The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Tell me again, which side is in disarray?

President Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House early Sunday after stepping off Marine One as he returns from a campaign rally in Tulsa. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

We have reached that point in the unraveling of a presidency and the death spiral of a campaign when the long knives come out. Reports suggest President Trump may have it in for campaign chair Brad Parscale and Jared Kushner after the Tulsa debacle. Heading the cheering section for the latter two’s sacking is former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who not so subtly seems to be trying to get back in charge of the campaign. Other Republicans grumble off the record that Lewandowski is not up to the job. This is what a losing campaign sounds like.

Meanwhile, back in the White House, Trump is complaining about Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper; Attorney General William P. Barr blew his Friday night massacre to take down the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York; Trump wants to put former national security adviser John Bolton in jail; and a flock of former generals (even a few current ones) heap scorn on Trump’s battle of Lafayette Square.

Trade adviser Peter Navarro insisted the China trade-deal talks were off. Then he and the president said they were not. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to consider the House’s Heroes Act, then said maybe he would consider a stimulus bill in July. The Post now reports that Trump tells “aides he is largely supportive of sending Americans another round of stimulus checks, believing the payments will boost the economy and help his chances at reelection in November, according to three people aware of internal administration deliberations." (This sounds more believable than telling aides to slow down testing, which he did at the rally; afterward, that was deemed a “joke.” Yes, a laugh riot to undercut a response to a pandemic that has killed almost 120,000 Americans.)

Trump and the unctuous Vice President Pence insist the coronavirus pandemic is waning and frown on mask-wearing, while GOP governors who followed their lead now urge mask-wearing and sound the alarm that the virus is spreading like wildfire in their states. (Who could have imagined this might happen after they prematurely opened tattoo parlors and bars and created a culture of mask-aversion?)

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Trump will go to the mat for some Americans — the Confederacy First! Some Republicans are queasy about holding fast to symbolism of a traitorous white-supremacy movement. Others declare this is their “heritage.” To each his own more than 150 years after the Civil War.

Filmmaker Ken Burns reflects on James Baldwin's understanding of liberty, and how our most venerated monuments can remind us of where America falls short. (Video: The Washington Post)

Donors looking at this mess and the economic collapse may well decide it is not worth throwing good money after bad on a Republican president this incompetent and on a gaggle of senators who have yet to figure out they have effectively spent their life savings on a bankrupt stock. Maybe some will even cover their bets with a donation to former vice president Joe Biden (who beat out Trump in fundraising in May).

It’s a bit of a running gag among mainstream media critics that whatever the state of the Republican Party, the headline is always “Democrats in disarray!” One would have to be desperate or in the throes of false equivalence to look at the wreckage on the Republican side and conclude Biden is the one with difficulties. (The only rivalry on the Biden side of the race appears to come from ad-makers trying to outdo one another in scathing ads mocking the president.)

Don’t get me wrong. The race will tighten at the end; it usually does. But for now, it’s internecine warfare on the GOP side. Meanwhile, Trump’s ill-conceived “Sleepy Joe” insult has collapsed on a ramp at West Point (the president’s baby-stepping down the ramp is an image that may define his last year in office). One wonders where all the “Republicans in disarray!” headlines are.

Read more:

Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s campaign has no clue how to solve this problem

Jennifer Rubin: The most important thing we learned in Tulsa

Greg Sargent: Trump’s sparse rally crowd enraged him. His advisers just revealed why.

Helaine Olen: Trump has finally lost control of his narrative. Voters are ready to see him canceled.

Ruth Marcus: Trump’s problem in Tulsa wasn’t just empty seats. It was empty rhetoric.

Karen Tumulty: Trump used his rally to air his personal grievances. He could learn from another event.