President Donald Trump has fired nearly all the White House senior staff (aside from his daughter and son-in-law) with whom he began his presidency. He has declared war on the media so many times, it’s no longer noteworthy. His former senior strategist Stephen K. Bannon’s Breitbart News operation excoriated Trump for a middle-of-the-road Afghanistan plan and openly attacks Ivanka and Jared Kushner.
Meanwhile, some Senate Republicans are openly criticizing Trump, suggesting he lacks the capacity and moral authority to govern. His war of words with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., plays out in the pages of the New York Times:
“Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned Mr. Trump’s understanding of the presidency in a public speech. Mr. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.
“In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly.”
Apparently, Trump thinks it is in McConnell’s power (and job description) to protect him from the Russia probe.
Critics of Trump are frustrated by mere fuming behind closed doors, but honestly, McConnell has left little doubt what he thinks about Trump. Unlike House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., he avoids public apple-polishing for the president. One almost gets the sense that if special counsel Robert S. Mueller found real evidence of wrongdoing, McConnell would preside - if not happily, then with much relief - over an impeachment trial.
To recap: A president who lost the popular vote, winning only 46 percent of the electorate, has picked fights with and/or been rebuked by some of the alt-right, the business community, organized labor, many if not most GOP senators, GOP moderates (in federal and state offices), the mainstream media, a chunk of the conservative media, the vast majority of nonwhite voters, a majority of college-educated whites, Rust Belt voters and independents. It’s increasingly difficult for TV bookers to get Republicans to go on the air to defend him. And all of this is at the seven-month mark of his presidency.
Consider how much worse things could get in just the next month or so - even apart from the Russia investigation (which now reportedly includes squeezing Paul Manafort in an effort to “flip” him). In order to keep his presidency from going completely off the rails, he will need to get the debt ceiling increased and a budget. He will need to be well on his way with a tax reform bill, which is hard to do with reconciliation instructions for the budget when there is no budget. He’ll also need to decide if he wants to keep funding Obamacare subsidies (a month at a time, which further destabilizes markets). There are, to put it mildly, many pitfalls directly ahead at a time when his administration is in critical condition.
Trump could very well end the year with no health-care repeal (other than an Obamacare fix), no tax bill, no infrastructure bill and no border wall, despite his promises to his die-hard fans. (His Muslim ban has not resulted in a revamped “extreme vetting” program - or has it? - and remains partially disabled.) As has been the case his entire adult life, only his family and paid staff (and only some of those) may be left to defend him. For both his lack of accomplishments and his lack of support, he will have only himself to blame.
Jennifer Rubin is a Washington Post columnist.