So, America, are we tired of all that “winning” yet?
Yes, that was a facetious question, intended to point out that America is not so much tired of “winning” right now as it is increasingly tired of President Donald Trump’s antics. Because his presidency just keeps right on hitting new lows, on a weekly basis (sometimes on a daily basis, in fact). Every time you think: “Well, he certainly can never top that one,” he roars back to set the bar even lower, oftentimes with jaw-dropping impact.
The past few days has seen this cycle repeat once again. After some nuclear brinksmanship with North Korea and threatening Argentina with military force, Trump turned to heal the racial divide in America. Well, no, he didn’t. What he actually did was to pour a few gallons of gasoline on the fire, just to make it burn that much brighter.
It’s always been pretty impossible to get inside Trump’s head to tell what he’s thinking, but yesterday he was pretty unequivocal. Some Nazis and white supremacists are “very fine people.” It was all those lefties that are totally to blame. Pairing his extraordinary (and unplanned) press conference yesterday with his TelePrompTer statement Monday, it’s pretty easy to tell which words were heartfelt and which were not. Everything he said Monday was recited in the monotone of a schoolboy being forced to apologize for something he’s really not at all sorry about. Yesterday, however, Trump spoke with emotion and combativeness, quite obviously defending his true thoughts on the matter.
This should have been a slam-dunk for any president to address. It’s pretty easy to come out against both Nazis and white supremacists. They’re groups which unquestionably fall into the “indefensible” category, after all. Watch the videos of them marching with torches the night before their planned rally, and you will see zero “very fine people” there, because all of them are racist and anti-Semitic deplorables. Every single one, marching alongside their Nazi flags and spouting their racist slogans.
Trump’s insistence that he needed time to get all the facts before responding was downright laughable. When ― ever before ― has Trump waited to get the facts on anything before responding? Remember that time he called a shooting incident in the Philippines a terrorist attack when it turned out to be a robbery at a casino? He sure didn’t wait for any facts that time, and that’s merely one example among many. The difference between the time it took Trump to speak out against racists was a lot longer than, say, the single hour it took him to respond to a CEO announcing his withdrawal from a Trump advisory council. Again, that’s just one example ― there are hundreds of others to choose from.
Some Republicans have stepped up to the plate and strongly denounced neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Marco Rubio, in particular, is doing a pretty admirable job of not mincing any words in response to the lack of leadership from Trump. As I said before, this really should be an absolute slam dunk for any politician. It’s like coming out against necrophilia or serial murder ― there’s just no conceivable way to explain not being against these things, especially for a politician.
But that didn’t deter Trump from trying. Reportedly, yesterday’s television appearance was supposed to just be a short statement on infrastructure, after which (it’s easy to assume) Trump was supposed to turn the podium over to Elaine Chao for details. Instead, much to the surprise of his own staff, Trump invited questions from the press, fully aware of what the questions would be about. Trump sparred with the press for a good long time, instead of just walking away when the questions got tough. He wanted this fight, as you can plainly see in his demeanor during the entire presser. He obviously was chafing at being told what to say one day earlier, and he really wanted to get a few things off his chest.
Interestingly, Trump failed to offer much support for Steve Bannon, when asked. Rumors have been flying that Bannon is going to be fired by the end of the week, but other rumors are also circulating that Trump is afraid if he fires Bannon he’ll lose support from the “alt-right” voters. Think about that for a second: Trump’s base is shrinking so fast that this would be a major blow to his public support if Nazi and white supremacist sympathizers turned away from him.
Trump’s job approval ratings have been heading downward, which started even before Charlottesville happened. This is rather extraordinary because presidential job approval numbers usually match up pretty closely with how the economy is doing. The economy is still doing well (although not quite as well as Barack Obama’s last year in office), and yet Trump’s poll numbers are taking a big dive. Historically, this is unusual. Trump is beginning to lose his base, and he is now flailing around in an effort to shore it up. His big problem is that the more he panders to the farthest of the far right, the more moderates and sane Republicans turn against him.
Or maybe it’s even worse than that. Here’s the Wikipedia definition (for psychological use) of the word “decompensation”:
In psychology, the term refers to the inability to maintain defense mechanisms in response to stress, resulting in personality disturbance or psychological imbalance. Some who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder may decompensate into persecutory delusions to defend against a troubling reality.
Sounds pretty close to the mark, when you think about it. His job approval rating is dropping down into (in some polls) the low 30s, and he’s making it more and more impossible for anyone to continue rationalizing their support of him. So many CEOs walked away from his business councils that he disbanded them today (via Twitter, of course). It’s getting easier and easier for Republicans in Congress to take a stand against Trump, and many are getting a lot bolder in the language they chose to refute the leader of their own party. Even before all this happened, Trump’s legislative agenda was going nowhere in Congress, and the only major bill he’s gotten to sign strips him of power in foreign relations because Congress doesn’t trust him.
This week was a new low for Trump. It may later be seen as a tipping point, where Trump begins to lose major portions of the base that elected him and where his own party also turns hard against him. Or maybe not ― it’s impossible to tell, at this early juncture. Perhaps Mike Pence was seen at the windows of the Oval Office late last night, taking measurements for new drapes, or perhaps it was just one of the guys doing the current remodel.
Kidding aside, I’m going to end where I began. Because the scariest thing to contemplate in this week’s tailspin is that Trump always manages to outdo himself. In other words, we have yet to hit bottom. We’re all slipping down the slope with Trump, and I am fully confident that within a week or two Trump will do or say something even more outrageous than defending the “alt-right.” For any other human being, you’d automatically assume that he couldn’t go any lower than he went this week, but after all, this is Donald J. Trump we’re talking about.
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant