The past seven days have matched some of the Trump era’s most frantic and maniacal weeks. Washington headlines have been driven by Michael Wolff’s Swampland confessional, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, ” and the slew of revelations that emerged in its turbulent wake.
On one side of the political divide, Trump antagonists clutched Wolff’s book to their breasts while whispering sweet nothings to the 25th Amendment. On the other, Trump apologists furiously took on the role of grammar police, highlighting every misplaced comma or mislabeled character in hopes that those errors would obfuscate the book’s central truth: that Donald J. Trump is not fit to be president. Even journalists, who resent Wolff and his methods (there will surely be more of them after the book’s phenomenal success), begrudgingly admit that the bestseller paints an accurate portrait of the president’s dystopian world.
But the most curious reaction to “Fire and Fury” has come from influential conservatives who have long carried the “Never Trump” banner. These thought leaders can’t seem to decide whom they loathe more — President Trump or Wolff. The most prominent example this week was the New York Times’s David Brooks, who on Monday dismissed the book as “anti-Trump lowbrowism” and warned that the “Never Trump” movement risks becoming what it hates by succumbing to Wolff’s low standards.
Brooks’s column was met with effusive praise across the Never Trump community, even as the moderate Republican suggested a sort of detente in return for the favorable conservative policies being produced by the Trump White House. The columnist approvingly cited reports that behind the scenes Trump is a well-informed and affable leader who knows how to run a good meeting. Brooks even makes the breathtaking claim that “the White House is getting more professional.”
I find myself at a rare loss for words. Let’s simply review Trump’s actions over the three days since Brooks’s column was published.
The president once again advocated making it easier for politicians like him to sue columnists such as Brooks. Such a move would do immeasurable harm to our First Amendment free-speech guarantees.
Trump also pressured Republicans to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation and politicize the rule of law. This autocratic partisan plea to subvert Robert S. Mueller III’s work comes after the former FBI director has already secured convictions of Trump’s national security adviser and a top foreign policy expert, along with indictments of his former campaign manager and another key campaign operative.
Our commander in chief also attacked the integrity of the U.S. judicial system because he didn’t like the outcome of an inconsequential lower-court ruling. And, hard as it may be to believe, the president had time this week to again attack the men and women of the FBI and suggested that they tried to use their legal authority to rig the 2016 election.
Trump used a news conference Wednesday to attack his 2016 Democratic opponent, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, while revealing again his autocratic impulses by demanding the jailing of his political rivals. Trump put on this crude display while the leader of Norway watched in horror.
And while at a bipartisan meeting of lawmakers on Thursday, Trump reportedly offended U.S. allies across Central America, the Caribbean and Africa by denigrating them as “shithole countries.”
This is a “more professional White House”? Only if you have been so desensitized by Trump’s first year in office that you no longer recognize when your country is in danger.
Yes, columnists and Capitol Hill politicians would do themselves and their country a favor by fighting to find common ground on the issues that divide us as a nation. But when faced with a once-in-a-lifetime challenge to America’s constitutional values, there can be no room for compromise. When a democratically elected leader exposes himself as a man with autocratic instincts, splitting the difference only starts this country down the path to a constitutional crisis.
Winston Churchill wrote of the lead-up to World War II: “The malice of the wicked is reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous. . . . The counsels of prudence and restraint may become the prime agents of mortal danger; how the middle course adopted from desires for safety and a quiet life may be found to lead direct to the bulls-eye of disaster.”
In our day, there can be no compromise or middle ground between those who defend the Constitution and a president who understands so little of what has made our nation great. The fight for America’s future has begun, and the time for rationalizing Trump’s aberrant behavior is long past.