Donald Trump is a monster—a confessed sexual predator, a toxic bigot, an unstable narcissist, a pathological liar, a con artist who built a business empire on plunder and fraud, a coward who thinks he’s a shark, a moron who thinks he’s a genius. For a person of such low character to occupy the presidency, wielding both its enumerated powers and its subtler, more symbolic ones, will be tremendously damaging to the country and to the world. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the greater part of the damage done by the incoming administration will have little or nothing to do with Trump himself.

Back in July, the New York Times famously reported that his campaign’s pitch to potential VP nominees was to offer them the chance to become “the most powerful vice president in history” who would be put “in charge of foreign and domestic policy” while Trump remained a celebrity figurehead. Much of what has been reported in the last few days has been consistent with this. Trump “was shocked when he won the election,” says the Times, may not live in the White House full-time, and is intent on “continuing to hold…large rallies” because of “the instant gratification and adulation that the cheering crowds provide.” Politico adds that Trump has barely had any contact with his own transition staff and that “sources in and around the Trump transition team said there was no evidence that the president-elect had even reviewed any of the binders of policy and personnel proposals produced by the team.”

Meanwhile, that transition team is aggressively putting the lie to a foundational promise of Trump’s campaign—that he was an insurgent outsider who would “drain the swamp” and rid the federal government of corruption and special interests. As the Times, Politico, the Washington Post, the AP, and others have reported, the fledgling Trump administration is dominated by the lobbyists, donors, influence peddlers, insiders and career politicians that Trump spent his whole campaign railing against. More than 4,000 political appointments will be made by a transition staff that consists almost entirely of representatives of corporate interests matched with the relevant departments and agencies—a food industry lobbyist staffing the Department of Agriculture, a mining industry lobbyist the Department of the Interior, a notorious oil and gas industry shill the EPA, and so on.


“Independent. Loves military. Carries pocket constitution everywhere,” says Ben Domenech of Khizr Khan, the father of a fallen U.S. soldier who gave a stirring anti-Trump speech at last week’s Democratic convention. “Great job GOP.”

It’s rich, this sarcastic congratulations, coming as it does from a guy whose odious think-tank-welfare publication, The Federalist, published an article titled “Donald Trump Was Not Wrong About Muslim Immigration” not three weeks before Khan’s speech; tweets about “killer Muslims”; has backed Ted Cruz’s call for draconian surveillance of “Muslim neighborhoods”; alleged that the “goal” of advocacy group CAIR is to “create American Molenbeeks,” referring to the Brussels district where several of the Paris attackers lived; and has generally expended far more energy stigmatizing Muslims and encouraging Islamophobia than opposing the same. On issues of Islam, terrorism, and immigration, as on literally every other issue, The Federalist is a right-wing red-meat factory like any other, just with crass provocation (mostly) swapped out for pseudo-intellectual hand-waving—Breitbart for people who could, on their third guess, tell you who Edmund Burke was.

Not long after Domenech sent his tweet, Republican operative Patrick Ruffini sent one of his own: “We look forward to welcoming Khizr Khan at the 2020 Republican convention.” Ruffini’s tweet reflects a confidence among conservative elites that, following what will probably be a resounding electoral defeat for the overt racism of Donald Trump in November, the Republican party will simply be able to revert to the polite racism of Domenech’s Federalist without much trouble. Managing this reversion will be the principal project of conservatism’s myriad hacks and agitators and fabulists in 2017, in the same way that providing ideological cover for the intransigence and backlash of the early Obama era was their project in 2009.


Yesterday Kevin Durant announced his decision to join the Golden State Warriors and occasioned yet another installment of a time-honored internet tradition: sportswriters coming together to ridicule the passion and emotional investment of the fans whose passion and emotional investment underwrite the entire business of professional sports and therefore, in the long term, those sportswriters’ jobs.

Freddie deBoer pushed back on this and this morning got into it with HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra, and while I’m not here to score a Twitter fight or litigate the specifics of the Durant situation, I’ll say this: few writers perform this routine as eagerly and consistently as Calcaterra does. He’s by all appearances a decent guy and writes intelligently about a lot of things, but man oh man do the ambit and incentives of his job at HBT give him a blind spot with respect to how tired the internet’s look-at-these-stupid-fans act has become:


Tonight the U.S. Men’s National Team plays a crucial Copa America group stage match against Costa Rica. Probably they will win; probably they will also win against Paraguay on Saturday; probably they will lose to Brazil in the knockout round after that. If this proves to be the case, there’ll be an effort to spin the tournament as a positive, a sign that the team is moving in the right direction again after 2015’s disastrous Gold Cup collapse and dispiriting loss to Mexico in the Confederations Cup playoff. This is some bullshit.

The pick for this roll was set back in February, when Soccer Twitter melted down upon seeing the USMNT drawn into Group A with Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Colombia, to whom they suffered a 2-0 defeat in the tournament opener. It’s true that this draw represented something close to a worst-case scenario for the U.S., but only with respect to their plum status as a seeded team alongside Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico; any combination of teams from Pots 2, 3 and 4 was still going to present a pretty easy path out of the group, and a tougher-than-expected draw didn’t change that. Neither Colombia nor Costa Rica are as good as their runs in the 2014 World Cup made them look; Paraguay may not quite be a minnow in the way that Haiti and Venezuela are, but they’re a young team ranked by Elo as the eighth-best of the ten CONMEBOL sides and shouldn’t be a real threat to a veteran American squad.