When will Trump’s allies break away? They say they will stand by their Orange God—some may even mean it. We just had an amazing press conference in the Rose Garden, where Trump and Mitch McConnell acted very human, almost mammalian, towards each other.
The gentlest poet among them, former college teacher Newt Gingrich, had this heartfelt statement today about our big normal President.
For all I know, the Republicans may have genuine warm feelings whenever Donald swims up into their view. They may even welcome the nuclear fire as a necessity of getting a tax cut. After all, what’s the ruin of East Asia, next to another yacht for your sponsors?
I’d like to believe this. But evidence suggests otherwise. The GOP-Trump true romance is troubled, sources say. According to CNN:
Top White House aides, lawmakers, donors and political consultants are privately asking whether President Donald Trump realizes that losing the House next year could put his presidency in peril. In more than a dozen interviews, Republicans inside and outside the White House told CNN conversations are ramping up behind the scenes about whether Trump fully grasps that his feuds with members of his own party and shortage of legislative achievements could soon put the fate of his presidency at risk.
I had hoped to see a real, live Morticia-and-Gomez-level marriage before I left this Earth. I thought the Trump and Republican pairup was perfect. You have no idea how heartbroken I am to discover it’s two weeks from divorce court. According to the report, GOP donors in Jackson Hole were shown slides indicating which Democratic bogeyman would take over which committees, if the Team Blue is returned to power. CNN continues:
To some attendees, the subtext was clear. If Republicans forfeit the House, Democrats will almost certainly create a spectacle that will derail conservatives’ agenda and the remainder of Trump’s first term — a spectacle complete with a raft of new subpoenas, a spotlight on the Russia investigation and, many are convinced, impeachment proceedings. “When Democrats take control of the House they will absolutely move for articles of impeachment,” one Trump confidant predicted.
The question is not whether the Dems will do it—they most certainly will. Their base demands it, morality demands it, and, most compellingly, their self-interest demands it. No shock there. The real mystery is, will the Republicans do it? Will they put the wrassle on Trump? And if so, when?
The GOP’s initial fears of a Trump Presidency were easy to understand. Before he took office, who could say what Trump would do? Trump could have governed as a populist, which would have threatened their corporate base. Trump could’ve governed as Democrat, and thwarted their plans. Worst of all, Trump could have turned out to be a new Huey Long, a trans-party demagogue who would overturn the Constitution and end the Republic.
These fears were overrated. True, Trump is a real threat to America and world peace. Not because he is ambitious and brazen, but because he is incompetent and emotional.
Trump lacks the will or the intelligence to rewrite the political order. Because the President is a dull, racist bumbler with zero capacity for abstract thought or discipline, his administration is being run by Washington operators, national security zealots, and Heritage Foundation hacks. The political program coming out of the White House is largely their doing, tempered by the President’s idiosyncratic need to make a horse’s ass out of himself. The Administration’s policies are largely their policies. The alt-right is being squeezed out of the Oval Office. Gorka and Bannon have flown.
In some ways, Trump’s administration is exactly what the GOP hoped for: a corporate-friendly, environment-hating, Iran-shunning, Saudi-embracing, bomb-loving, LGBTQ-unfriendly, Muslim-phobic, tax-cut-urging, healthcare-gutting monstrosity. The President’s staff governs, not the President. And with very few exceptions, the President’s staff are Washington Republicans, all the way down.
So far, so good, as far as the Republican Congress are concerned. But still … there’s the North Korea business. And those words about Sessions. And Trump’s disloyalty. His unpopularity. And his inability to, well, achieve anything. Whatever you can say about the GOP’s moral compass, they can read a newspaper and a news channel chyron. Trump is dangerous. And they know this. Robert Reich, Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor, said he called an “old friend, a Republican former member of Congress,” after Corker spoke out about Trump. According to Reich, this was their conversation:
He: ... They think Trump’s nuts. Unfit. Dangerous.
Me: Well, they already knew that, didn’t they?
He: But now it’s personal. It started with the Sessions stuff. Jeff was as loyal as they come. Trump’s crapping on him was like kicking your puppy. And then, you know, him beating up on Mitch for the Obamacare fiasco. And going after Flake and the others.
Me: So they’re pissed off?
He: Not just that. I mean, they have thick hides. The personal stuff got them to notice all the other things. The wild stuff, like those threats to North Korea. Tillerson would leave tomorrow if he wasn’t so worried Trump would go nuclear, literally.
Me: You think Trump is really thinking nuclear war?
