After hearing that from a man convicted of causing wrongful death, kidnapping and armed robbery — and who entered a no-contest plea on a case of wife-beating that sent Nicole Simpson to hospital (the eighth time the cops had answered a 911 call from the doomed woman) — I thought narcissistic bullshit couldn’t find a higher gear.
I was wrong.
Donald Trump subsequently claimed that he was the second most “presidential” person to occupy the White House … after Abraham Lincoln.
That might be the only time in recorded history that those two names have been linked. It also shows that Trump has never heard of people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Trump’s narcissistic mind is such a vacant lot, he even forgot Republican icon Ronald Reagan, who wasn’t apparently as presidential as the ‘second-most-presidential’ president. The absence of a sense of history is the cornerstone of his fact-free universe.
Trump’s actual “presidential” rating sank to new lows this past week. His eleventh-hour intervention with Republican Senator John McCain was a miserable failure. McCain voted against the GOP’s plan to strike down parts of Obamacare — the so-called “skinny repeal.”
And then there was what has been described as Trump’s “drunken stepdad” speech to 40,000 Boy Scouts, wherein he talked about fake news and the Washington “cesspool” and even slipped a few cuss words in — just the kind of lifter-upper the Scouts love, I’m sure.
“Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” Trump thundered. Then he went ahead and did just that.
Perhaps that’s why Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh apologized to the Scouting Community after Trump’s face-plant. How amazing is it that the Boy Scouts of America felt as an organization that it had to apologize for the words of a sitting U.S. president attending their jamboree?
And then there was Trump’s gratuitous, unwarranted and probably illegal scapegoating of transgender Americans serving in the U.S. military.
In his most infamous tweet to date — a policy-setting tweet, no less — the ‘second-most-presidential’ president unilaterally banned transgender citizens from serving in their country’s armed forces. Trump surrogates like Rep. Vicky Hartzler covered his tin-pot diktat with an enormous lie about the cost of dealing with transgender medical issues. They mused that taxpayers might have to fork over $1.35 billion in the process.
The truth? There are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender people on active duty in the U.S. military. Of those, between 29 and 129 are seeking transition-related health care. Based on those numbers, a 2016 study by the Rand Corp. found that the actual cost of gender related medical care was between $2.4 and $8.4 million. The Pentagon spends five times more on Viagra.
Still, the ‘second-most-presidential’ president unveiled this “policy” in true Trumpian style: without informing the Pentagon’s top brass, without saying how or when this unconsitutional ban would be rolled out, and without indicating whether transgender Americans who are already serving will be kicked out.
No wonder the Joint Chiefs of Staff have taken no action to implement Trump’s fiat by tweet. No wonder they want it all in writing, since they’re the ones who will have to defend it in Congress and in court.
Let’s be clear: Donald Trump is not draining the swamp. He’s clogging the drain.
Consider all the waste water that is backing up and flooding the Trump White House — all of it caused by the‘second-most-presidential’ president. The guy is clearly lost in some time warp version of The Apprentice.
Reince Priebus was dumped by Trump like yesterday’s fish. Priebus holds the dubious distinction of becoming the shortest serving presidential chief-of-staff in history — just six months.
The official story, of course, is that Priebus resigned. That’s the very definition of ‘fake news’. He was set up as a leaker, and promptly drowned like a kitten in the basement shortly thereafter.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer also bit the dust after telling lies on behalf of ‘second-most-presidential’ president for the same six-month period as Priebus, less one week. He too “resigned” with a shoe print on his backside.
The greater likelihood is that Spicer didn’t tell his lies with sufficient brio for the ‘second-most-presidential’ president. Trump needed a guy who looked sharp in suits, you know, a potty-mouthed hustler from Wall Street who could easily be mistaken for an up-and-coming Mafioso.
Enter Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci. Mooch debuted in his role as Trump’s new director of communications as though he were auditioning for a role in a re-make of Goodfellas, playing a downscale Joe Pesci.
Mooch lied his brains out on Day One, claiming he and Priebus were like brothers. Yeah — Cain and Abel.
No wait. There was a better whopper. Donald Trump, cooed Mooch, had the best political instincts of anyone in the world.
