Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Trump Is Cornered, But It's Wishful Thinking To Believe He's At A Breaking Point

Today's riff is on a recurring theme: Has Donald Trump finally reached his breaking point? 
It was inevitable that things would go badly for Trump, a deeply corrupt reality TV star and faux billionaire who scratched the compliant Republican Party tummy and, with considerable help from Russia, social media and quirks of the Electoral College, backed into a presidency for which he is profoundly unqualified. 
Nowhere is Trump's disqualification more apparent than his overarching ignorance of what it takes to be a true leader -- as opposed to being a garden-variety bully -- coupled with a deep disrespect for the Constitution, which is the bedrock of American democracy, and disdain for the institutions that are the glue binding that democracy together.   The surprise is that it has taken nearly three years to reach what, for all the world, looks like his breaking point. 
Trump's greatest concern in being a bully has been projecting strength, but he is weakened on virtually every front and now is in danger of being forced from office.  Writes Philip Rucker at The Washington Post:
Trump now finds himself mired in a season of weakness.  Foreign leaders feel emboldened to reject his pleas or to contradict him.  Officials inside his administration are openly defying his wishes by participating in the impeachment probe.  Federal courts have ruled against him.  Republican lawmakers are criticizing him.  He has lost control over major conservative media organs.  Polling shows that Americans increasingly disapprove of his job performance and support his impeachment.
Does this mean the president finally has reached that breaking point, especially as he slouches into the heart of the third straight week during which his White House of Cards continues to collapse around him?  Sadly, no.  And declarations among the punditocracy that a point of some sort -- breaking, tipping, inflection or name your own point -- has been reached are so much wishful thinking. 
This is because the cracks in the firewall of Republican congressional support are more like hairline fractures, although there is a glimmer of hope here.   
Trump tried to mitigate his disastrous Syria troop withdrawal only when Republicans objected.  And although he blamed Democrats when he reversed course barely 24 hours after awarding the G7 summit meeting in 2020 to his struggling Doral golf resort in Florida, his capitulation was because of Republican outcries over his crass violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits a president from profiting from his office. 
While House impeachment investigators certainly aren't swayed by Trump's latest effort to move the ethical goal posts yet again, let alone Mick Mulvaney's instantly infamous "I have news for everybody: Get over it" imprecation.  The present danger is that while Trump is mindful of Republican disaffection, the White House's fiendishly brazen Ukraine scandal defense is succeeding where it counts in keeping the house of cards from completely collapsing. 
The defense goes something like this: Hey, we're not even bothering to deny that Trump shook down Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for political gain by withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to fight Russian aggression because that's well within a president's rights, a pretzel-logical legal argument that is central to his impeachment defense.  Republicans are arguing that the Ukraine quid pro quo might have been inappropriate, but is not impeachable. 
The hope here is that as Trump comes under even more pressure and becomes even more paranoid (he called the impeachment inquiry a "lynching" in a racially charged tweet on Tuesday as yet another State Department official disobeyed him and met with House investigators), he will further alienate at least some of his defenders. 
That official, William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, delivered the most explosive testimony yet when he described the quid pro quo the White House continues to deny in stark terms: Diplomats were told the desperately needed aid to fight Russian aggression would not be released nor would Trump meet with Zelensky until he agreed to making a public pledge to investigate Trump challenger Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. 
"Over 13,000 Ukrainians had been killed in the war, one or two a week.  More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance," Taylor wrote in his opening remarks, a necessary and overdue reminder that Trump's ego-tripping dirty work in helping carry Vladimir Putin's toxic water was exacting a human toll.    
The White House did not dispute Taylor, instead renewing its attack on the impeachment process.  Trump is demanding undivided Republican loyalty and pulling stunts like demanding the censure of Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman and impeachment leader, could boomerang.   Then there is the potential impact of forthcoming televised hearings in making the case for impeachment as Democrats prepare to wrap up a series of closed-door depositions on the Ukraine scandal.
And in its own perverse way, the cumulative effect of Trump's brazen corruption-in-plain-view modus operandi as with the Ukraine scandal may end up being the most effective way of turning those hairline fractures into real cracks. 
"When we're dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?" asked the late, great Elijah Cummings shortly before his death last week. 
House Democrats and the growing number of voters who say they favor removing Trump from office have answered that question.  But congressional Republicans have not, nor do they intend to until when -- and a very big if -- their hand is forced.     


Anonymous said...

A suitable caution.

KP said...

"Today we learned that President Trump used the power of the government to try to force a foreign leader to skew our public narrative about the 2020 election. We saw that he has given Russian president Vladimir Putin, who ran a disinformation campaign that swung the 2016 election in Trump's favor, a major win in the Middle East. And we watched the Republican-controlled Senate refuse to try to limit the skewing of our national narrative by foreign actors before the next presidential election."

~ Heather Cox Richardson, author & political historian, instructor at Boston College.

Dan Leo said...

Yeah, I'm not celebrating yet...

Bscharlott said...

I don't foresee any more shoes dropping in the Ukraine scandal, so absent something unexpected, it's hard to imagine the Senate Republican firewall breaking. However, FiveThirtyEight-dot-com shows poll-aggregate support for impeachment at exactly 50 percent today, and Trump's disapproval rating at nearly 55 percent (with approval at just 41 percent). So while impeachment may not result in Trump's removal, the electorate is likely to vote him out in a year. Trump's approval rating has oscillated within a fairly narrow band over the last two years (40-45 percent), but I suspect the latest dip may be permanent because of the grotesqueness of his recently revealed criminality. And Trump simply can't win unless his approval rating gets back to the mid-40s.

Anonymous said...

I thought at first it read "trump is cornho**d"

Bscharlott said...

One further point: betting markets now give the nod to a Democrat winning in 2020, showing you need to bet $125 on the Dems to win $100, which translates (I think) to 5-4 odds in their favor. See oddsshark-dot-com.

Unknown said...

According to our source the Republicans were just two votes shy of impeachment before last weeks betrayal of the Kurds and the Quid pro quo scandal. Giuliani is headed for jail....The Trump monster is going to be gone.....There will be an offer that he can not refuse. The whole passing of unqualified judges is a sign of desperation / vengeance. The rats are leaving a sinking ship....Putin's bitch in the WH will have to get a manicure in some other country. I can not imagine him staying to face the women of his abuse...the Chinese will not sign any agreement with some one who appears weak, crazy or out of control. He is being treated for heart disease according to Sanjay Gupta. Death or stroke by hamburger / diet coke is a definite possibility. We give him two years at most...he will lie in state in the Kremlin...oy