Editor in chief of The Atlantic
In an October 2016 editorial, The Atlantic wrote of Donald Trump: “He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar.” We argued that Trump “expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself.” Trump, we also noted, “is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.”
In retrospect, we may be guilty of understatement.
There was a hope, in the bewildering days following the 2016 election, that the office would temper the man—that Trump, in short, would change.
He has not changed.
This week marks the midway point of Trump’s term. Like many Americans, we sometimes find the velocity of chaos unmanageable. We find it hard to believe, for example, that we are engaged in a serious debate about whether the president of the United States is a Russian-intelligence asset. So we decided to pause for a moment and analyze 50 of the most improbable, norm-bending, and destructive incidents of this presidency to date.
Our 2016 editorial was a repudiation of Donald Trump’s character as much as it was an endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. It was not meant to be partisan. The Atlantic’s founders promised their readers that we would be “of no party or clique.” This remains a core governing principle of the magazine today. What follows is a catalog of incidents, ranked—highly subjectively!—according to both their outlandishness and their importance. In most any previous presidency, Democratic or Republican, each moment on this list would have been unthinkable.
In Trump’s view of masculinity, cheap shots replace bravery and hostility replaces honor. Read More
In his inaugural appearance as White House press secretary, Sean Spicer set the tone for the next two years. Read More
"I was doing well, so I got invited to the party," the president told thousands of teens at a jamboree. "I was very young.” Read More
It’s difficult to advance diplomatic goals when the president shows no qualms about publicly embracing American adversaries. Read More
The past two years have shown that Trump has no special affection for the democratic process. Read More
The president’s glandular instinct has become a substitute for all expertise and all nuance. Read More
In Trump’s world, reality is negotiable. Read More
The president has repeatedly proved himself a hypocrite when it comes to information security. But what about her emails? Read More
The administration may have broken precedent in more than one way. Read More
And it isn’t just the longest—it’s different in another meaningful way. Read More
The rare rebuke from John Roberts shows that he fears for the viability of our political system. Read More
What started as a theatrical rivalry is now actively putting press freedom in jeopardy. Read More
Do impulsive Twitter messages from the president count as formal policy action? Read More
And Trump stayed silent. Read More
James Mattis's departure was a turning point. Read More
The health of the republic may seem imperiled, but this is in many ways a slow-moving catastrophe. Read More
He’s a master of reading a room—and he knows exactly how to use cultural context as a provocation. Read More
In insulting certain countries, Trump revealed the hierarchy he imposes on the world. Read More
No other commander-in-chief has offered such direct, unfiltered access to his psyche. Read More
The president’s stated purpose was to keep terrorists out, but his plan has all kinds of problems. Read More
He also seems to be making a lot of money outside the presidency. Read More
To separate children from their parents is an offense against nature and civilized society. Read More
Which moments from the Trump presidency would you add to this list? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Unthinkable," and include your full name, city, and state. Or tweet using #TrumpUnthinkable.