He just can’t get anything right, this guy, not even the no-brainers. The Presidency sets some very high bars for anyone unwise enough to have sought the office, no doubt, but it’s not all the sort of stuff that ages its occupants in dog years – the job hands out a few merciful gimmes too. At Thanksgiving you get to pardon a turkey or two. Come Christmas, you get to push a button that lights up the national Christmas Tree. There’s that Easter Egg thing on the South Lawn, with the kids, and the guy in the bunny suit.
A little more challenging, but still pretty easy, is the stage-managed Presidential visit to the noble troops deployed overseas in one or another of America’s many active war zones. After going on two decades of continuous combat all over the globe, there’s always an active war zone somewhere these days, so all the President has to do is pick one, pay a surprise visit, shake some hands, pose for some selfies, maybe dish out some hot grub in the chow line, and give a little speech thanking the young men and women for their service. The hardest parts are the flights in and out, which may involve some risk of insurgents with shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles lurking around the airport perimeter fence. After that, easy peasey.
Every President does it. It’s a slam dunk. Still, there’s a set of protocols, little norms and rules, and that means that you can mess it up, so of course that’s just what Our Donnie does. Having selected Iraq as the war zone du jour, where a sizeable US presence remains following the campaign against ISIS, he flew in on his Great Big Jet and strutted around as if Mesopotamia is still occupied territory, and not a sovereign country with a democratically elected government. He didn’t even meet any Iraqi officials. Instead, he gave what amounted to a campaign rally speech in a hangar, touting his stinking Wall, whining about the Dems, and proclaiming that America was tired of paying for all these overseas military escapades, and was being played for a sucker by ingrate foreigners – no doubt the Iraqi PM, had he been on hand, would have expressed his sincere regret for having gulled the US into invading his country back in 2003. Later, he signed a bunch of MAGA hats for the troops – likely getting a bunch of officers in trouble, because, for reasons too obvious to repeat here, military personnel are not allowed to participate in politicking, which isn’t just a norm, like the rule against giving partisan political speeches to captive military audiences, but a no bullshit DOD Regulation. By the time he was back home members of the Iraqi Parliament were debating whether to throw US forces out of their country.
In all, it was the usual obscenity. Vintage Trump. Same clown show as always.
That sort of thing isn’t what’s going to get him tossed from office, though.
Neither, when he finally gets the boot, will it be because he shut down the Federal Government in order to force the US taxpayer to buy a wall he swore up and down Mexico was going to pay for, and which nobody outside of the Base even wants. It won’t be because anyone’s going to remember that he spent the Christmas holidays tweeting out hilarious propaganda, including a fake photo of himself hard at work signing blank sheets of paper purporting to be bills that don’t exist, and a phony claim that he was somehow signing a construction contract for 115 miles of border wall, a strangely precise fabrication, perhaps the product of having learned somewhere along the way that a figure pulled out of your ass sounds more believable if it’s not a round number like 100, or 200.
It’s not even enough that he runs a dangerous, impulsive, seat-of-his-fat-pants foreign policy that involves ill-conceived abandonment of military commitments, likely at the behest of foreign dictators, some of whom get a pass when they murder journalists. It won’t be owing to his avowed love for those foreign dictators, either, or his disdain for traditional allies, or the hopeless failure of bogus policy initiatives like the farcical “negotiating” with North Korea about nukes, while the latest Kim grins like a polecat and dicks him around. It won’t be because he’s obviously Putin’s lap dog, or in the thrall of Erdogan and MbS.
It won’t be panic over the complete absence of all the supposed adults in the room that he started out with, Tillerson, Mattis, Kelly, McMaster, all fallen by the wayside.
