Donald Trump is trashing America. Garbage is piling up from California national parks to the Washington mall as Trump insists on keeping the federal government shutdown over his request for a totemic border wall. The longer he’s cooped up in the White House, the crazier his pronouncements seem to become.
Once upon a time a defiant Trump declared, ‘I am proud to shutdown the government.’ He figured this would be enough to scare Chuck and Nancy into compliance. It didn’t. Instead, they were emboldened. Schumer, who previously offered Trump a cool $25 billion in wall money in exchange for liberating the Dreamers, isn’t budging. And Pelosi is openly scoffing at him.
So today Individual 1 explained that not only is the shutdown the fault of the Democrats but so are the deaths of two Guatemalan children who were in the government’s custody. His insouciance about their deaths was manifest. He makes former vice president Dick Cheney, who is played by Christian Bale as an amoral power seeker in the new film Vice, look warm and cuddly by comparison.
Yet as James Mann observes in the Washington Post in a devastating critique, Vice has its own vices. It makes Cheney out to have no principles. Not so. Cheney did have them. They just happened to be the wrong ones. ‘Stripping Cheney of ideology,’ writes Mann, ‘makes him look vaguely like a forerunner of President Trump.’ But Cheney was an uber-hawk, Mann concludes, while Trump is a pseudo-populist.
Still, Cheney did help to create the context for the rise of a Trump by embracing the folderol about a unitary executive who could act like a monarch at home and abroad. Now Trump is trying to wield those powers, partly in the service of subduing the Republican party itself. The problem for Trump is that his interests are not coincident with its own. He is too volatile for the party to defend him successfully. Outgoing Rep. Ryan Costello notes that Trump’s threat to close the southern border is an ‘angry eight-grader’s tweet.’ Above all, Trump faces some dozen investigations into his past and present dealings, from Russia to the 2016 presidential inauguration. Whether or not Michael Cohen actually jetted off to Prague, the next year is unlikely to shine a kindly light on them.
What Republicans will need to handle Trump is someone with Jeeves-like discretion who can trundle him out of the Oval Office with a minimum of fuss. As Bertie observes in The Code of the Woosters, ‘Jeeves…is and always has been a whale on the psychology of the individual. He eats it alive.’ Who is capable of playing such a role?