Photo of the day

From a recent Atlantic photos of the week gallery.  Wow.

A jaguar ambushes a giant yacare caiman on the shore of the Three Brothers River in the Pantanal, in Mato Grosso, Brazil. The cat wrestled with the reptile for over 20 minutes in a death struggle witnessed by photographer Chris Brunskill on September 26, 2017. Caimans form a large part of the jaguar’s diet in the Pantanal, but battles such as this are very rarely observed and seldom photographed. 

Chris Brunskill Ltd / Getty

American Kakistoracy

Been a fan of Norm Ornstein for a long time (he was the first big speaker the NCSU PS Department brought in in my time here), but he’s been even better and more important in the age of Trump.  And with this latest column, I even learned a new word that should gain much wider currency in the Trump era: Kakistocracy– government by the worst people.  Damn is that sadly apt.  Ornstein:

Kakistocracy is a term that was first used in the 17th century; derived from a Greek word, it means, literally, government by the worst and most unscrupulous people among us. More broadly, it can mean the most inept and cringeworthy kind of government. The term fell into disuse over the past century or more, and most highly informed people have never heard it before (but to kids familiar with the word “kaka” it might resonate).

As I wrote my new book with E.J. Dionne and Tom Mann, One Nation Under Trump, I kept returning to the term. Kakistocracy is back, and we are experiencing it firsthand in America. The unscrupulous element has come into sharp focus in recent weeks as a string of Trump Cabinet members and White House staffers have been caught spending staggering sums of taxpayer dollars to charter jets, at times to go small distances where cheap commercial transportation was readily available, at times to conveniently visit home areas or have lunch with family members. While Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign after his serial abuse, others—including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, remain in place…

Awful as the grifterish mentality and behavior may be, worse is the other part of kakistocracy—inept, corrupt, and disruptive governance. Impulsive, stream-of-consciousness communications from the president by tweet are one thing. Examples like a budget that aims to knock out our weather satellites and cut our ability to respond to a pandemic, along with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) removing from its website information about the disastrous conditions in Puerto Rico while pumping up the good news, are another…

Donald Trump campaigned by promising to run government like a business. Unfortunately, that business is Trump University. [Ohhh, snap!] There are 602 key policy positions in the executive requiring Senate confirmation. Almost nine months into the Trump presidency, only 142—less than a quarter—have been filled, and nearly half, 289, have not even had a nominee chosen…

Then there is the ineptitude of the policy process in Congress. Despite Speaker Ryan’s boast that this could be the most productive presidency and Congress in our lifetime, the record of Congress in its first nine months is abysmal. Not one of the big goals set by the president or majority congressional leaders—health repeal and replace, infrastructure, a wall on the border with Mexico, major tax reform—has been achieved. While the number of bills enacted is about average for new presidents, the number of significant bills is extremely low, especially compared to George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Except for a series of narrow measures to roll back Obama regulations and a bill to increase sanctions on Russia, most of the enactments are minor…

“Can’t anybody here play this game?” was Casey Stengel’s famous lament about his inept 1962 New York Mets. The same lament could apply to the Trump administration and its majority team in Congress—but the problem is deeper and worse when ineptitude joins with venality and recklessness, and when the stakes are far more than baseball pennants.

“The Best People.”

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