Erin McPike was the only journalist allowed to accompany Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his recent trip to Asia. Dan Drezner points out this snippet from the profile of Tillerson that she filed:

After watching the contortions of my face as I tried to figure out what to say next, he humbly explained that he had never met the president before the election. As president-elect, Trump wanted to have a conversation with Tillerson “about the world” given what he gleaned from the complex global issues he dealt with as CEO of Exxon Mobil.

“When he asked me at the end of that conversation to be secretary of state, I was stunned.”

In other words, Trump had never met Tillerson before and knew nothing about him. Then, at the end of a single short conversation, he immediately offered him the job. I guess that shows how important Trump considers the Secretary of State. He had already interviewed a bunch of other people, he was tired of the whole thing, and people were on his case for not filling his cabinet. So he chatted with this Tillerson guy who had been sent his way and figured, sure, what the hell. He'll do.

McPike also passes along this tidbit:

Tillerson is spending his early days in Foggy Bottom “whiteboarding,” a businessy term for mapping out and remapping out org charts, strategies, and plans. And that’s one area where he believes he can make an impact.

Maybe I'm a little hypersensitive about this, but it sets off my alarms. I've always thought that big reorgs were the last refuge of weak business leaders who couldn't think of anything else to do but wanted to look like they were doing CEO-ish things. But even if I'm being too harsh about this, doing it as your first course of action before you even settle in and learn anything about the organization you're heading is definitely dumb. Nor is this the only evidence we have that Tillerson was not a great business leader:

Nine years is a long time to go without any improvement in your stock price.

Poor Donald. The other kids are always picking on him:

This is from the guy who repeatedly said the real unemployment rate was 42 percent.

Donald Trump is gonna bring back the coal:

President Trump is poised in the coming days to announce his plans to dismantle the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy....In an announcement that could come as soon as Thursday or as late as next month, according to people familiar with the White House’s planning, Mr. Trump will order [EPA chief Scott Pruitt] to withdraw and rewrite a set of Obama-era regulations known as the Clean Power Plan, according to a draft document obtained by The New York Times.

....At a campaign-style rally on Monday in the coal-mining state of Kentucky, Mr. Trump told a cheering audience that he is preparing an executive action that would “save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work.”

This is part of Trump's plan to repeal all of Obama's "stupid" climate change policies. "We’re not spending money on that anymore," Trump's budget director told reporters. No more funding for climate change science; no more worrying about carbon emissions; no more auto mileage standards; and lots and lots of beautiful, black coal.

Except for one thing:

This is from Lazard's most recent energy analysis. Coal just isn't competitive anymore. Oh, existing plants will keep going for a while, and maybe Trump's executive orders—if they ever go into effect—will keep them in operation longer than otherwise. But there's nothing on the horizon that's likely to reduce the cost of coal, whereas wind and solar continue to drop every year. Gas is also likely to stay cheap for a long time thanks to fracking.

None of this is a secret. Everyone knows that Trump isn't going to save any coal jobs, but the coal miners like to hear him say that he will. Based on previous reporting, I gather that even they know it's mostly blather, but they still appreciate it. They give Trump an A for effort.

Back in the early part of last year, there was a mini-upwelling of comments from liberals suggesting that Trump might actually be better from a progressive point of view than more conventional conservatives like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. That was never true, and climate change is an example of why. Cruz or Rubio would have both tried to get rid of Obama's Clean Power Plan, but I don't think they would have literally tried to defund every bit of research into climate change or just flatly deny that carbon even mattered. They're too conventional. But with Trump there's always the danger that a combination of his signature ignorance and his rabid vengefulness will motivate him to go nuts. That's what's happening here. On the bright side, maybe his well-known incompetence will also keep him from being effective. But then again, maybe not.

Bob Somerby has been oddly disparaging about people who say that Donald Trump is a liar. Today he explains why:

Is Donald J. Trump a liar? Or could an accurate diagnosis perhaps be more troubling than that?...Is it possible that Donald J. Trump truly is some version of unhinged/crazy?...When Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott told Richard Nixon he had to resign, Nixon succumbed to reality. What would Trump do in a situation like that?

A mere "liar" would know it was time to go. Do you feel sure that Donald J. Trump would react like that?

We don't feel sure of that at all.

Let's roll the tape. Trump is vain. He's peculiarly unwilling to learn anything new. He feels endlessly persecuted. His attention span can be measured in minutes. He's paranoid over the slightest sign of disloyalty. He is vengeful. He demands constant attention. He makes up preposterous fictions to sustain his worldview and shield his ego from the slings and arrows of reality. He desperately wants to be liked by everyone. He's domineering. His personal relationships are almost entirely transactional. He never laughs. He can't stand people poking fun at him. He's often unable to control his emotional outbursts. And he likes his steaks really well done.