Really? There are firecrackers that last longer than many of Trump’s appointments. So much for political instincts. Take Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security advisor. Flynn found the door in jig-time after lying to the vice-president about clandestine meetings he’d had with the Russians — just 23 days in office before hitting the windshield like a junebug.
Those meetings allegedly included discussions of lifting sanctions against Vlad ‘the Impaler’ Putin and his band of oligarchs — something Pence had categorically denied. Now the FBI is investigating Flynn, as it is Donald Trump Jr., former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Other “resignations” from the White House staff include Katie Walsh, a former deputy-chief of staff who lasted three months, and Michael Dubke, former Trump director of communications and another three-month wonder. And then on Monday afternoon we got the word that Scaramucci, Trump’s standup guy, had either been fired or had decided to give new Chief of Staff John Kelly a “clean slate” by … being fired. Exit the Mooch.
The only important resignation came from Walter M. Shaub, the poor guy who headed up the Office of Government Ethics and had to advise the president on such matters. He concluded that Trump had no ethics and wasn’t in a big hurry to acquire any, busy as he was promoting his family businesses from the White House. So far, 43 visits to his own Trump golf courses. In Shaub’s opinion, Trump had turned his administration into an ethical “laughing-stock.”
Other victims of the Trump purge include three public officials who were involved in the Russia investigation: former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former FBI Director James Comey and U.S. Attorney for New York Preet Bharara — a money-trail if ever there was one.
And who might be next? Given what Scaramucci told Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker about resident White House nihilist Steve Bannon and his sexual acrobatics, it could be the Baron of Breitbart.
More likely the axe will fall a little higher up the food chain. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is dying the death of a thousand tweets. Trump has ridiculed him as “weak” and “beleaguered” in a series of early morning social media rants. The ‘second-most-presidential’ president keeps trying to make him walk the plank voluntarily; Sessions keeps saying “push me.”
How did it come to this? Trump says Sessions had failed to get after leakers in the intelligence community, and had gone easy on the alleged crimes of Hillary Clinton. The real reason, of course, is that Sessions recused himself from all things touching the Russia investigation. Accordingly, he cannot insulate the president from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long reach. He is therefore useless on the sliding scale of Trump political values.
But here is where the narrative changes from the episodic train-wreck of the current presidency — with a commander-in-chief who on Friday actually urged police to manhandle suspects — to the perfect storm that could remove Trump from office.
Should Trump dump Sessions and replace him with someone willing to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the pieces would be in a place for an impeachment proceeding. A huge question would hang over the White House. If Trump is not obstructing justice, then why does everyone involved in investigating the Russia connection get fired?
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham is already on record saying as much. Graham said that if Sessions were to be fired, there would be “hell to pay” in Congress. He went further: If Robert Mueller were to be removed the way James Comey was, it would be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.
What Trump is doing right now is trying to politicize the U.S. Department of Justice. The ‘second-most-presidential’ president is overtly interfering in the Russia investigation. He is even trying to direct his Attorney General on which prosecutions to undertake.
Trump stood by silently while “The Mooch” declared that the attorney general should be the president’s ‘hockey goalie’, keeping the puck out of the boss’s net. Wow. That insanity prompted Kenneth Starr, the Republican special prosecutor who framed the impeachment case against Bill Clinton, to publicly fry the White House for that characterization:
“The new attorney general is not — and cannot be — the president’s ‘hockey goalie,’ as new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci described Session’s job. In fact, the president isn’t even his client … When it comes to dealing with the nation’s top legal officer, you will do well to check your Twitter weapons at the Oval Office door.”
And then there’s Trump’s reaction to the epic failure of his promise to replace and repeal Obamacare on Day One. With that plan in shambles, he is threatening to cut health care subsidies to the poor (and, ironically, to lawmakers) which were available under the Affordable Care Act.
Let’s not kid ourselves: Trump took an oath to uphold the laws of the land, not ignore and undermine them. No wonder he sent his congratulations to Recep Erdogan when the Turkish leader gutted that country’s democracy.
Trump’s actions are not simply folly or braggadocio. This is the stuff of which impeachment is made. Trump recently has been asking about his powers of pardon in the event that staff, family members or even the president himself end up with indictments arising out of the Russia investigation. He needn’t bother.
The more apt question as Trump circles the drain in U.S. history is: What would be the pardon powers of soon-to-be-President Mike Pence?
Author: Michael Harris