Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day







Sunday, July 2, 2017

July 2, 2017
The phrase "Can Nixon Survive Dean?" came to mind in the days leading up to the testimony of James Comey. (I remembered only that it had been on the cover of a magazine; it was, I discovered, on the Time cover of June 9, 1973). The testimony of James Comey had the potential for the same sort of confrontation. Would Comey be as devastating a witness against Trump as John Dean had been against Richard Nixon? My guess was no, and so it turned out, or at least it has had little effect so far.
Dean said that he has a sense that Nixon was recording conversations. That led, during the testimony of Alexander Butterfield, to the disclosure of Nixon’s taping system, which led in turn to his downfall. Here we have Trump hinting that he taped conversations with Comey and the latter saying that he hopes so. There have been demands that Trump turn over the tapes, but probably there aren’t any, although his subsequent seeming retraction left room to find some when convenient: "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings." More likely, he was just giving himself an excuse for his original threat.

His offer to testify under oath displayed the same pattern of bluster, followed by face-saving; his press secretary, Sean Spicer, claimed that Trump meant only that he might testify to Mueller under oath, not to Congress, although Trump did not so state and the context of his promise was Comey’s testimony to a Congressional committee.

The appropriate question this time around may well be: "Can Trump survive Trump?"  His constant flow of tweets reveals, among other worrisome characteristics, an insecurity so overwhelming that he is incapable of dealing with criticism. He doesn’t stop at labeling the media enemies of the people, but lashes out at specific members of that disloyal profession.
Morning Joe, on MSNBC, at times said nice things about Trump. Like many others, its hosts became more critical, and Trump retaliated in his customary style and medium, having so much to say that it spread over two tweets: "I heard poorly rated Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came . . . to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!" Apart from what it reveals about Trump’s character, that is a self-destructive response. At some point, even the faithful may realize that this man-child shouldn’t be in a position of power.
He wasn’t through; the network is evil also: "Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad!" Some Republicans are beginning to take notice; here are reactions to the first outburst. Senator Lindsey Graham: "Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America." Sen. Ben Sasse:"Please just stop. This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office." Sen. Lisa Murkowski: "Stop it! The Presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down." Sen. Susan Collins: "This has to stop . . . We don't have to get along, but we must show respect and civility."[31]
The White House is circling the wagons. Associate press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered this slightly garbled defense of her boss: "The president has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts by members on that program, and I think he's been very clear that when he gets attacked, he's going to hit back." In case anyone had missed the point, that critics had better be careful, she added: "I think the American people elected somebody who's tough, who's smart, and who's a fighter, and that's Donald Trump. And I don't think that it's a surprise to anybody that he fights fire with fire."
It takes an extreme case of loyalty to describe Trump as smart, and poor judgment to excuse his every instance of outrageous behavior. If Trump’s staff want him to survive, they should abandon sycophancy and offer a few fire-me-if you-want lessons on how grown-ups with important jobs behave. It isn’t likely to happen or to be effective if it did. That’s probably all to the good; if his staff and Fox continue to protect him and to justify his immature, vindictive behavior, even Republicans may decide that this has gone on long enough.
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31. The reactions are recorded at http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/29/politics/ lawmakers-react-trump-tweet-joe-scarborough-mika-brzezinski-morning-joe/index.html.
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