Eugene Robinson: Rather than retreat, Trump ramps up bluster
BY EUGENE ROBINSON
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Like a television show that has jumped the shark, President Trump's frantic act grows more desperate and pathetic by the day.
Asked by Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday" to grade his presidency, Trump absurdly replied: "Look, I hate to do it, but I will do it, I would give myself an A-plus. Is that enough? Can I go higher than that?"
Much closer to the mark is the assessment by Republican lawyer and operative George Conway, the husband of one of Trump's closest White House aides, counselor Kellyanne Conway: "The administration is like a s---show in a dumpster fire."
And it is all getting worse. The cravenness, incompetence, corruption, dysfunction, insanity — all of it.
Trump is anxious to award himself high marks because the nation, in no uncertain terms, just flunked him. A blue wave swept Democrats to take control of the House, with the party grabbing its biggest haul of GOP-held seats since the Watergate midterm following Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974. Republican bastions such as Texas and Georgia became competitive for the first time in more than a generation. Orange County, California, the birthplace of Reagan-era conservatism, will be represented exclusively by Democrats when the new Congress convenes.
Trump made three campaign trips to Montana — a state he won in 2016 by 20 points — in an attempt to knock off Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, against whom Trump holds a personal grudge. (Tester led the successful fight against Trump's bizarre attempt to install his personal physician as head of the Veterans Affairs Department.) Nevertheless, Tester prevailed.
No wonder that multiple news reports describe the president as angry, frustrated and even less rational than usual. He has neglected his ceremonial duties, declining to join other world leaders at a ceremony in France commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and failing to lay a wreath at Arlington National Ceremony on Veterans Day.
"I probably, you know, in retrospect I should have, and I did last year," Trump told Wallace about going to Arlington. Fact check: He didn't. On Veterans Day 2017, Trump was in Vietnam.
It is mystifying why Trump, at a moment when he should be licking his wounds, seems intent on alienating veterans and the military. In that same interview with Wallace, who generally managed to keep a straight face, Trump went out of his way to attack retired Adm. William McRaven, who led the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Back in August, McRaven had criticized Trump as a national embarrassment in a Washington Post op-ed. A rational leader would have let it pass. Trump, who is anything but rational, called McRaven a "Hillary Clinton fan" and an "Obama backer" and implied that the former Navy SEAL was something of a slacker. "Wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn't it have been nice?" Trump said.
Seriously, that is what the commander in chief thinks about one of the all-time greatest triumphs of U.S. intelligence and special ops. Unbelievable. Sad.
Republicans who might be inclined to sign up for another season of Trump's fading reality show should pause and take stock. There should be no doubt, at this point, that the man is a giant loser who will drag the GOP down with him.
"I wasn't on the ballot," he whined to Wallace. But he spent weeks on the campaign trail, begging supporters to vote as if he were. At almost every stop, he said that a vote for the GOP candidate would be "a vote for me." The result? Millions more voted against Trump than for him. And this was just a warm-up for 2020.
Trump has already robbed the GOP of any coherent philosophy. The party that once supported the military now abuses it as a scapegoat. The party that once stood for fiscal responsibility now manages the nation's finances in a manner that drunken sailors would find imprudent. The party that once claimed to champion personal rectitude and Christian morality now winks at payoffs to paramours and porn stars. The party that once valued order now celebrates sybaritic chaos.
Come January, a Democratic House will begin performing the oversight duties that Speaker Paul Ryan neglected. Does anyone believe that proper scrutiny of, say, the Trump family's international business dealings is likely to improve the president's political standing? I don't.
In the Churchillian sense, the midterm election was the "end of the beginning." My understanding is that rats tend to leave a sinking ship.
Eugene Robinson is a columnist and an associate editor of The Washington Post who won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2009.