If this is the beginning of the end for President Trump, don’t expect him to go quietly.
His bluster was on full display while addressing Coast Guard Academy graduates at their recent commencement ceremony. During the worst week (so far) of his presidency, Trump used his time at the podium to talk about himself. “You have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight,” he said. “Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.” Later he added, “You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.”
Right now, Trump’s dream may be to survive his first year in office.
Even with near-daily revelations about a presidency in what Republican Senator Bob Corker calls “a downward spiral,” it’s unlikely that Trump will be vacating the White House any time soon. It’s worth remembering two years passed between news of a burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex and Richard Nixon’s resignation August 1974. Evicting a president from office is no small feat.
Still, alarms are pealing louder even within his party. Senator John McCain said Trump’s burgeoning troubles are “reaching a point where it’s of Watergate size and scale.” Meanwhile, Representative Justin Amash became the first Republican to say impeachment is a possibility if former FBI Director James Comey’s memo, alleging Trump’s attempt to discourage Comey from continuing an investigation into fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, is true.
Everything about Trump’s personality says he’s the type who’d rather flip the checkerboard than lose. If we’re slowly inching toward a day when he finds himself forced to pack up his gaudy gold Oval Office drapes, the question now is how much damage he’ll inflict before this mess, one way or another, is done.
Will Trump take cues from his recent White House guest Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose brutish security forces pulverized a group of peaceful protesters in front of the Turkish Embassy? The State Department and some lawmakers have condemned the fracas, but Trump was slow to respond to a foreign nation’s goons attacking people exercising their constitutional rights on American soil.
Trump’s tendency to stoke unruly mobs and tolerate violence, apparent at some of his campaign rallies, is especially worrisome. At the Coast Guard commencement, Trump was presented with a ceremonial saber. Unaware of a hot microphone, he was heard agreeing with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly’s suggestion to “Use [the saber] on the press, sir.”
Then there was a recent Trump fundraising email which claims, “There are people within our own unelected bureaucracy that want to sabotage President Trump and our entire America First movement,” and that the media is “out to get us.” It continued: “We have no choice but to completely DRAIN THE SWAMP. President Trump has already started cleaning house, but every day will be an uphill battle — and we need to be prepared to go into the trenches to FIGHT BACK.”
Note those plural pronouns. In our current political climate, this is tantamount to juggling lit candles in a house made of hay. Trump’s message is direct: His defeat would be his supporters’ defeat. If he is stopped, they are stopped, and the country they believe belongs to them alone will again be ripped from their grasp. When Trump used to tick off his list of perceived problems, he would often add, “I alone can fix it.” That’s his supporters’ ardent belief — 96 percent of them say they would vote for him again. Given the backing he’s received from racist and extremist groups, I shudder to think how his words might spur them to protect his presidency.
By now, we all recognize that Trump is immune to moderation, and has the instincts of a rabid raccoon when cornered. His presidency is stultified by scandal, and its failure is a humiliation he will not easily abide. Trump might crow about “America first,” but nothing comes before his own interests. As his troubles mount, he’ll pull whatever stunt is necessary to survive, even if making America great again ultimately means laying it to waste.Renée Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham