It’s only Monday, and it’s already been a long week. Donald Trump swore in his new Chief of Staff, John Kelly, who replaced Reince Preibus. Preibus was ousted last Friday at 5:00 pm, rather unceremoniously on Twitter, and then was left to melt in the rain on the Tarmac. It seems that Preibus, Trump, and Kelly were all on Air Force One together, when the tweet was sent, and then Trump and other aides piled into a car and left Preibus there.
The Mooch, Anthony Scaramucci, was also fired today. This was apparently Kelly’s first act in taking over operations as Chief of Staff. Scaramucci had been in the employ of the White House a scant 10 days, and had managed to piss everyone off. Scaramucci had, in his short time (so short that he was never even officially given clearance and reported to work as a guest every day), managed to leak that Trump himself was the White House official who denied the Intelligence Community’s assessment of Russian Interference in a conversation with Jake Tapper of CNN; though really that shouldn’t have been difficult to figure out.
The Mooch also blamed Preibus for leaking his disclosure forms, which are a matter of public record and are available to everyone. And, he fired off at the press for knowing about an upcoming firing of a White House official that he himself had told the press about. Scaramucci had also been given the blame for the resignation of Sean Spicer, who apparently was opposed to Scaramucci’s hiring in the first place, citing concerns about his ability to do his job in a professional manner. This is, of course, to say nothing about the now infamous New Yorker telephone call where he accused Bannon of trying to “suck his cock.”
All of this has left the impression that the White House is in chaos. No matter; Trump took to Twitter to declare that this was a “great day at the White House,” and that there was “no chaos.” But lest you, dear reader, think that this is a rundown of the more salacious events of the past 24 to 78 hours, some other interesting news items came out today as well.
Of note, Jeff Flake, who has had an on-again/off-again feud with Trump since the campaign, had his book officially released today. An excerpt was published by Politico, and some of the things that are said are somewhat damning; and not just for Trump, but for the Republican Party’s own assessment of itself. While Flake seems to want to share the blame for Donald Trump between the GOP and the Democratic Party, as is the wont of the party of personal responsibility, Flake does note that, “With hindsight, it is clear that we all but ensured the rise of Donald Trump.” And by “we” he means the Republican Party.
But we conservatives mocked Barack Obama’s failure to deliver on his pledge to change the tone in Washington even as we worked to assist with that failure. It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our No. 1 priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president—the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime. It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us.
Flake goes on to say that, despite claims that they would hold Trump as accountable as President Obama or a hypothetical President Hillary Clinton, “we conservatives … have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued.” Flake does his best to push some of the blame off of Republicans and even to build a case for sympathy for beleaguered Republicans, but he does note that it is the responsibility of the Congress, even the Republican Congress, to step up and act – and act now, or forever be responsible for the ensuing destruction.
Under our Constitution, there simply are not that many people who are in a position to do something about an executive branch in chaos. As the first branch of government (Article I), the Congress was designed expressly to assert itself at just such moments. It is what we talk about when we talk about “checks and balances.” Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, “Someone should do something!” without seeming to realize that that someone is us. And so, that unnerving silence in the face of an erratic executive branch is an abdication, and those in positions of leadership bear particular responsibility.
Flake goes on to bemoan the rise of an authoritarian in American politics, even as it was his party that fanned those flames. But, strikingly, he makes the appeal – begins to build the case – that it is time for the Republican Party, especially those in Congress, to stand up for their ideals and for the institutions of America.
So, where should Republicans go from here? First, we shouldn’t hesitate to speak out if the president “plays to the base” in ways that damage the Republican Party’s ability to grow and speak to a larger audience. Second, Republicans need to take the long view when it comes to issues like free trade: Populist and protectionist policies might play well in the short term, but they handicap the country in the long term. Third, Republicans need to stand up for institutions and prerogatives, like the Senate filibuster, that have served us well for more than two centuries.
We have taken our “institutions conducive to freedom,” as Goldwater put it, for granted as we have engaged in one of the more reckless periods of politics in our history. In 2017, we seem to have lost our appreciation for just how hard won and vulnerable those institutions are.
At the same time, Ken Buck, a Tea Partier in the House, published an op-ed in the Denver Post making the case that the current Republican Party is too soft, but again with undertones that seem to suggest that he is building a case against Trump from the farther right.
