It was said of John Updike that he could review a book at great length without mentioning whether he liked it or not. In his diplomatic correspondence — that other literary genre — Kim Darroch does the same with Donald Trump. At no point do his leaked memos say if the president is a good or bad thing in moral or philosophic terms. Leaving such judgments to columnists and other windbags, Britain’s outgoing ambassador to Washington majors on what is useful to his masters: Donald Trump’s methods, his foibles, his prospects. The analysis is technical, not normative.

Those hamming up their rage at Darroch are only entitled to challenge him, then, on one point. Is he right? Judged on its own terms, is this administration “inept” and “uniquely dysfunctional”?

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