Whether the president's attack on Nordstrom is an attempt to distract, or a use of the power of the bully pulpit to harm an American business, it's deeply disturbing.

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Donald Trump is a master manipulator. Bear this in mind with his every tweet. Don’t dismiss him as an angry child (with the nuclear launch codes). When he manipulates the media and the public in one direction, it’s at least partly done to distract from more serious matters elsewhere.

So it is with his angry reaction to Nordstrom for dropping his daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion line. What was he trying to deflect? Attention to the white supremacist background of his new Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, and what it portends for vote suppression? The Defense Department leasing space at Trump Tower, where a single floor can go for $1.5 million a year? Mischief moving through the Congress controlled by Republicans with an extremist agenda? Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s extraordinary statement that the president’s attacks on the judiciary are “demoralizing”?

Sometimes the simpler explanation will do. Among the most disturbing aspects of Trump’s norm-breaking presidency has been his unwillingness to really separate himself from his many opaque businesses — including those depending on foreign banks for loans — and his family’s determination to use the highest office in the land as a money making venture. This is the stuff of Third World kleptocracies, not the United States. Until now.

As with so much else, this is unprecedented and in all bad ways. Trump is already in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause: His hotels and other businesses accept payments from foreign governments. But with Trump as cover and rubber stamp, don’t expect congressional Republicans — you know, the people who claim to venerate the Founding Fathers — to do anything about it.

Also without precedent is his bullying of individual businesses. That’s the behavior of an authoritarian, not the individual who was once quaintly called the chief magistrate. It’s bad for the economy and unseemly. The bully pulpit was not intended to bully (in Theodore Roosevelt’s time, “bully” was a synonym for “terrific”). Can you imagine the reaction if Hillary Clinton had done any of this? The House would already be rushing to impeach.

This circus is probably playing fine with Trump’s supporters. Don’t believe the historic low disapproval polls — these backers lie to pollsters, just as they did in the run-up to the election. As for the rest of us, don’t be fooled by the daily distractions.


Today’s Econ Haiku:

Nordstrom has a fan

Sleeping in the Nordy’s bag

My activist cat