"Embattled White House lurches from crisis to crisis" says the headline over the Associated Press story we ran on Page 1 yesterday, and that about describes the situation. No sooner had the furor subsided a little over President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey than we learned Trump may have disclosed some classified national security information in a meeting with the Rooskies. Then quickly on the heels of that, we heard about a Comey memo suggesting Trump may have asked that the FBI back off the investigation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. There were rumblings about a Watergate-scale crisis, and it was easy to get the impression that the president was just one more stumble away from getting kicked out of office.
A reasonable person (i.e., one not defending Trump with his last dying breath or, conversely, not praying to be the one who kicks him into his grave and thus getting the honor of the first spit) can see two possible explanations for what is going on.
One is that Trump is bringing this all on himself. He is really out of his depth as president, and he is too impetuous to do the right thing and too thin-skinned to take corrective action when his staff dares to criticize him, however constructively. This was bound to happen, and it will continue to happen. That's the kind of presidency this will be, so we might as well get used to it. Trump will either bluff his way through four years or he will blunder into something really serious that he can't talk his way out of.
The other is that the Washington establishment, Republican and Democrat alike, liberals and conservatives and everybody in between, all the hordes of lobbyists and attorneys and can't-be-fired bureaucrats, all the deep-state swamp dwellers, hate Trump with every fiber of their being and will seize on anything, however small, to get rid of him or at least render him powerless. They have no shame — it doesn't matter how much they have to debase, demean or contradict themselves. Hypocrisy in the service of destroying the evil outsider is no vice.
I would suggest that both of those could be true.
Donald Trump was a jerk before he entered the White House, he is a jerk now, and he will always be a jerk. ("Jerk" is not the word I would use if this blog were not sponsored by the newspaper I work for.) The ignorant can learn, the unenlightened can eventually understand, hell, the ugly can even become beautiful under the right circumstances, but an a****** will never be anything but an a******. Trump's compulsive braggadocio, prompted by a fierce, deep-seated insecurity, will cause him to make many mistakes, and his narcissism and egoism will not allow him to stop and reflect calmly on ways to avoid them in the future.
This is the reluctant conclusion of Erick Erickson, a staunch conservative and (at least up until now) a strong supporter of Trump, who says that one of the sources for the leaks about the national security oopsie with the Russians is also an ardent administration supporter:
Trump cannot take internal criticism, Erickson maintained, which left his aides no choice but to go to the media and "hope for blowback."
"The President cares vastly more about what the press says than what his advisers say. That is a real problem and his advisers are having to recognize and use, even if it causes messy stories to get outside the White House perimeter," he wrote.
Erickson also claimed he was told what Trump said to the Russian officials was "actually far worse than what is being reported" and the president didn't understand "his loose lips can get valuable assets in the field killed."
On the other hand, the sharks are in the water, and with every little new drop of blood the frenzy gets kicked up another notch. Democrats don't even pretend anymore that they care a single thing about what Trump says or tries to do — they are out to get him at any cost. Too many Republicans are going along, either because they never liked that Rotten Outsider in the first place or because they care more about protecting their place at the trough than what the voters might think. And what can I say about the press? I had gotten used to the idea of the press's liberal bias and the fact that a Republican president could never count on a fair shake. But this beats anything I have ever seen. The mainstream press, for the most part, has decided Trump is evil and their job is not to report on him, but help depose him.
The perfect example of the lunacy now infecting a Washington that is in full nitwit mode is the fact that serious "journalists" like columnists Ross Douthat and Richard Cohen are suggesting Trump can be ousted without all the hassle of an impeachment and trial. Anti-Trumpists can instead go to the 25th Amendment, which covers succession in the event of a president or vice president's death, resignation or removal from office. Section Four of that amendment deals with a president who is incapacitated but can't or won't acknowledge it:
“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”
Invoking this section would basically be like having your aunt declared crazy so you could get at her inheritance. This is not just swamp fever. This is outhouse-rat crazy.
So we have a Trump who cannot change, an establishment that will not change, and a press not only delighted to cover the carnage but relishing the idea that it can contribute to it It's the perfect storm.
I have no idea whatsoever what the denouement of this overwrought drama will be. I know Trump cannot suddenly stop being Trump. I doubt very much if the sharks will stop circling. So I guess the think to do is just keep watching the thing unfold, like a slow-motion wreck on the highway.
And, honestly, I think I can live with the outcome, if one of the two most likely scenarios happens.
One is that Trump just keeps lurching ahead, and it will turn out that all the things the establishment and its press sycophants are getting hysterical over are simply the kinds of things most new presidents go through. If that happens, the establishment will be even more deeply hated by the general public and find its grip on the handles of power will loosen, if only slightly. And the mainstream press, which is gleefully abandoning any pretense of the objectivity and professional standards it has always been so proud of, will become less and less relevant. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.
The other is that the "get Trump" campaign will be successful. And guess what, say hello to President Mike Pence. He's the one those of us with conservative leanings would have preferred anyway, and, frankly, it would be delightful to watch the anti-Trump crowd get the president they deserve. So just keep thumping that anti-Trump drum, and you'll really get your worst nightmare.
Many in the Trump camp are complaining that all these distractions are keeping congressional leaders from working on the "Trump agenda" or even something that might be called the "Republican agenda." And I suppose that is true, and I suppose I ought to shed a tear or two. And I will, but only that. As a reluctant Trump voter, I did not seek to have the candidate stand up for me, or get things done for me. I liked some of the things Trump promised and did not care for others.
My main desire was to stop the progressive agenda, which I did not think the country could survive for four more years. Electing Hillary Clinton would have put President Obama's progressivism, itself a giant leap ahead of previous incarnations, on steroids. Donald Trump's election would not reverse the trend toward more and bigger government, but it might at least put the4 brakes on a bit.
And guess what? The "Trump agenda" isn't moving ahead right now, but the progressive agenda is just a little bit stalled, too. I'll take what I can get, but if any of you want to change the status quo by putting Mike Pence in the Oval Office, by all means go right ahead.