What a week! We’ve never seen so much losing, and for as long as Trump clings to his perch, we’ll never get sick of the losing.
It’s fitting that #FridayFailure is trending on Twitter, because there’s so much material to work with. For starters, his vow to repeal and replace Obamacare has blown up in his face, because late last night the Republican Senate’s Keystone Cops quest to kill the law crashed and burned. Remember Trump’s festive spring celebration with the House members who sought to strip health care from tens of millions of Americans? Oh well, he’ll always have the Rose Garden.
The death of the repeal crusade — thanks to Republican dissenters Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and John McCain (at this point, what can Trump do to him?) — marks a great day for America. McCain, casting the pivotal No and atoning for his tendency to talk rebellion and vote tribally, did a big favor for the many Republican colleagues who hated Mitch McConnell’s craven repeal manuevers but hesitated about voting No. The big lesson last night is that the Republican Senate doesn’t fear or respect Trump; in the end, it opted to humiliate him.
Indeed, humiliation turns out to be the theme of the week. Finally, we’re starting to see some pushback, on virtually all fronts:
1. Both chambers overwhelmingly passed legislation to bar Putin’s fanboy from lifting sanctions on his friends in Russia — the Senate measure bolsters its oversight powers over Trump — and there are more than enough votes to override a Trump veto.
2. A Senate bill is being readied to bar Trump from firing special counsel Robert Mueller. (Trump is terrified that Mueller will find what Trump fears he will find.) In the words of Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, “Some of the suggestions that the president is making go way beyond what’s acceptable in a rule-of-law nation. This is not ‘draining the swamp.’ What he’s interjecting is turning democracy upside down.”
3. For Trump to fire Mueller, he’d first need to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from overseeing the Russia probe. But Republican senators this week bluntly told Trump to stop harassing the guy. Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley said that if Sessions goes, he will refuse to hold any hearings on an AG replacement. Another Republican member of the committee, Ben Sasse, said, “If you’re thinking of making a recess appointment to push out the attorney general, forget about it. The presidency isn’t a bull, and this country isn’t a china shop.” And Graham warned that if Trump fires Sessions, there will be “holy hell to pay.”
4. Congress is soldiering on with its Trump-Russia hearings; yesterday’s highlight was Senate Judiciary’s hosting of international businessman William Browder, whose Russian lawyer was allegedly killed in a Russian jail after the two men tried to expose Putin-linked corruption. Without directly referencing the meetings that Trump officials are known to have held with Russian figures, Browder summed up the dynamic with this chilling observation: “Effectively the moment that you enter into their world, you become theirs.”
5. Trump’s Wednesday tweet-decree, barring transgender soldiers from the military, was publicly trashed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Trump had claimed in his tweet that he’d consulted with military leaders, but apparently — don’t be shocked — he blatantly lied. Because it’s clear the Joint Chiefs chair wasn’t on board. General Joseph Dunford said yesterday that unless Trump clarifies his tweet with actual substance, there will be “no modifications to the current policy,” which protects the thousands of transgender Americans who are currently putting themselves in harm’s way. Dunford said, “We will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”
6. The chief executive of the Boy Scouts felt compelled to apologize for Trump’s narcissistic tirade at this week’s Jamboree: “We have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.” Try in vain to think of the last time the Boy Scouts had to distance themselves from a president.
7. The conservative commentariat is ridiculing Trump with creative fervor. This morning, longtime Republican pundit Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal, “The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity. He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s White House at this point is less harmonious and more dysfunctionally detestable than the mob clan in “Goodfellas.” I highly recommend that you read the latest remarks by the new propaganda minister, Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci. I can’t quote him — this is a family blog — but suffice it to say that he describes Steve Bannon as a master of oral sex selfies. One day (it won’t be long), we’ll look back with mirth at The Mooch’s truncated tenure and look forward to Ray Liotta playing him in the movie.
To quote the historian Joshua Zeitz, writing on Twitter, “It’s Team of Rivals but for morons.”
And that’s just this week. Let’s all hope that next week spares us a real crisis, because we prefer not to imagine how the loser and his losing minions would behave under pressure — and how the American institutions that are keeping us afloat would choose to respond.