He: Who knows what’s in his head? But I can tell you this. He’s not listening to anyone. Not a soul. He’s got the nuclear codes and, well, it scares the hell out of me. It’s starting to scare all of them. That’s really why Bob spoke up.
Me: So what could they do? I mean, even if the whole Republican leadership was willing to say publicly he’s unfit to serve, what then?
He: Bingo! The emperor has no clothes. It’s a signal to everyone they can bail. Should bail to save their skins. I mean, Trump could be the end of the whole goddam Republican party.
Me: If he starts a nuclear war, that could be the end of everything.
He: Yeah, right. So when they start bailing on him, the stage is set.
Me: For what?
He: Impeachment. 25th amendment.
Me: You think Republicans would go that far?
He: Not yet. Here’s the thing. They really want to get this tax bill through. That’s all they have going for them. They don’t want to face voters in ’18 or ’20 without something to show for it. They’re just praying Trump doesn’t do something really, really stupid before the tax bill.
Me: Like a nuclear war?
He: Look, all I can tell you is many of the people I talk with are getting freaked out. It’s not as if there’s any careful strategizing going on. Not like, well, do we balance the tax bill against nuclear war? No, no. They’re worried as hell. They’re also worried about Trump crazies, all the ignoramuses he’s stirred up. I mean, Roy Moore? How many more of them do you need to destroy the party?
Me: So what’s gonna happen?
He: You got me. I’m just glad I’m not there anymore. Trump’s not just a moron. He’s a despicable human being. And he’s getting crazier. Paranoid. Unhinged. Everyone knows it. I mean, we’re in shit up to our eyeballs with this guy.
This lines up with what we’ve heard from other corners. According to the Post, aides have to handle Trump carefully. When Senator Corker painted the White House as an “adult day-care center,” he apparently wasn’t exaggerating. According to the story, “During the transition, when aides needed Trump to decide on a looming issue or appointment, they often limited him to a shortlist of two or three options and urged him to choose one.”
When does the GOP break? It depends, as the sailor said to the preacher who asked if what he had was contagious.
Suppose you’re a member of the Congressional Republicans, or a GOP power broker outside of The Hill. There are several questions you have to ask yourself.
First and foremost: will Trump ever be stable? That’s the hundred-thousand-dollar one. Trump will always be a jerk. That won’t change. But will he ever be housebroken? Is he trainable? Will he, in other words, get used to the job and misbehave less? If it’s just a matter of waiting for Trump to learn the office, then the GOP will wait. If it’s just like this over and over again—embarrassing, but not career-threatening—then the Republicans will dance with Trump. If he won’t calm down—and there are many, many reasons to think he won’t—then how long do you hang on?
Which leads to the second question: if Trump won’t behave, what do you do? Impeachment is the worst outcome, and the Democrats will try for it when if they win the House and Senate. That’s why the GOP’s best hope is to eke out real legislation, go back home with achievements to bring to the voters, rile up the base, and keep their majorities. If they have their majorities, and Trump calms down, then all will be well until 2020. That’s why they haven’t moved. They think they can still work with this man.
But at night, here’s what they’re thinking:
What if Trump drags them down?
What if they can’t pass anything?
What if this gets worse?
If Trump won’t help them, if Trump really endangers the country, if Trump dooms the party, the Republicans won’t dare impeach him; they’ll give that job to the Democrats. If Trump’s base elects another Roy Moore, they might move even sooner.
Let’s say it keeps going in this direction. Here’s what will happen: sometime before the election next year, they’ll all pull a Bob Corker. They’ll have a press conference on the marble hillock of the Capitol and explain how they can no longer in good conscience support the President, and they are sternly refusing his leadership. By that time, it will be too late for them to save themselves. But they’ll try anyway. If polling gets low enough, they’ll do anything.
The GOP, as it is now structured, is unlikely to demand impeachment of Trump. It’s more likely that Mitch McConnell will come out in favor of full pansexual communism, than he’d try to topple the White House. However, I never thought the President would feud with the NFL, either. So who’s to say? In an age of miracle and wonder, everything can happen. May still.
Like gambling, political hope requires full committal to an uncertain outcome, the ability to invest real, genuine emotion in a lump of flawed carbon holding political office. Public life in the 21st century is a woodchipper, shredding illusions. Our grandparents could bank small fires of political naivete; we don’t have that luxury.
However, the Republicans can’t even claim deception. They knew Trump was a clod and dupe from the beginning, but agreed to ride his coattails after he won power. The jig is up; it’s been up for a while, and now all that’s left is the dancing. When the music stops, the feasting begins and the beast is carved. Who will be eaten first: Trump, or his party?