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WSJ Editorial: Donald Trump’s Worst Enemy Is Donald Trump

June 6, 2017

Excellent editorial today in The Wall Street Journal.  

Some people with a propensity for self-destructive behavior can’t seem to help themselves, President Trump apparently among them. Over the weekend and into Monday he indulged in another cycle of Twitter outbursts and pointless personal feuding that may damage his agenda and the powers of the Presidency.

Mr. Trump first expressed solidarity with the British people after the London terror attack, before managing to convert the mass murder into a referendum on his favorite subject, Donald J. Trump. He assailed London Mayor Sadiq Khan for supposedly minimizing the threat, though what Mr. Khan said was that there was no reason to be alarmed by an enlarged police presence after the rampage. “Pathetic excuse,” Mr. Trump called it.

World leaders who stoop to attack municipal politicians in foreign cities look small, not that we can recall a precedent. If Theresa May has an opinion about Bill de Blasio she’s kept it to herself, though the Prime Minister was compelled to say Mr. Khan is “doing a good job. It’s wrong to say anything else.”   

In a humiliating coup de grace, the mayor’s office put out a statement saying he “has more important things to do than respond” to Mr. Trump’s social-media insults. The U.S. Commander in Chief also has better uses of his time than making himself look foolish.

Mr. Trump’s more consequential eruption was against Mr. Trump’s Justice Department. He was evidently responding to a segment on MSNBC’s “ Morning Joe ” about his executive order temporarily suspending immigration entry from six countries with a history of terrorism.

“People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want,” Mr. Trump wrote. “I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” Mr. Trump added that “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.”

These comments are reckless on multiple levels. The original blunderbuss order was rolled out on the Friday night of Mr. Trump’s first week as President with zero public explanation and little internal vetting. White House staffers from the Steve Bannon wing preferred the stun-grenade approach, but Mr. Trump’s legal team convinced him to sign a legally bulletproof revision in March because they preferred to win in court.

The new order wasn’t “watered down” on substance but did make pragmatic exceptions for, say, permanent residents with green cards and military translators. Had the White House done such legal due diligence in the first place, the travel ban might not have become a political bonfire—not least because the President enjoys wide constitutional and statutory discretion over immigration and national security.

If Mr. Trump’s action is legal on the merits, he seems to be angry that his lawyers are trying to vindicate the rule of law. Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be justified if he resigned, and this is merely the latest incident in which Mr. Trump popping off undermined his own lawyers. The White House spent days explaining that the President fired James Comey on the counsel of Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, only for Mr. Trump to tell an interviewer that he planned to dismiss the FBI director in any case. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has also suggested that the temporary visa shutdown is not an “immigration ban.”

If this pattern continues, Mr. Trump may find himself running an Administration with no one but his family and the Breitbart staff. People of talent and integrity won’t work for a boss who undermines them in public without thinking about the consequences. And whatever happened to the buck stops here?

Two appellate courts have ignored the order’s text and cited legally irrelevant campaign statements to rule that the ban is really intended to discriminate against Muslims. And now President Trump has given liberal judges Twitter evidence to conclude that his motives may be suspect. At the very least he is making it harder to corral a Supreme Court majority.

In other words, in 140-character increments, Mr. Trump diminished his own standing by causing a minor international incident, demonstrated that the loyalty he demands of the people who work for him isn’t reciprocal, set back his policy goals and wasted time that he could have devoted to health care, tax reform or “infrastructure week.” Mark it all down as further evidence that the most effective opponent of the Trump Presidency is Donald J. Trump.

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