Opinion: James Comey and the Art of the Shiv
FBI director has the credibility to oppose the White House

Late in Monday’s marathon hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey reminded the nation that he was something of a hostile witness, reluctantly summoned to talk about Russia, Donald Trump and the 2016 campaign.

“I’d rather not be talking about this at all,” Comey said. “Now we are going to close our mouths and do our work.”

Opinion: Trump, Yul Brynner and a Results-Free Presidency
Like the King of Siam, Trump is lionized by his fans as ‘a man who tries’

At the core of Donald Trump’s Friday press conference with Angela Merkel was a theme that he has been harping on since he became a candidate — America is being played for a patsy on the global stage.

Sure, now that he is president, Trump feels compelled to ritualistically affirm his “strong support for NATO.” But at the press conference, a German reporter challenged Trump over his “isolationist policy.” The president pointedly responded, “The United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years. And that’s going to stop. But I’m not an isolationist.”

Opinion: Paul Ryan and the Danger of Keeping Unworkable Promises
GOP could pay a political price in 2018 with repeal and replace push

The Paul Ryan quote from “Face the Nation” on Sunday so appealed to the speaker’s press office that it became the headline of a Monday morning press release. Referring to Obamacare, Ryan said, “We made a promise to the people who elected us, we would repeal and replace this law. … And now we are keeping our word.”

Promises made, promises kept. It sounds so inspiring. But for all the political pride in adhering to campaign promises, what usually matters far more to the voters are their personal priorities rather than those of politicians.

Opinion: ‘We Do Our Part’ Offers Insight Into Where Democrats Went Wrong
‘Legitimate concerns of the other side’ are important, author says

Presidents symbolically define their eras in ways that go far beyond their legislative victories or — to cite a recent example — their conspiracy-laden tweets. Their lives and their personal style shape American culture and often influence the ambitions of teenagers growing up in the shadow of their time in the White House.

So it was with John Kennedy’s glamor, Ronald Reagan’s cockeyed optimism, Barack Obama’s detached cool, and now, gulp, Donald Trump’s truncated definition of success.

Hints of a ‘Shop-’Til-You-Drop’ Presidency
Trump delivers first major deficits-don’t-matter speech in modern GOP history

It was the most perplexing speech of Donald Trump’s career. 

Watching the 45th president deliver an address to Congress mercifully free of vitriolic attacks and short on egocentric nonsense prompted the obvious question: In what storeroom at Mar-a-Lago have they been hiding this version of Donald Trump?

Congress: The Toughest Crowd of Trump’s Presidential Career
Doing, not saying, is the hard part

There is more to being president than hastily drafted executive orders and blustery late-night tweets. Everything during Donald Trump’s initial five weeks in office — from his bleak inaugural address to his scathing attacks on a free press — can be seen as a prelude to his first prime-time appearance before Congress.

This is the moment in a president’s first term when he should be poised to win lasting legislative victories. For Ronald Reagan, it was the 1981 tax cuts; for George W. Bush, it was additional tax cuts and his No Child Left Behind educational plan; and for Barack Obama, it was his economic stimulus program and, ultimately, the Affordable Care Act.

Opinion: Trump Is Neck and Neck With the Worst Presidents
Could he even make Warren G. Harding look good?

DUBLIN — A long holiday weekend in Ireland proved to be less of an escape and more of a reminder of the omnipresence of the 45th president. The front page of the Sunday Independent featured a column by conservative writer and media personality Brendan O’Connor that began, “Ireland 2021. The country has been laid waste to after Donald Trump caused nuclear Armageddon.”

A New DNC Chair: This Time It Really Counts
Democrats have much to overcome

BALTIMORE — Watching the Democratic Party’s regional forum here last week, my mind kept flashing back to that nearly century-old Will Rogers crack, “I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.”

In normal times, the selection of a Democratic chair is one of those topics that primarily interest political reporters in the postelection doldrums and consultants hoping for future contracts. But with the Democrats in their worst shape organizationally since the 1920s, the choice of a permanent successor to Debbie Wasserman Schultz takes on larger-than-usual significance.

Ivanka Incident Shows That Trump Is No Truman
Presidency is more than business deals and profits

It has taken less than three weeks of the Donald Trump presidency to establish the “A Democrat Did It First” principle of aggressive right-wing defense. For no matter what Trump does amid his dizzying daily assaults on White House decorum, there will always be claims — no matter how ludicrous — of a Democratic presidential precedent.

So when the president targeted Nordstrom for the unforgivable sin of not continuing to stock Ivanka Trump goods, it suddenly became time to blame Harry Truman. To Rush Limbaugh and company, Trump’s use of a White House Twitter account to excoriate a department store chain was the equivalent of Truman threatening a music critic over a scathing review of his daughter Margaret.

Never Normal Is the New Normal at the White House
Strife when President Trump should still be in his Honeymoon period

There are indelible details, admittedly sometimes exaggerated, that shape our memories of every presidency:

A drunk Richard Nixon talking with the White House portraits. Jimmy Carter monitoring who used the White House tennis courts. George H.W. Bush looking baffled by a supermarket scanner. Bill Clinton … nah, let’s not go there. Barack Obama limiting himself to just seven lightly salted almonds a night.

