BY IAN PATTISON
It’s hard not to write about Donald Trump. A gross succession of social and political offences keep attention riveted on the U.S. president. But how often do you go to that well without overflowing it? Then he exceeds his own malfeasance and you get drawn in again. It’s easy to offer an alternative view because he’s so wrong so often.
The list of Trump’s breaches of decency and the law are legion. He has shown massive disrespect for women and immigrant children, Congress and the courts, the news media, for anyone who dares cross him no matter their station or legitimacy. Trump is never wrong, so he tells us.
For years he has been able to lean on a variety of people to insulate him from the consequences of his actions. But one can only keep that up for so long before things begin to fall apart. Slowly but surely Trump’s ridiculousness has drawn those with intimate knowledge of it into the open. The president’s go-to response is to call their revelations hoaxes, politically-motivated to bring him down.
Incredibly, a loyal base of Trump supporters refuses to acknowledge the plain truth. How could it be, for example, that after a recording surfaced in 2016 of then-candidate Trump boasting about grabbing women by the p---y because when you’re famous you can, you still see thousands of “Women For Trump” signs at his rallies? This was the first hint the public got of the real Trump, and his unreal followers.
When he began to use U.S. international relations for his political aggrandizement, the dam started to crack. Respected political staffers who’d had enough lined up to testify at impeachment proceedings brought by House Democrats. But the Republican Senate held fast and Trump escaped his punishment.
Lately, though, there’s real change in the air. One by one, people in power and authority are willing to speak the truth.
It began in 2017 with James Comey, the FBI director who testified in support of the Mueller report into Russian interference in the 2016 election. This month the Supreme Court refused to release the report’s many redacted sections. But while the court lately leans right, it has recently gone against the president on matters of immigration, the census, and the Second Amendment, prompting Trump to claim the court was out to get him.
He got really steamed Thursday when the court majority, including his appointees Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh as well as Chief Justice John Roberts, struck down Trump's efforts to stop New York investigators from subpoenaing his taxes and financial documents. Trump called the ruling part of "a political prosecution."
Others who have been felled by Trump’s temper include former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former Apprentice star Omarosa Manigault Newman who left the White House to write a book titled Unhinged. Trump called her a lowlife.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from Russian interference investigations and was fired. White House counsel Don McGhan testified to Mueller’s team and drew Trump’s wrath. Trump’s lawyer and political fixer Michael Cohen began recording his conversations with the president as they grew increasingly dodgy and co-operated with Mueller.
Others who realized the danger of being in Trump’s orbit and either quit or were fired include campaign adviser Rick Gates, national security adviser Michael Flynn, campaign chair Paul Manafort, chief of staff Reince Priebus and Gen. James Mattis, the defence secretary who eloquently made clear in his resignation letter that Trump’s views were not based on solid information and knowledge.
Evangelical leaders and some Trump supporters in Congress recoiled from his infamous march to a church near the White House last month during protests over the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis to hold aloft a Bible as a prop. Peaceful protesters had been tear-gassed and bowled over by soldiers to clear a path to the church.
Trump and Vice-president Mike Pence are increasingly out of touch with the deadly growth of the coronavirus. Actually, it’s worse than that. They are deliberately downplaying the seriousness of this global pandemic in favour of business opening now and schools in September. The CDC director is openly defying the schools plan.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious diseases specialist, is growing more defiant of Trump’s expectation that he toe the line. Doctors throughout the country are aghast at Trump’s determined suggestions that the economy matters more than American lives, 132,000 of which have been lost so far with cases topping 3 million.
Lately, some Republicans see signs that while Trump finally seems to realize he’s on the wrong track, he’s determined to stay in his own narrow lane in order to keep his base intact. His despondent walk from his marine helicopter to the White House following a sparsely attended rally in Tulsa, where COVID-19 rages, told the tale about his state of mind. He’s desperate and despondent as his polling numbers crater while Democratic rival Joe Biden maintains a consistent lead.
Things are so bad that he’s reportedly furious at son-in-law and confidante Jared Kushner for the poor polling numbers. He hasn’t turned on daughter Ivanka, yet.
A report in Vanity Fair last week revealed that, “Nervous Republicans worried about losing the Senate are now debating when to break from Trump (as) internal polls show Trump’s level of “strong support” dropping . . . A Republican strategist close to (Senate majority leader) Mitch McConnell (said) that Republicans have Labour Day penciled in as the deadline for Trump to have turned things around. After that, he’s on his own.”
That’s less than two months. Not a lot of time for a man who won’t change, can’t change, to change. But time enough for him to summon up his worst, venomous self to demonize Biden with a cascade of exaggerations and lies in hopes that some of them stick. Right now, given the shifting mood of a country increasingly wary of Trump, that doesn’t seem like it will be enough to keep a fraud in office.
Ian Pattison is retired as editorial page editor of The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.