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

Trump Battles Constraints on His Power

President Trump has never been shy about making his displeasure known—on any given subject—and last week, he offered criticism regarding the limits of his executive power. In a radio interview, the president declared:

You know, the saddest thing is that because I’m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I am not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I’m very frustrated by it.

This alone would have been noteworthy: a president openly declaring his wish to direct American law enforcement for political ends. Taken in the context of certain developments this week, Trump’s words are even more remarkable. In three separate instances, the president and his advisers appear to be unconcerned about improperly exerting pressure on outside agencies—or indifferent to creating the appearance of improperly exerting such pressure—to achieve partisan gains. As for those gains, they include attempting to discredit the work of American intelligence agencies, to muzzle a major American media outlet and to deport 57,000 American residents.

On Tuesday, the...

Grading President Trump

Supporters of President Trump like to say that despite all the tumult, the commander in chief is doing just fine. While the pundits rant and rave about whatever the “unprecedented” action of the day happens to be as he seems to move from one scandal to the next, the president’s allies dismiss the fireworks as nothing more than passing noise.

Even many cynical Democrats conclude in frustration that the president is simply distracting the public while he moves forward with an aggressive deregulatory agenda. After all, they say, when push comes to shove Donald Trump still is president of the United States despite all the controversy. Barring impeachment, he will be at least until 2020. Both his staunch supporters and cynical opponents love to dig into the polling data so that they can point out that his base still loves him, proof that Trump is succeeding.

But both of these measures tell us very little about whether his presidency is succeeding. Indeed, these are pretty ridiculous standards by which to measure the progress of any commander in chief. The “he’s still the president” standard would mean that anyone who serves a full term without voluntarily resigning or being...

A Former CIA Director Describes the Dangers of 'Trump Unleashed'

You sense that the stakes are high, and the circumstances exceptional, when the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency issues the kind of rebuke of a sitting president that John Brennan did on Friday, in an interview with The Atlantic.

“There’s never been a previous president, at least in my lifetime and experience, who had the impulsivity that Mr. Trump exhibits,” said Brennan, who spent nearly 30 years at the CIA. Before leading the agency during Barack Obama’s second term, Brennan served as a high-ranking intelligence official under George W. Bush and was the architect of Obama’s drone policies against suspected terrorists. He left office in a huff as Trump compared intelligence agencies investigating Russia’s election interference to the Nazis and bragged about crowd sizes in front of a CIA memorial to fallen officers. And he hasn’t exactly warmed to the president since then.

In contrast to his predecessors, Brennan told me, Trump often “acts and speaks before thinking” and appears to make national-security decisions based on “what’s in the best interest of Donald Trump” rather than what’s in the best interest of the United States. He is “woefully inexperienced in international...

Analysis: Trump's Puerto Rico Visit Is a Political Disaster

Making his first appearance in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico since Maria’s landfall, President Trump offered a hearty round of congratulations to federal relief efforts and thanked the island’s governor. But the president also suggested Maria was not a “real catastrophe,” made an odd and misleading comparison to the death toll from Hurricane Katrina, and joked about how the hurricane would affect the federal budget.

It was a typically strange, disjointed appearance by the president, and it came just days after Trump spent much of the weekend picking fights with the mayor of San Juan and insisting that, against all evidence, the recovery effort had largely responded to Puerto Rico’s needs. At Muñiz Air Force Base, Trump was eager to praise the work of federal agencies, including FEMA, the Air Force, the Navy, and the Coast Guard, amid a chorus of criticism that Washington’s response has been too slow and too small. But that praise led him in strange directions.

“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here...

How Democrats' Debt Ceiling Deal With President Trump May Have Backfired

“They may have spiked the ball in the end zone a little too early,” Mitch McConnell observed about his Democratic colleagues to The New York Times last week.

The Senate majority leader was referring to the celebrations from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about the deal they struck with President Trump, in which the president agreed to a short-term increase in the debt ceiling over the objections of McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. McConnell boasted that because of the way he wrote the corresponding legislation, going forward Democrats won’t have the same leverage on the debt ceiling that they thought they would.

But the agreement that “Chuck and Nancy” reached with Trump may end up backfiring on Democrats in another way: It freed up time for Republicans to take one last stab at dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

The House and Senate entered September facing a series of deadlines at the end of the month, most significantly the expiration of government funding on the 30th and a possible debt default at around the same date. Congress being Congress, most in Washington expected the month’s final week to be consumed by the...