Defeat or Pyrrhic Victory? The Democrats’ Dismal Choices on Gorsuch
Part of the blame — dismal Democratic candidates in 2016

In the best of all possible worlds, Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch would both soon grace the Supreme Court. But, alas, someone like Henry Clay is no longer in Congress to negotiate the Compromise of 2017.

So, dispirited Democrats are left with their choice of frustrating outcomes as they rage against the success of Mitch McConnell’s scorched-earth strategy to deprive Garland of a vote all through 2016.

Ten Days That Shook the World
Since Nixon, presidents have governed with reverence for office — until now

It was one of those small, but instructive, stories about fate and character in politics that you hear late at night on the campaign trail and never forget.

Flying across Florida in late 1995 in the midst of his first bid for the presidency, Lamar Alexander (or Lamar! as he was known then) reminisced about why as a young man he abruptly left the Richard Nixon White House after just 18 months to go back to Tennessee.

Biggest Challenge of 2017: Can Republicans Tame Trump?
History may judge ‘enablers’ harshly

Congressional retreats are generally of interest only to lobbyists, policy analysts and Capitol Hill reporters. But when the House and Senate Republicans retreat north Wednesday to the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia, their three-day, corporate-sponsored conference may hold lasting significance.

With Donald Trump making an appearance, the featured item on the agenda will be order and timing of Republican legislative priorities. In normal times, nothing would have more heft than a new president’s legislative agenda from tax cuts to repealing Obamacare.

Trump’s Inaugural Speech: Pitchfork Populism
But will he ‘preserve, protect and defend?’

The flamethrower has been passed to a new generation, an older generation, bristling with resentments yet faithful to themes of the 2016 campaign.

Donald J. Trump’s inaugural address was one for the ages. For decades to come — no matter how his presidency is remembered — the bluntness of his words on a grey and rainy Friday afternoon will be recalled as a turning point, a fork in the winding road of American democracy.

Good Trump, Bad Trump — Who Will Appear at the Inaugural?
No guarantee what president-elect will say Friday

No matter how many drafts speechwriter Stephen Miller prepares, no matter how often the president-elect practices with a teleprompter, there is no guarantee what Donald Trump will say on Friday after he takes the oath of office. The man who is about to become the 45th president is too impulsive, too much of a creature of his own id, to be slavishly faithful to the final draft of the inaugural address. 

The majesty of the moment, the hand-on-the-Bible jolt of emotion for this child of Outer-Borough America, could send Trump in unexpected directions. Even an orator who revels in huge rallies, as Trump does, may be surprised — as Bill Clinton was in 1993 — at the way his oratory echoes off the monuments and how indistinct the faces of his audience appear as he gazes down from the heights of the West Front of the Capitol.

Clicking Through Confirmation Hearing Roulette
Senators seek reassurances from the adults in the Cabinet

Back in the days when remote controls for changing channels were a brag-to-the-neighbors luxury accessory, Mad magazine developed a series of comic features called Television Roulette. They recreated what the dialogue supposedly might sound like if you clicked fast on a Sunday night from, say, Steve Allen to a Drano commercial to Ed Sullivan.

Modern video feeds and the clustering of three Trump Cabinet hearings on Thursday morning allowed you to play a similar game that could be called Confirmation Roulette. At times it went like this:

Trump Veers From Gloater in Chief to Martyr-Elect
But president-elect shows little appreciation for responsibilities

Ever since the election, I have been one of those Donald Trump skeptics, desperately clinging to the fantasy of the Harry Truman Effect. Somehow I hoped that, once again, the fates that watch over our democracy would take a man of seemingly ordinary clay — like Truman or Jerry Ford — and mold him into a larger, more presidential, figure.

There were moments at the beginning of Trump’s first press conference in nearly six months when, if you really squinted, you might see tentative signs of such a miraculous transformation.

Trump Transforms GOP Into the Softer-On-Russia Party
Democrats may hit pay-dirt with anti-Putin tactics in special elections

If the rise of Donald Trump has taught us anything (a debatable assumption), it is that the news media has the attention span of an old-time Hollywood agent making deals on four phones simultaneously.

No matter how big the headlines or breathless the tweets, it’s on to the next frenzied furor within hours. That’s the 21st-century way. And it is probably going to doom any sustained outrage — no matter how justified — over Russian intervention during the 2016 campaign.

John Glenn: The Hero Who Knew What Mattered in Life
A man who understood who he was and had nothing to prove

Amid the obituaries and the tributes to John Glenn, a point of emphasis has been lost. Until Tom Wolfe published “The Right Stuff” in 1979, the original Mercury astronauts were shrouded in a patriotic haze. They were heroes — and Glenn had been elected to the Senate in 1974 — but to most Americans, they were also cardboard figures of Star-Spangled rectitude.

NASA had sold the exclusive stories of the astronauts to Life magazine for $500,000, giving each of the Mercury Seven $72,000 over three years, an unimaginable figure for a fighter jock in the early 1960s. But the trade-off was that the weekly magazine, with NASA’s encouragement, sanitized everything so each of the astronauts became less a person than a personification of Captain America.

Trump’s Living History as Our Third President from 1946
World War II, JFK, Vietnam, Nixon all shaped president-elect’s consciousness

With Donald Trump, three men have now been elected president who were born during a single 66-day period in mid-1946.  

The statistics are boggling — three presidents out of the 841,000 babies born in June, July and August of that first post-war year. In contrast, the 55 million members of the Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945) failed to produce a single president.