Republican members of Congress deluded themselves that President Trump’s narcissistic personality, dishonesty and abject ignorance didn’t matter. Turns out, he’s so clueless that he essentially confessed to obstruction of justice in firing FBI Director James B. Comey, who was intensifying the Russia investigation. (In his interview with Lester Holt, Trump detailed multiple conversations with Comey, one in a dinner interview setting, asking whether he was being investigated. He further conceded that the cover story for Comey’s firing was false.) They’ve put their faith in a president who doesn’t understand that he seems to have confessed to his own mendacity. (“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’ ”)
Trump’s acting press secretary is so inept as to declare, “We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity. And we think that we’ve actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.” Uh-huh. This is the White House that the House and most Senate Republicans have staked their political futures on.
In fewer than five months, Trump has gotten rid of his FBI director, national security adviser, acting attorney general and initial nominees for Navy and Army secretaries (two of them!), labor secretary and deputy treasury secretary. His White House is staffed by generals, relatives and people who have never served in government. The staff’s feuds wind up reported on the front pages. This is the White House that Republicans reflexively shield from criticism.
Trump’s travel ban failed multiple times. His tax “plan” has been panned as grossly irresponsible and a gift to the rich. He could barely get a health-care bill through the House — a bill that bears little resemblance to his campaign promises and has the support of a meager 21 percent of voters, with 56 percent disapproving, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. Trump’s favorability is down to 36 percent.
On health care, Republicans are getting hammered at town hall meetings, but they have done a bang-up job making the Affordable Care Act more popular:
American voters approve 64 – 32 percent of the current law which prevents health insurance companies from raising premiums on people with pre-existing conditions.
Voters say 75 – 21 percent, including 59 – 34 percent among Republicans, that it’s a “bad idea” to give states the ability to allow health insurance companies to raise rates on people with pre-existing conditions.
A total of 96 percent of voters say it’s “very important” or “somewhat important” that health insurance be affordable for all Americans.
As for GOP lawmakers, Quinnipiac finds: “By a 54 – 38 percent margin, American voters want the Democratic Party to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives. This is the widest margin ever measured for this question in a Quinnipiac University poll, exceeding a 5 percentage point margin for Republicans in 2013.” You wonder whether that number has to hit 20 percent before Republicans stop circling the wagon around an incompetent, scandal-plagued and uniquely dishonest administration. (At least Richard Nixon’s White House could keep its story straight.)
And yet Republicans (in Congress and in right-leaning media) by and large embarrass themselves by defending the president, eschewing calls for a special counsel, remaining unconcerned with the precedent of firing an FBI director investigating the White House and confirming some of the worst nominees in history, including an attorney general who appears to have reneged on his promise to recuse himself and raised questions about his participation in a scheme to fire Comey under false pretexts.
You do wonder when a political survival instinct will kick in. Perhaps the tribal instinct and abject fear of Trump’s wrath will keep elected Republicans tethered to the failing president through next year. At that point, the potential for a wave election for Democrats looms large. If Trump is still around by November 2018, a thrashing at the polls may be the only thing to persuade Republicans to walk away from Trump. The irony is that by pushing furiously now for an independent investigation, they might actually chase Trump and his clown show from office, get a President Pence, pass some of their agenda and save their skins. Are they smart enough to figure that out? Stay tuned.