees in the House and Senate that are examining issues surrounding the last election, the run-up to the last election, will do that in a...

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