Like a lot of very rich and powerful men, Trump likes to have someone in the dog house. He needs a person in his orbit to take the flak; all would be well, he wants to believe, were it not for this one human irritant in his midst.
For over a year, the bad doggie in Trump’s kennel has been Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. The Mueller inquiry causing headaches? Blame Jeff. Midterm polls not looking good? Blame Jeff. The great Trumpian revolution not going to plan? Blame you know who…
Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2018
Trump knows that what he calls the ‘witch hunt’ — the Mueller inquiry — could still destroy his presidency, even if he and his administration are, as he insists, innocent. And for that he holds Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the investigation in March last year, responsible. Trump often vents his anger against Sessions on Twitter, as he did today with the ‘thanks Jeff’ tweet.
Of course, it could be shadowplay; @realDonaldTrump often acts up online to detract from real Donald Trump’s woes. But Trump’s bitterness towards Sessions feels nasty enough to be real. It is the most off-putting part of Trump’s broader response to the Russia investigation, and the most unattractive aspect of his presidency. It proves what all Trump’s critics say about him: that he is cruel and vindictive — a man child who can’t control his tantrums.
In other words, it is vile. Trump is bullying Sessions without a clear purpose. But he isn’t firing him; he leaves that possibility dangling. He’s baiting him, in other words.
So are his media acolytes. On September 1, Jeanine Pirro berated Sessions on Fox for being a deep state quisling. ‘You need to do one of two things. Resign immediately, because you are not wanted. Or put on your big boy pants and be a real attorney general.’
But Pirro had it the wrong way round. The real moral coward here is not Sessions but Trump. If anybody needs to put on their big boy pants, it is Trump. Either fire Jeff and face the political storm. Or stand by him.
Nobody expects — or even wants — Trump to be presidential. His supporters enjoy his truculence: but only in the way it helps his cause. The strange viciousness towards Sessions, however, seems not just disloyal to one of his earliest backers in the Republican establishment, but senseless. It comes over as weak and petty: not a good look for a Commander-in-Chief.