To say that Donald Trump had a week from hell is to understate the catastrophe. From the incriminating testimony of Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates who was sacked, through the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey who refused to yield, and on to Trump’s revelation that his talks may have been taped all the way. And the crescendo, for now, of possible revelations of sensitive secrets to the Russians, which, it now emerges, came from trusted ally Israel.
Within seven days, Trump shocked Washington, unnerved Republicans, paralyzed the White House and raised new doubts, as if anyone thought that was possible, about his ability to serve as president.
In advance of his visit on Monday, Israel has been tasting some of the bitter offerings of Trump’s mayhem and meshugas. First, the two countries quarreled over Trump’s visit to Masada, which has since been cancelled, and then they quibbled over who said what, when and to whom about moving the embassy to Jerusalem. They had a spat about the status of the Western Wall, which only got worse after both National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster and spokesman Sean Spicer steadfastly refused to say “Israel” and “Western Wall” in the same sentence. Finally, the New York Times reported that Trump had sold out Israeli intelligence in order to impress his pals from Moscow.
Even die-hard right-wingers must be wondering by now if their great hero Trump is really better for Israel than their favorite villain Barack Obama.
Nonetheless, to borrow from Winston Churchill, this isn’t the beginning of the end, perhaps it’s the end of the beginning, but that’s far from certain as well. To understand how it’s possible that Trump’s presidency hasn’t reached the critical mass that starts the chain reaction that would bring the White House down on his head, all you have to do is glance at the main headlines of right-wing and conservative news sites.
While Congress, the intelligence agencies, the mainstream media – and now Israel – are all frothing at the mouth about the reported revelation of secrets, to the extent that McMaster is trotted out in a failed effort to stem the tsunami, most right-wing news sites, including Fox News, thought it was more important on Tuesday night to concentrate on an uncorroborated conspiracy theory linking murdered Democratic activist Seth Rich and the WikiLeaks publication of Hillary Clinton’s emails. The subtext is clear: The Russians are innocent bystanders and this entire hullabaloo about Trump and the Kremlin is a malicious smear perpetrated by the liberal media.
Most Trump voters prefer to dwell in the virtual universe of alternative facts that the right-wing media has created for them. They think that Trump’s been doing a great job and that he’s fighting for them all by himself against the establishment and liberal forces of darkness. They have no doubt that Trump was right to fire Yates because she’s a Clinton-stooge and had no choice but to sack Comey, because he was a grandstanding showboat. They believe that Trump is improving the economy, making America great again and recovering its lost honor on the world’s stage.
They regard reports about bedlam at the White House, conflict of interests of the Trump family and of Trump’s inability or unwillingness to learn on the job as a blood libel meant to throw him out of the White House and to stop his populist revolution. If Israel doesn’t watch out, it too could be viewed soon as a left-wing plant out to do the president harm.
These voters are the backbone of the Republican electorate, and they don’t conceal their feelings. Fear of their retribution, along with terror at the thought of being called out in one of Trump’s tweets, are the main reasons for the amazingly feeble response of GOP lawmakers to the chaos that Trump has created in Washington. During the election campaign, Trump boasted that his voters would stick with him even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue. Until a short while ago, you could have imagined Republicans refusing to confront Trump even if he renamed the White House "Kremlin-West" and Washington "Putingrad Heights."
But now, it seems, the overwhelming mass of scandal and controversy may have pushed some reluctant Republicans past their tipping point, exposing the first holes in the wall that has hitherto shielded the president. Comey’s sacking astonished them, talk of White House tapes threw them back to the Watergate nightmare, and Trump’s impulsive behavior and his tendency to humiliate his closest aides and to expose them as liars – first Spicer, now McMaster – was getting too frequent for comfort.
And most of all, the unfathomable accumulation of evidence, testimony and seemingly irrational behaviors that all point to the problematic relationship that Trump maintains, despite his denials, with the Russian Republic, culminating in his volunteering state secrets to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kisliyak.
For some Republicans, this was one mishap too many, the straw that bent the camel’s back, the tipping point that compelled Senator Bob Corker to warn the White House that it was approaching a “downward spiral.” The report that Trump was using intelligence info provided by the GOP favorite Israel in order to curry favor with the Russians can only accelerate the trend.
With Trump, after all, all roads inevitably lead to Moscow. It’s only been a week since Yates highlighted the inexplicable 18-day hiatus between the time she warned the White House that then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had compromised himself and could be blackmailed by Russia and his dismissal by the White House. Within 24 hours, Trump fired Comey because of the Russia probe, a fact that he confirmed after allowing his people to deny it.
A day later, in a rendezvous that was spurred either by obtuseness, not giving a damn what people think or that Trump is indeed a lackey of the Kremlin, the president brought Lavrov and Kisliyak to the White House despite the clouds of suspicion gathering above. Two days later it turns out that Trump used intelligence information Made in Israel, which could soon find its way to Iran, Syria or Hezbollah. If it had been Obama, GOP lawmakers would be on their way right now to the White House, aiming to burn it down along with its presidential occupant.
The worst-case scenario, needless to say, is that Trump is indeed the Kremlin’s kept man, a Manchurian president who is successfully carrying out his handlers’ orders to destabilize Washington, sap its strength, erode its self-confidence and sabotage its standing and relations around the world. But even if that nightmarish theory is false, as all free men and women should hope, we are still left to contend with Trump’s quick-draw charlatanism, with his inability or perhaps unwillingness to change or learn, with his behavior which, as David Brooks wrote in the New York Times, is that of a seven-year-old.
The thing about Trump is that he is the one who sows the seeds of his own destruction. He never lets up, rolling from one scandal to the next, from one controversy to the other, most of them created by his own irrepressible mouth. Some Republicans are beginning to feel they can no longer risk being seen as trying to shield Trump or stifle his investigation.
The cardinal question, however, is how much of this realization will seep into the ranks of Trump’s loyal troopers. If it’s up to the right-wing media, the alt-right and those who hate liberals more than they love America, they will continue to emphasize the fact that Trump ordered the White House lit up in blue in honor of U.S. policemen, unlike that anti-American Obama, as the Blaze reported in its main headline on Wednesday. Don’t believe those fairy tales about Trump endangering national security, they will urge their readers, not even the ones about how he betrayed Israel, which you can’t trust either.
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