It won’t be because of his cruel immigration policies, the child separation, the gulag tent cities set up in the middle of Nowhere, Texas to house the masses of confiscated youths, or because kids keep dying in the custody of the border patrol. It won’t be the paralysis of leaving half of his government, from the cabinet level on down, including key foreign ambassador positions, to consist of empty posts. It won’t be because he appoints a former couch ornament from Fox and Friends to be UN Ambassador, or that he brags about owning the government shut-down and then tries to blame the Dems when it happens. It won’t be because he flouts the Constitution at every opportunity, whether it’s taking financial benefits from foreign governments, or appointing an unconfirmed lackey to serve as his pet Attorney General. It won’t be his general incoherence, his manic, idiotic tweets, or the rank corruption endemic to his administration, or even the way that every second cabinet minister has had to skip town under a cloud of scandal and illegality. It won’t be the endless, sometimes nutty lies, no matter how many thousand are catalogued by Daniel Dale.
It won’t be the merely embarrassing stuff, like his already forgotten play date with Kanye, the artist dropping M-bombs in the Oval while a gaggle of bewildered reporters was herded in to take it all down and snap shots of the President’s puzzled, uncomprehending face. It won’t be his outrageous press conferences, or his gaffes like referring to the incinerated California town of Paradise as “Pleasure”, or the way he tends to wander around looking lost when he’s on stage with foreign dignitaries, or gets off the plane and strolls aimlessly away from his waiting limo at the bottom of the stairs, preferring to meander towards the middle of the runway. It won’t be the searing image of several feet of toilet paper stuck to his shoe as he climbed ponderously into Air force One.
It won’t even be because of the tsunami of revelations that’s bound to hit his administration when Mueller’s findings become public, and Nadler and Schiff get going up on the Hill, bad as all that’s going to be, and folks, that’s going to be bad. We can’t even imagine, yet, just how awful.
No, Mitch and his merry band are still quite capable of getting between all that and Trump, if it’s worth their while.
What’s finally going to turn the worm here is, in large part, the economy, which is starting to stumble towards the inevitable recession after a record period of expansion inherited from the prior administration, and kept rolling by the sugar highs of corporate tax breaks and deregulation. That was fun, but now the deficit is ballooning just as interest rates are climbing, and that’s going to suck up more and more of the Federal budget, just paying the vig on the debt, crowding out the sort of government spending that keeps an economy humming, or “primes the pump” when there’s a downturn. Pile on top of that the plunging stock market, the painful trade wars, his goofball Treasury Secretary saying stupid things that send ripples of anxiety through the financial system, the budget chaos, the instability in established trading relationships, the fights with the Fed, and the brute fact that the oligarchs already got their f’ing tax break, and can’t get another, not now that the Dems run the House. Now add the constant drumbeat of manufacturing job losses, wage stagnation, crushing student and consumer debt, and the economic costs of climate change (which are about to rise precipitously), and it all amounts to an impending end to the Happy Days. Very soon, it won’t be worth Mitch’s while to get in the way of the bullets for Donald. Nobody who frightens him will be insisting any more that he prop Trump up. The elites will soon be turning on Donald, just as a sense of wounded betrayal builds among the ranks of the poor saps who voted him in.
The flagging economy will thus be a big part of promoting a trend that’s already discernible. Two things have kept Trump alive through the disastrous first half of his Presidency, and both are disintegrating.
First is the Fear Factor, the Republican terror of the Base. The whole GOP has been creeping around quivering in terror, like the adults brutalized by the telekinetic kid in that episode of The Twilight Zone. All hail the Orange God King. It’s good that Trump did that. The Republicans have learned that if you look at Trump sideways he’ll post a mean tweet, which will galvanize the Base, with fatal consequences come your next electoral at-bat. It won’t be that you’ll lose the next election – you won’t get to run at all. You’ll be “primaried” when the Base shows up to make sure you’re replaced as a GOP candidate by somebody a little more Trumpy. All Republican politicians live in dread of this mortal threat. If you want to know why, say, Paul Ryan became Trump’s poodle, or Lindsey Graham twisted himself like a clown-made balloon animal into something that rants Trumpist nonsense, there’s your answer.
