Donald Trump’s troubles emanating from the Stormy Daniels payoffs and questionable ties with the Russian Federation resemble a scandal that is so raw that it seems comic. Unlike Richard Nixon’s campaign against the press, the enemies list or obsessions about leaking, there is a pettiness that it is even beneath the worst of past scandals.
Indeed, Trump’s shamelessness make Nixon’s ordeals seem profound and worthy of pity by comparison. With Trump, one thinks of “Jimmy” Walker, the mayor of New York City in the early 1930’s. Walker was an entertainer, a quipster, belonging as much to Broadway as to Tammany Hall. His administration was marked by corruption and venal appearances which seemed more tawdry than a threat to Constitutional government. If you want to go further south, Trump’s style mimics the policies of the New Orleans ring. Mayor Martin Behrman was the prophet of the obvious. “You can make prostitution illegal,” he opined, “but you can’t make it unpopular.”
Trump’s relationship with Michael Cohen resembled not the complicated dealings that Nixon had with H.R. Halderman, but a pact with “a guy.” Cleaning up a spate of affairs while linking hush money to campaign expenditures is so grimy as to appear more local than national. Indeed, Haldeman, like his boss, seems harmless by comparison.
And meanwhile, Trump finds comfort, one supposes, by revisiting his reality television career and his brief but sparkling antics on Wrestlemania. Trying to coax Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Charles Schumer into an argument in front of the cameras, he was spoiling for a fight. And this was supposed to be a healing moment. What’s next, pouncing on a reporter? Of course, his Republican friends do not seem to mind, even though they wink knowingly that they understand other people’s problems with such behavior. Nikki Haley praises this form of boorishness as putting other nations on notice. Now, we stoop to using extortion involving the “mad man” theory.
As Winnie the Pooh would put it, “Oh, bother.” With the loss of the House, Republicans have no more use for Trump. But one gets the impression that the GOP still figures that “the base” is rock-solid behind the president. But as this base shrinks, one must wonder how long the Republicans will stick by the Donald. If they do remain loyal, they will have destroyed themselves for a generation.
Instead they insist on being covert and anonymous. The Justice Department insists on the extradition of a Chinese executive from Canada over some violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran.
In the middle of trade negotiations with China, this was clearly done to embarrass the president. Unable to confront Trump directly, the bureaucracy behaves like the “deep state,” using tactics just as aggressive and objectionable as the man in the White House.
What will be the end of this sordid relationship, no one knows. They might hit on the original observation that this president has relationships with other women, not his wife. And, even at that, they would fail to get the joke.