Renée Graham

The gravitational pull of Donald Trump’s downward spiral

President Trump arrived at a factory in Alvarado, Texas, on Thursday.
President Trump arrived at a factory in Alvarado, Texas, on Thursday.Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

David S. Bernstein, a political journalist, tweeted on Wednesday:

Such a simpler time in America.

Was that just a year ago when Donald Trump provoked Stormy Daniels, only to get dragged to filth? In this upending, time-warping presidency, minutes feel like hours, hours like days, days like weeks.

Here’s where we were just a year ago:

Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford. He cast doubt on Saudi Arabia’s obvious involvement in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He falsely hyped a “migrant caravan” moving toward the southern border to ramp up racist resentment before the midterm elections. At a Houston rally, Trump declared, “You know what I am — I’m a nationalist.”


Compared to the quicksand in which our nation is now rapidly sinking, history may remember last October as the halcyon days of the Trump administration. In this new dark age, there is no limit to Trump’s stunning depravity or incompetence.

This has been an especially hideous time in an ugly presidency. With Trump facing an impeachment inquiry, he is terrified by the thought that, for the first time in his life, he may be held accountable for his actions. He reportedly had a “meltdown” during a meeting with House Democrats, prompting Speaker Nancy Pelosi to tell reporters, “I think now we have to pray for his health.” Trump, she said, seemed “very shaken up” by recent events.

That includes Wednesday’s nonbinding resolution condemning Trump’s craven betrayal of the Kurds. By an overwhelming 354 to 60, including two-thirds of Republicans, the measure highlighted not only Trump’s disastrous approach to foreign policy, but also his callousness toward the Kurdish people who fought ISIS for years alongside now-withdrawn American troops.

(Vice President Mike Pence claimed Thursday that the administration negotiated a “cease-fire,” while Turkey, which has been killing Kurdish civilians, is using the more ominous phrase, “a pause.”)


Trump’s foul decision in northern Syria, and its barbarous consequences, is even garnering a reaction from Senator Lindsey Graham, who was famously against Trump the candidate before he was infamously for him as president. Graham called it “the biggest mistake” of Trump’s presidency. (FYI: Graham did not suddenly grow a conscience. Even as the death toll rises, Graham will continue to support Trump because, “At least he’ll appoint better judges and he’ll do other things.”)

Meanwhile, the Ukraine scandal metastasizes every day. Against Trump’s wishes, more members of his administration are helping various investigations. Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, told Congress that Trump directed diplomats to work with Rudy Giuliani on matters related to Ukraine. “I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the President’s 2020 reelection campaign,” according to a copy of his prepared statement obtained by several news outlets. The wall Trump built around his administration is crumbling, and he’s paying for it.

From his erratic press conferences to that bizarre, childish letter he wrote to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Trump is a man undone. It has become harder for him to gaslight anyone (other than his unmovable base) into believing a criminal act isn’t a criminal act when the president commits it. Even Republicans are bristling at this president’s boldface corruption, not that anyone should bank on GOP senators, led by majority leader Mitch McConnell, to do the right thing, such as removing Trump from office.


Who can predict, but this may be the beginning of a final act of a tragedy neither Shakespeare nor Verdi could have conjured. Trump is notorious for not paying his bills, but an enormous one is finally coming due — for a presidency built on, and collapsing under, assorted malfeasance.

Trump’s downward spiral, and its gravitational pull on the nation, is growing perilously deeper. And this much we know — he will get worse. He can only get worse.

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.