Donald Trump’s Oval Office performance-art masterpiece Wednesday was one for the ages, a pity-party, stompy-foot screech session by President Snowflake von Pissypants, the most put-upon man ever to hold the highest office in the land. If you watched his nationally televised press conference, Trump’s shrill, eye-popping hissy fit scanned like the end of a long, coke-fueled bender where the itchy, frenzied paranoia is dry-humping the last ragged gasps of the earlier party-powder fun.
Between calling Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) a panoply of Trumpish insults (and for the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to be held for treason), engaging in his usual hatred of the press, talking about Mike Pompeo’s intimate undergarments, and quite obviously scaring the shit out of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto—who looked like he was the very unwilling star of an ISIS hostage video—Trump spent the day rapidly decompensating, and it was a hideous spectacle. All the Maximum Leader pronunciamentos won’t change the reality that Donald John Trump, 45th president of the United States, has lost his shit.
In private, Republicans are in the deepest despair of the Trump era. They’ve got that hang-dog, dick-in-the-dirt fatalism of men destined to die in a meaningless battle in a pointless war. They’ve abandoned all pretense of recapturing the House, their political fortunes in the states are crashing and burning, and the stock-market bubble they kept up as a shield against the downsides of Trump—“but muh 401(k)!”—is popping.
You want to know why so few Republicans have held town-hall meetings since early 2017? Because Trump is the cancer they deny is consuming them from the inside out. They see the political grave markers of 42 of their GOP House colleagues—and several hundred down-ballot Republicans—booted from office since 2017 and know that outside of the deepest red enclaves, they’re salesmen for a brand no one is buying.
I have some bad news, Republicans. It never gets better. There is no daylight at the end of this tunnel. Trump is a suicide bomber, and you’ve strapped yourselves to him so tightly that when he explodes, you’re going out to meet the 72 porn stars of the Trumpian afterlife with him. (Spoiler alert: They all look like Ivanka.)
Even now, as Trump roars and rants, they’re so genuinely terrified that he’ll unleash his mob on them—“Say hello to my leetle tweets!”—that they are hiding so deep in the tall grass, they’re indistinguishable from the landscape. Many are desperately looking for long CODEL trips to Bouvet Island or taking vows of social-media abstinence.
To carry the coke-bender analogy one step further—yes, likely too far, but I’m on a roll—the people along for the ride with this president keep pretending they can stop any time, that they’re just recreational Trump users, and that it’s just harmless fun... at least in public.
You would think some survival instinct would kick in, but no.
Trump is going to burn down everyone and everything, hoping that he can once again escape sanction and accountability, though both the number and severity of his blossoming array of problems don’t seem amenable to the usual hold-my-beer tweetstorms that have worked so well for him so many times.
The game is unraveling fast, and every day makes it harder for his Ukraine Clown Posse to escape from a finally energized Congress. Part of it, of course, is that the players in Trumpworld seem to keep committing crimes on the daily, which does, as they say in the legal world, complicate things.
Trump rubbed congressional noses in shit for three years, but the oversight committees are finally off the mat and fighting. Trump is neither able nor prepared to fight off opponents who respond to insults with subpoenas and to shit-talking with investigations. If you work in the administration, lawyer up, because the fun is over.
Sure, the Trumphadi stalwarts who have been trotting out to Fox since the Ukraine story broke continue to gamely spin lurid and improbable tales of made-up perfidy by Joe Biden, the Deep State, the Bavarian Illuminati, and whoever else pops up on the conspiracy radar that day. There’s trouble in Rupert’s Paradise, though, as a small but vocal number of Fox hosts are willing to call—to use an Officially Recognized Presidential Phrase—bullshit on Mad Don’s lunatic impeachment defense.
Trump’s manic performance Wednesday was distressing to watch, even for his supporters. Far from being the master of transgressive politics, his anger and frustration are evident and ugly. He’s lost control of the story and of himself. Trump can’t keep the process running on his terms and his timetable, and it’s driving him deeper into what I call the Eccentric Dictator Phase of his Presidency.
Few people on either side of the political divide understand that this is the new normal. We’re in for months of a slow-boil constitutional crisis as Team Trump mounts a game defense of an indefensible president and his indefensible acts by claiming unlimited executive powers and total immunity from the law and justice. We’re in for a reshaping of the political battlefield of 2020 from the top down.
It’s going to get very, very ugly... uglier than a spiked fence with a snake moat covered in Trump-brand logos.
This week, a live rat was spotted scurrying around the White House Press Room, and it reminded me of a quote from Winston Churchill, who once said, “Beware of driving men to desperation. Even a cornered rat is dangerous.” The Press Room rat briefly captured the media’s attention, but the pressure and focus on the bigger, more desperate, and more dangerous rat in the Oval Office is just beginning.