After eight years of assuring that unified Republican government would allow for conservative policy, our Republican Congress has accomplished little, except for passing a spending bill that shackles the aspirations of future generations with crippling debt.
Buck, who is taking the position that the Republican Party, even with unified government, is too weak, claims that he is no longer proud to call himself a Republican. While some of this has to do with the acceptance of the so-called status quo of running a functioning country – an idea that is anathema to the Tea Party – it is clear that he is taking a shot at Republican Leadership, which happens to be … Donald Trump.
He takes this shot by saying the Republican Party under this leadership
will also contend with a collapsed health care market and a tax code that favors the rich and well-connected. A continual undervaluing of the rule of law and influx of illegal immigration will devastate the American family and the American worker.
Ignoring the simple fact that the Tea Party agenda favors exactly the rich and well-connected under the guise of “market based ideals,” and that undocumented workers can only take jobs that are offered to them, many of which Americans are either unqualified for or simply will not do, Buck goes on to ask the question, “What can we do?”
He offers a solution, clearly aimed at the White House
More than anything else, we need a vision, someone who has a message and a plan to unify this country. Instead, we’ve assembled a “B-team” of messengers who distract the nation with frivolities.
So, there’s that. A White House in Chaos; a public who perceives the White House in chaos; a White House who refuses to acknowledge their own shortcomings and call in good help, instead of flunkies, junkies, and sycophants; and shots coming from within from both sides.
Additionally, Trump’s favorite poll, the only one that he has never deemed to be “fake” or “phony,” and is often outwardly open about the fact that they are right-leaning, Rasmussen released a not very rosy picture of Trump’s perception in the public eye.
Rasmussen began in 2003, and has often been criticized for being objectively biased. They over sample Republican voters; they utilize a methodology that is questionable; they don’t take snapshots in time, but offer a running tracking and release their numbers as if they were snapshots in time. Rasmussen has, for the better part of the Trump campaign and the time that Trump has been in the White House, shown polling numbers that are at odds with other, more trusted polls. But even they have shown slipping support for Trump.
Recently, Trump tweeted the results of a Rasmussen poll showing his favorability at 50%. That Trump took this, only a few months in, as positive was, at the time laughable. But, today they released the results of their latest tracking poll. Trump has, according to them – an openly acknowledged right leaning poll – a 61% disapproval rating. Indeed, according to Rasmussen, only 29% “strongly approve” while 49% “strongly disapprove”. They give him an index score of -23. This is striking for any poll, especially a poll that almost exclusively caters to what Republicans want to hear.
Another interesting note from Rasmussen is that 67% of Republican voters now believe that the Republican Party, as represented by those in Congress, have lost touch with the average American who put them in office. When this is contrasted with recent polling from Gallup, it still holds true that those who support Donald Trump support him in the 80 to 90% range, but the amount of people that support him continues to slip.
On top of all that, it has now been reported that Trump himself was the one that personally dictated the statement from Jr. about his recently revealed meetings with the Russians during the campaign under the auspices of receiving information about Hillary Clinton. This puts Trump in possible intense legal trouble, as well as everyone in that meeting. Kushner and Jr. did not, for the record, testify under oath. Nevertheless, it is still a crime to lie to Congress. Even though those testimonies were given in closed doors, they are still part of the Congressional Record. Up to now, the story has been that Trump knew nothing of those meetings. Now, it is known that he at least had a hand in crafting the response to the fact those meetings were publicly known.
Further, the story of “adoptions” has come under scrutiny as it appears that the real meaning behind that excuse relates to lifting Russian sanctions on adoption of Russian children to American parents in response to lifting the US sanctions imposed under the Magnitsky Act, a law that was nearly unanimously passed and signed during the Obama years in response to money laundering and tax evasion crimes that were taking place in the US under the direction of Putin.
So, with the press now reporting that Trump was personally involved in the crafting of the coverup of the meetings, the substance of those meeting, shots coming from both sides of the bow in their own ship, a right leaning poll that shows he is sinking, and total chaos in the White House; for all the talk about Trump’s “no good very bad week” over and over again, this might be the most no good very bad week yet; and it’s only Monday.