Trump apologists will tell you that every new Administration makes rookie mistakes, takes a queasy shakeout cruise, stumbles before it finds its footing – or they trot out any other hackneyed metaphor they can memorize.
Oh, and all that is especially true because the no-longer-Teflon Don is a guileless outsider unschooled in the swampy ways of Washington.
They are not entirely wrong.
Bill Clinton’s first months –- in a portent of what was to come –- featured the scandal known as Travelgate in which seven members of the White House Travel Office were fired, allegedly so that friends of the Clintons could benefit financially from making travel arrangements for Hillary and Bill. The unseemly mess is said to have contributed to the suicide of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster a couple of months later.
And Trump isn’t the first new President to go to war with the media.
Starting from the early days of his Administration, Obama kept the press at bay even though it endlessly fawned over him.
Who can forget the obsequious coffee table book Obama: The Historic Journey by then New York Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson, then Executive Editor Bill Keller, and the paper’s staff, plus contributions by Trump-hating columnists Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman. In 2014, after she was Executive Editor and then ex-Executive Editor, Abramson would tell Fox News that the Obama White House was one of the most secretive in history.
Obama also had some early fumbles. For example, two of his Cabinet nominees had to withdraw – Bill Richardson for Commerce and Tom Daschle for Health & Human Services – and others had troubled paths to confirmation. He also signed an Executive Order shuttering Guantanamo within the year; it’s still open.
But the Trump Administration has fallen on its face so many times in the space of less than a month that it’s hard to keep count of the “splats!”
(Maybe Trump’s next book should be called The Artlessness of the Schlemiel.)
You can put most of the missteps in two shoeboxes – one marked “Dumb,” the other “Dangerous.”
The Dumb Shoebox:
- Dumb is the whiney baby-lost-the-popular-vote President claiming without a wisp of evidence that 3 million ballots were illegally cast in the election.
- Dumb is the commander-in-chief-who-dodged-the-draft crowing about himself in front of a CIA wall commemorating those who have died silently and anonymously for their country.
- Dumb is Kellyanne Conway doing an infomercial from the White House for Ivanka Trump’s losing line of apparel.
- Dumb is Press Secretary Sean Spicer peddling “alternative facts” about the size of the crowd at the Inauguration during his first joust with the press corps.
- Dumb is Melania Trump claiming in a lawsuit that her ability to profit from her role as First Lady has been damaged.
- Dumb is sending out alt-robot Stephen Miller to parry questions on the Sunday morning talk shows.
The Danger Box
- Dangerous are staffers allegedly colluding with Russia in the run-up to the presidential election it attempted to disrupt.
- Dangerous is hiring a National Security Adviser with a distinguished military record who appeared to go off the rails after being fired by Obama, taking money from a Kremlin-backed media organ, hob-nobbing with Vladimir Putin, disseminating fake news and then resigning after 24 days when it was revealed he had misled the vice-president about inappropriate conversations with the Russian ambassador.
- Dangerous is setting off a cruel travel nightmare by issuing an ill-conceived and executed Executive Order intended to restrict entry to America by immigrants from a select list of mostly Muslim countries but in execution, disrupting the lives of many with a legal right to be here.
- Dangerous is attacking another branch of our checks-and-balances government – the judiciary -- that cast doubt on the legality of said Executive Order.
- Dangerous is rattling sabers at China and then sheepishly getting in step with the One China policy without having accomplished anything besides emboldening Beijing to continue pursuing its quest for Asian hegemony.
- But perhaps the most dangerous thing Trump has done in the eyes of his disapproving fellow Republican Party members is inciting vast swaths of Americans -- worried about the safety of the nation, afraid of losing their healthcare, concerned for their kids’ education, angry that thieves of the financial crisis have been put in charge of the economy, distressed by the militarism and appalled by the trailer-park tweeting of the presidency.
The dysfunctional spectacle that is the Trump White House must surely be giving GOP pols pause as they contemplate where they will be in two years, and only the most naïve would think that the word “impeach” has not danced across many minds on Capitol Hill.
In fact, some like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina could be doing more than entertaining such thoughts. He has called for a select committee of the Senate “to look into all things related to Russia’s involvement in 2016.”
The reliably odious conservative crank and xenophobe Ann Coulter may have actually been on to something yesterday when she tweeted this:
Coulter was referring to a broadside this week on the website of the Hoover Institution – a think tank and venerable voice of the conservative Republican establishment -- by the influential legal scholar and libertarian Richard Epstein in which he makes the case for a Trump resignation.
“The nearly four weeks since President Donald Trump’s inauguration have been the most divisive period of American politics since the end of the Second World War,” Epstein writes before thoughtfully laying out what Trump has done right – denying the presidency to Hillary Clinton and her anti-growth agenda – and what he has done wrong.
“It seems clear that if President Trump went about his job in a statesmanlike manner, the progressive counterattack would surely fail, and a sane Republican Party could gain the support of a dominant share of the electorate for at least the next two election cycles, if not more,” Epstein says. “Yet there are deeper problems because President Trump’s anti-free trade agenda will hurt—if not devastate—the very people whom he wants to help.”
Epstein’s conclusion is that Trump his own worst enemy.
Well, professor, even if your advice was heeded and there was a Republican clamor for Trump to step down, a certain someone would have to agree.
No, the answer for the party isn’t resignation; it is impeachment or the threat thereof. It’s not as if the faithful would be turning on one of their own: Trump is a fake Republican. More important when it comes to the GOP’s hold on power, he could become a one-man wrecking crew.
The GOP would have to call in some major-league spin doctors to make the case that the party was putting the best interests of the country ahead of its own as it attempted to heal a divided nation by exiling the President to his gilded tower.
But get rid of Trump, and Republicans could get a pretty sweet return on their risky investment. Not just Pence, who will likely give them everything they might have gotten from Trump without the distaste and drama, but potentially Paul Ryan as Vice President and the prospect of not eight years of presidential power, but 16.
The trouble is, the longer Republicans wait, the more entrenched Trump will be, the more ferocious the opposition to his reign will become and the more likely the party will suffer down the road.