Does that mean he's unhinged? I dunno. No single one of these things is debilitating, but what happens when you put them all together? Back when I was a kid there was a super-villain called the Composite Superman. He had the powers of, like, 30 different superheroes, and apparently that was enough to drive him mad:

Maybe this is Trump. Being, say, vain and domineering would make him a bit of an asshole, but nothing more. But put all of his bizarre personality traits together, stir in the pressure of being president, and that might be enough to qualify him as detached from consensus reality. Who knows?

Over at The Upshot, Margot Sanger-Katz catches something that any of us might have noticed if we'd had keen enough eyes. The CBO famously projected that the Republican health care bill would result in 24 million people losing health insurance:

But one piece of context has gone little noticed: The Republican bill would actually result in more people being uninsured than if Obamacare were simply repealed. Getting rid of the major coverage provisions and regulations of Obamacare would cost 23 million Americans their health insurance, according to another recent C.B.O. report. In other words, 1 million more Americans would have health insurance with a clean repeal than with the Republican replacement plan, according to C.B.O. estimates.

Here's what the CBO said in its January report. If only the individual mandate, the subsidies, and the Medicaid expansion are repealed, 32 million people will lose insurance by 2026. If, in addition, community rating, minimum coverage requirements, and the preexisting conditions ban are repealed—in other words, if essentially all of Obamacare is repealed and nothing put in its place—23 million people will lose insurance by 2026.

As it happens, the current Republican bill is similar to Option 1, which means the GOP is making progress. Under their old bill 32 million people would be kicked off the insurance rolls, while the new bill only kicks off 24 million. However, they could do even better by just repealing everything, full stop.

Their problem, of course, is that they can't do that. Democrats can filibuster all the additional stuff in Option 2. Nevertheless, Sanger-Katz is right: it's pretty remarkable that the Republican bill actually does more damage than repealing Obamacare and simply doing nothing at all. Not just any political party can pull off something like that.

Lunchtime Photo

This little girl looks...worried? Dismayed? Unsure? Maybe all those things. She had just been playing with her little sister and sort of "helped" her into a nearby fountain. Dad was nearby and didn't seem especially concerned about the whole thing, but she doesn't know that yet as she surveys the damage. She is not yet sure what the future holds for her.

CBPP has calculated how much tax money you'll save if Obamacare is repealed. Behold:

You know what really gets me? Even among the millionaires, repeal will only net them about $50,000. That's like finding spare change in the sofa cushions for this crowd. Is clawing back a few nickels and dimes really worth immiserating 20 million people?

Bruce Bartlett points me to a C-SPAN survey that, among other things, asks people if they can name any Supreme Court justices. Here are the results:

That thin orange line that's zero across the entire bottom of the chart is the number of people who named Stephen Breyer. Poor guy. However, it's still possible that he was the first choice of at least a few people. The survey size was 1,032 people, so anything less than five would get rounded down to zero. Breyer might very well have been named by three or four people.

Anyway, the two big takeaways are (a) the older you are, the more likely you are to know at least one justice, and (b) Ruth Bader Ginsburg kicks ass. Even the chief justice isn't better known than her. Good job, RBG.

Of course, they'd all have better Q scores if they followed the advice of 76 percent of the public and allowed arguments to be televised.

I am doing something that really annoys some people: posting occasional videos that always seem to end up on YouTube's trending list. Check out yesterday's barroom brawl over a female duck:

I'm ahead of the Kardashians! And with a mere 888 views, compared to their 311,000. And I'm only slightly behind the giant pizza cone, which has over a million views.

Just out of curiosity, does anyone know why this happens? I gather that a lot of people work very hard for a spot on this coveted list, whereas I just upload run-of-the-mill cat and duck videos and do nothing to promote them. Do I get extra credit for all the folks who watch the video on the blog? Or does YouTube just have very discerning taste?

Donald Trump's tweets are, at various times, ridiculous, offensive, and obviously untrue. Sometimes all three. David French doesn't like what this is doing to conservatives:

The tweets, however, are exposing something else in many of Trump’s friends and supporters — an extremely high tolerance for dishonesty and an oft-enthusiastic willingness to defend sheer nonsense....I’ve watched Christian friends laugh hysterically at Trump’s tweets, positively delighted that they cause fits of rage on the other side. I’ve watched them excuse falsehoods from reflexively-defensive White House aides, claiming “it’s just their job” to defend the president. Since when is it any person’s job to help their boss spew falsehoods into the public domain?

....GOP gratitude for beating Hillary Clinton cannot and must not extend into acceptance (or even endorsement) of presidential dishonesty and impulsiveness. Trump isn’t just doing damage to himself. As he lures a movement into excusing his falsehoods, he does damage to the very culture and morality of his base. The truth still matters, even when fighting Democrats you despise.

I'm not sure Trump really had to work very hard to bring out these traits among conservatives. Drudge and Limbaugh and Fox News and now Breitbart have been mining this same vein for decades. But we can leave that argument for another time.

None of us has a lock on truth, but we should at least try to value the truth as best we can discern it. I would be very happy to see liberals and conservatives alike make at least some modest movements toward that goal. But I'm not holding my breath.