It has been nearly three years since Donald Trump descended his faux-gold escalator to announce an improbable run for president, and Republican politicians seem just as baffled by the reality TV star’s future as they were the day he first launched this publicity stunt gone wildly wrong.
It is true that GOP leaders stand silent as President Trump trashes the rule of law, attacks federal judges and declares America’s free press the “enemy of the people.” These lap dogs even remain muzzled as younger Americans are chained to a future of crippling debt. And they shame the memory of the first Republican president — who gave his life ending slavery — by marching alongside a bumbling bigot who labels Hispanics “breeders” and “rapists,” seeks to bar tens of millions of Muslims from entering the country, and defends white supremacy in the ugly aftermath of Charlottesville.
And yet these same morally enfeebled enablers have become muted when asked whether they’ll support their fearless leader’s reelection bid.
“Look, I’m focused on opioids,” muttered Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, suggesting that a U.S. senator is not mentally adept enough to fight a drug epidemic while also figuring out whether he backs a president in his own party. Alexander is not the only GOP senator to offer up tortured answers to this simple question.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (Tex.) refused to answer, explaining that he had not given the question much thought because things could change in the time before the 2020 campaign revs up.
Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker (Tenn.) spent four days grasping for an answer to a question he called “unfair” before finally saying he didn’t want to “make news.” Other GOP lawmakers are no more eager to talk about the 2020 campaign than Trump himself wants to discuss the intricacies of Stormy Daniels’s lawsuit.
But while the president and his team of misfit lawyers have reason to tread carefully under stormy legal skies, Republicans on Capitol Hill can relax. It’s becoming clear that Trump will not be running for president in 2020.
This past week, White House office pools reportedly set up in anticipation of the next staff firing are shifting their focus to predicting which Trump family member will be the first to land behind bars. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s independent investigation into Russia may have inspired a defiant West Wing response, but the U.S. attorney’s raid of Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room has stirred more fear and loathing inside White House offices than at any time since President Richard Nixon battled Watergate prosecutors in the summer of 1973.
Now, even Trump’s most steadfast allies are quietly admitting that the Southern District of New York’s investigation poses an existential threat to his future, both politically and legally. Trump allies are telling the president his “fixer” could flip for the feds, just like Michael Flynn, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos. In Washington and across the country, Republicans are sensing the president is a wounded political figure, leading them to withhold their future support or — in one high-profile case — to challenge the president directly.
Which brings us to Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The former South Carolina governor announced last Sunday that the United States would impose additional sanctions against Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Haley’s declaration enraged Trump, despite the inconvenient fact she was only following White House policy and GOP talking points. Still, the president went behind his ambassador’s back to assure the Russians he would kill any future sanctions. Other White House officials played down Haley’s remarks, describing America’s representative at the United Nations as “confused.”
Haley’s response to the charge was as sharp as it was telling.
“With all due respect, I do not get confused.”
With those nine words, the ambassador declared that, unlike most other members of Trump’s Cabinet, she would not allow herself to be humiliated by a political day trader, whose fitful 15 minutes of fame will come to a close long before a new president takes the oath of office in 2021.
Still, another scenario came to mind this week: How wonderful would it be for our daughters to see this woman — this daughter of immigrants — take a debate stage to coldly cut the Donald down to size, revealing to the world once and for all that this bloated emperor has no clothes?
What a sight that would be.
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