The Base has always seemed unassailable, but I’ve been claiming for a couple of years now that it isn’t, and looking like a dummy all the way. Well, maybe this year will witness my sweet vindication. I think the Base will start to show obvious signs of crumbling soon. For one thing, Donald promised them a Wall, and there ain’t gonna be no Wall. I suppose they’ll cobble together some sort of face-saving illusion to get the government back up and running, like his “beautiful steel slats”, but that’s not the Great Wall of Tex-Mex that he promised, 30, 40, 50 feet tall, solid, with spikes on top and ‘gators in the moat below, and Mexico wont be paying for it, which is OK because even Wall Lite 2.0 will never be built.
Perhaps more important, economic realities, exacerbated by inhumane Republican policies, have got to begin to tell at some point. You can only fool a bunch of people for so long that they’re getting a tax break that doesn’t show up on their pay stubs, that their manufacturing jobs aren’t leaving the country when they are, that coal mining is coming back when it isn’t, that trade wars are easy to win when they can’t sell their crops because of retaliatory tariffs, that they’re going to get better, cheaper health care when they don’t, that up is down, black is white, and they should believe him, not the Fake News or their own lyin’ eyes. When you suddenly can’t afford health insurance any more, when just a couple of years ago you could, that’s not fake news. When you lose your job, nobody can tell you you didn’t. Nobody can convince you that you have something you don’t have, not for long, anyway. He can only tell you it’s coming, always just over the horizon, so be patient, all will be delivered; but it never will be, and soon that’s going to matter. All his life Trump has left nothing but crushed hopes and cheated dupes in his wake, and that’s where most of the Base now finds itself wallowing, watching the SS Donald sail over the horizon. Just wait until recession hits. If they haven’t quite cracked yet, they will then, if not right away then maybe when, to rub salt in the wounds, he cuts them off food stamps, or kills another job retraining program. Maybe the breaking point will come when GM, GE, or Boeing ships another few production lines to Mexico or Asia.
One way or another, before long, that solid 39% of the electorate that believes Trump is the Messiah will be dwindling to the point that it’s no longer decisive to the fortunes of Republican politicians. I know this seems impossible today. It’s not. The people will lose faith in their false god, and this will free Republicans from what’s become a Hobson’s choice: pander to Trump so you won’t get primaried, but then lose the general election. As soon as the Base no longer looks likely to show up in numbers sufficient to deprive them of their candidacies in the GOP primaries, the Republicans will run away from Trump like a pack of mangy dogs that all just got shot in their stinging hindquarters by a scatter-gun loaded with birdshot over rock salt. Which is fast.
They’ll jump ship not because they’re finally able to do the right thing, but because of the most crucial factor of all: Donald is ceasing to be useful to the donor class. The support of the monied 0.001% was the second thing, and I think by far the most important thing, keeping Trump in office, and the loss of that support is why he’ll shortly be eased out the back entrance. Donald has served his purpose. The obscenely wealthy can’t squeeze any more out of this Presidency, and in fact they’re starting to perceive a growing risk to some of their own skin in the game, which is intolerable. Their part of the economy is under stress too. Republicans in Congress will soon be hearing from their paymasters that it’s time to cut the idiot loose, that Pence will do just fine if another Supreme Court vacancy opens up, and that will be that. Thus motivated, and no longer afraid of the disintegrating Base, Mitch McConnell has only to step out of the way and let nature take its course, as all the scandals, failures, lies, crimes, conspiricies with Russians, epic corruption, and all the rest come home to roost. They’ll let Trump go, by resignation or impeachment, because he can’t do them any good anymore, and they’ll want to run somebody else in 2020. If we’re really lucky, Trump will agree to go quietly in return for a pardon from President Pence, forgetting that Pence can’t innoculate him against the State charges which will promptly send him and everybody he knows to the slam.
Trump won’t survive 2019. This will all be over soon, because as ever, money talks.
Unless I’m dead wrong, you know, like always.