OTTAWA—The current probe of the Trump organization’s—and Donald Trump’s family’s—ties to Russia is so beyond anything in United States history it’s almost unimaginable.
The campaign team of a U.S. president is under investigation for possibly being in collusion with a foreign power—the Russians, no less—in an alleged effort to defraud the American electorate in the exercise of the country’s single most important democratic right: voting in a presidential election.
And you have a president reacting to this like a tin-pot dictator with no regard whatsoever for the most salient guarantee against abuse of power in the U.S. system—the concept of separation of powers and the independence of judicial functions, including obviously the Justice department.
Trump didn’t like the way the Russian inquiry was going, so he fired FBI director James Comey and is now mounting a campaign within the White House to discredit Robert Mueller. The widely-respected special counsel has been assigned to investigate the Trump team’s links to the Russians, and apparently is also probing possible obstruction of justice by the president in the Comey dismissal.
It’s an open question whether the Russian investigation, which could go on for years, will have a decisive impact in and of itself. It’s not at all clear that the president’s hardcore supporters care about any of that.
But the current situation is nonetheless just not sustainable. Many Americans were excited by the idea of having a disruptor as president, but having a buffoon who has no idea what he is doing occupying the most powerful job in the most powerful country on the globe can’t go on indefinitely.
It may not happen this month or this year, but my guess is that he will quit.
Trump’s popularity, as everyone is aware, is below that of any recent predecessor at an equal stage of his presidency. One doesn’t know where to begin in recounting his dismal record: he is at war with his own party; his signature promise to replace Obama’s health-care program is in chaos; his attempt to keep out people from several Muslim-majority countries has been stalled by the courts; and he has put the U.S. on the wrong side of history on climate change.
There is no rhyme or reason to most of what Trump has done. His promise to get rid of Obamacare while preserving health care for all has been exposed as the joke it always was, with tens of millions of Americans (many of them Trump supporters) on the verge of winding up with no government-assisted health care at all.
The only major legislative measure Trump and the Republicans are likely to get passed in the U.S. Congress anytime soon is tax reform. It will hand millions of dollars in tax breaks to the richest of the rich, while the Republicans chip away at benefits for seniors and low-income Americans. There is nothing surprising about this, since Trump, after running a populist campaigning demonizing Wall Street, surrounded himself with financiers and corporate titans from the very elitist strata he frothed against on the way to being elected.
But it isn’t the specifics of Trump’s presidency that could force him eventually to throw in the towel: not his policies, nor the fact that he has the establishment up in arms, nor that his long-discredited protectionist trade fetish is likely to hurt the very people he has promised to help.
The killer is the tide of ridicule building around Trump week after week. It’s the offside tweets, the lack of anything approaching decorum, the apparent ignorance of the business of being president, the constant golf distractions. It’s the careless destruction of his allies’ reputations, the clown-like behaviour in foreign capitals, the lack of interest in important policy, the prominence of presidential family members in the affairs of the nation, and the president’s overblown, despotic obsession with his self-esteem and public image.
The sum of these absurdities and the overwhelming evidence of Trump’s unsuitability for office cannot be held in abeyance forever.
Les Whittington is an Ottawa journalist and a regular contributor to The Hill Times.
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