The capital of the United States is a peculiar place. An unusually high portion of the people who live in the city and its environs either work for the government, contracts with the government, services the government or exists in order to influence the government. There are opinion makers aplenty. Thought leaders, talking heads and think-tankers, too. It’s positively lousy with journalists.
Having so many ambitious, opinionated and well-educated people gathered in one place can be a fine thing, but it also makes Washington uniquely susceptible to certain problems. When half the city is trying to figure out what other people think, and the other half of the city is trying to convince other people of what they should think, Washington can get very interested in itself.
Right now, Washington has a nasty case of Trump Fever.
Two weeks ago, President Trump set off a firestorm by sacking the director of the FBI, James Comey, who also happened to be the man in charge of investigating Russian meddling in the last election. That was, at the very least, bad form. President Trump’s surrogates issued a variety of not entirely consistent explanations of why the firing happened when and how it did. Then the President trod all over his own press operations with an entirely different story. Then he invited the Russian foreign minister and ambassador into the Oval Office where he trashed the recently dismissed FBI director (bad form) and then shared highly classified information with said Russians. Very bad form.
The speed with which the various scandals have been unfolding has been disorientating. The press is falling over itself to report each new development. The trickle of leaks coming out of the administration and various intelligence agencies has become a torrent; the partisan spin doctors can barely keep up. No one wants to fall behind the story and no one wants to get too far out ahead and risk embarrassment when events take an unexpected turn. This collective shortsightedness is aided by cable news and abetted by the colossal echo chamber that is Twitter.
That recent weeks have been a disaster for the Trump administration is not much in dispute. The President’s approval numbers are in the tank. When the words “Watergate” and “impeachment” are bandied about, the administration is surely going through a rough patch. The collapse of trust in the impartiality of the press, the unseemliness of rampant, anonymous leaks from the government, and the constant drumbeat of partisan spin means that an inordinate amount of time and energy gets spent talking about what one thinks about what others think about what one ought to think about what the President did or didn’t do, usually with regard to Russia.
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