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Trump is flailing as his weakness catches up to him

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- Commentary
President Donald Trump says he's right on China and that tariffs will bring Beijing to the table. (AFP / SAUL LOEB)

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s a long way to go, and it’s going to feel longer by the time we get to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s soft deadline of year’s end. But last week demonstrated that more Americans are now more aware of Donald Trump’s extraordinary weakness, and that we are approaching a tipping point at which that weakness is going to compound itself exponentially. The weaker this president becomes, the weaker this president will get; the closer we get to the end, whatever and whenever that is, the more Trump’s behavior is going to prove the case against him.

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This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

Consider this morning.

Trump accused Adam Schiff of treason on Twitter, even calling for the House Intelligence Committee chairman’s arrest. He also yoked his fate to the threat of a “civil war like fracture,” provoking at least one GOP representative to describe that as “beyond repugnant.” The more Trump demands that Republicans die for his sins, we are going to see, I think, more Republicans say they’d rather not. Don’t get me wrong. Lots and lots of Republicans stand ready to disembowel themselves. But all the republic needs is the right number of Republicans to make the right choice at the right time.

Then there was last week.

A series of public opinion surveys suggested a step-by-step progression of where we are heading. First, it was Democratic voters. After the party unified behind the speaker in moving toward an impeachment inquiry, polls showed approval among Democrats climbing upward. Then it was “independents,” that is, mostly disaffected Republican voters. Polls showed they increasingly approve of impeachment after the White House released a memorandum summarizing the president’s treasonous “shakedown,” as Pelosi calls it, of the new Ukrainian president. Then it was the press.

There are no polls measuring the opinion of members of the Washington press corps, as far as I know, but if press behavior is any indication (and I’m primarily talking here about the cable and broadcast news), the press corps is coming to a conclusion about Trump, perhaps permanently. Chris Wallace at Fox, Scott Pelley at CBS News and even NBC’s Chuck Todd, he of jellied spine, have shown greater intolerance of Republican talking points, propaganda and lies. That’s because the Democrats are united, the citizenry is more focused, and the evidence is immediate, hard and damning. Put all the above factors together, and you have a president who’s acting wildly because he can no longer manipulate the press in ways that mask his extraordinarily weakness.

Again, his weakness was always there.

It was just hard for some to see as long as the press continued to give Trump a never-ending supply of benefit-of-the-doubt. Providing good faith in the face of conspicuous bad faith has resulted, among other things, in ludicrous headlines about his wanting to be impeached in order to turn the tables on the Democrats. This despite the “double down” strategy never—and I mean, not once—working with one major exception: in 2016 when the Russians gave him an assist by sabotaging Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, Trump’s instinct to double down has burned him every single time he’s tangled with Nancy Pelosi. Most of the republic has figured Trump out. In a sense, the coming impeachment inquiry is a kind of waiting for the rest of America to catch up.

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Trump’s instinct to double down is hastening the end (whatever and whenever that will be) as well as rendering ridiculous any claim that he’d resign before being removed. Remember Trump’s rationale for voluntarily releasing the smoking gun? It was to “prove” the Democrats had nothing on him. Either a) he didn’t know what was in it, b) he believed he could con you into believing whatever he wanted you to believe, or c) he believed his handpicked goons at the Department of Justice, who told him, yes boss, like you said, nothing in it. As for resigning, that would require immunity of a kind that would confound the Democrats’ case for holding him accountable. In any event, the president, being Donald Trump, is likely to try bringing others down with him.

To be honest, I was wondering if I had things wrong. Until last week, nothing had changed. Trump was weak but it made no difference. Then everything changed.

Now his weakness matters more than ever.


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