My advice is that you refrain from staring at this eclipse of the presidency, lest it permanently singe your spirit. Last night’s Phoenix rally wasn’t Berlin ’33, but if you were to translate the mythomaniac’s rant into German, retain the toxic tonality, and score it on radio with Wagner music, you’d conjure the old days.
And as the demagogue sustained his harangue — mocking Arizona’s two Republican senators, denouncing the Republican Senate for failing to kill Obamacare (he hurt the cause by failing to lead, but that’s another story), threatening to shut down our government this fall unless he gets a few billion for his Wall — I couldn’t help but wonder (not for the first time) what Republican leaders really think of this guy.
But wait! We need not wonder anymore. From Tuesday’s New York Times:
The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration …
In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly…
While maintaining a pose of public reserve, Mr. McConnell expressed horror to advisers last week after Mr. Trump’s comments equating white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va. with protestors who rallied against them.
The loyalists of Mitchworld are so fed up with the White House poseur that they’re dissing him via leaks to the so-called “fake news” media. Turns out, the Senate leader and the so-called president haven’t spoken to each other for two weeks. Welcome to the den of dysfunction that passes for all-Republican governance.
Their last contact came on Aug. 9. At the time, Trump propoganda minister Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered no details, except to say that “health care was obviously discussed.” But now we know what really happened. According to today’s story, they had “a profane shouting match,” sparked by two Trump accusations — that McConnell had bungled the kill-Obamacare crusade, and that McConnell had failed “to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.”
Is that priceless or what?
Given the fact that Congress is a constitutionally co-equal branch of government (a fact that Trump seems not to have learned), it’s not McConnell’s job to “protect” a president from Senate oversight. But more importantly, McConnell tried his best last autumn to protect candidate Trump; even when it was abundantly clear that the Russians were meddling, McConnell questioned the intelligence and refused to sign a bipartisan letter that would’ve put state election officials on high alert. Alas, Trump doesn’t do gratitude. In his view, servants can never do enough for their masters.
And at the time of the Aug. 9 call, which Trump initiated, he was already fuming about remarks that McConnell had made two days earlier. During a speech in his home state, McConnell said that Trump had “excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process. Part of the reason I think people feel we’re underperfoming is because of too many artificial deadlines unrelated to the complexity of legislating.” Trump took that as an insult. Which it was, deservedly so.
McConnell was right to suggest, in his mild way, that Trump doesn’t have a clue about Capitol Hill. (Rest assured, he’s been ticked about Trump’s incessant summer tweets assailing the Senate Republicans as “fools.”) On the other hand, Trump is right when he says that Republicans had seven years to come up with a viable alternative to Obamacare and “couldn’t get it done.” That’s all true, even if we ignore the fact that Trump’s knowledge of health care policy could fit on one page of a coloring book.
This infighting, this tawdry exhibition of mutual disrespect, would be entertaining if not for the perils awaiting us on the horizon: a potential government shutdown, a potential budget crisis, a potential debt default unless Republicans raise the ceiling — the basic functions that we have inexplicably entrusted to these warring characters. We’re all in the car trunk as they fight for the steering wheel, careening near the cliff.
Al Hoffman, a former national Republican finance chairman, reportedly says of Trump, “I think he’s going to blow up, self-implode. I wouldn’t be surprised if McConnell pulls back his support of Trump and tries to go it alone.”
Yeah, maybe. But, as evidenced by last night’s rally, Trump still plays Pied Piper to the slice of the base that hates McConnell and the Republican establishment. All we know for sure is that there’s anger on many sides. But they are not very fine people.