From the many disturbing aspects of Donald Trump's controversial and dizzying first two weeks as President, a theme is emerging that, in the long run, may prove more dangerous than any individual policy: his unprecedented assault on institutions that could delay or derail his radical agenda.
As I wrote previously, this approach began, not by accident, with an assault on the press and intelligence community, two entities in American society that traditional provide the verified facts that are the basis for policy decisions. Trump set the stage for these fights by disparaging both institutions throughout the presidential campaign and transition, punctuated by his trademark pungent insults (the press as "the most dishonest humans," the intelligence community as employing Nazi tactics) aimed less at their work product than at their very legitimacy.
In a democracy, it is normal––sometimes even desirable––for institutions to advance different agendas, the collision of which produces policy. But what isn't normal is for arguably the most powerful institution to seek not to win arguments against the others, but rather to vanquish them.
Since becoming President, Trump has continued to undermine the intelligence community, first through an almost comically disrespectful speech against the backdrop of the memorial wall at the Central Intelligence Agency, and most recently by making his fateful decision about a special forces raid in Yemen, reportedly over dinner with a coterie of advisors––the Vice President, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff––that included no intelligence-community officials. A U.S. Navy Seal was killed in the operation, reportedly along with a number of civilians and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists.