Opinion: On board the USS Trumptanic


Donald Trump and his allies turned the 2018 midterms into a de facto referendum on his anti-immigrant “caravan” paranoia and his obsession with a border wall. He and his fellow Republicans then proceeded to get their butts kicked on that agenda, dropping 40 House seats and losing the congressional popular vote by nine percentage points.

The latest CNN poll drives that point home, with just 39 percent of Americans approving of the president’s handling of immigration issues and 54 percent disapproving. Trump is also trying to deal with a White House staff that is crumbling around him, with vacancies mounting and few qualified candidates eager to lash themselves to the USS Trumptanic.  Add in the fact that the stock market is continuing its freefall, and this is probably the moment of Trump’s greatest political weakness to date..

So of course, Trump chooses this moment to threaten a high-stakes partial shutdown of the federal government, and to do so over his precious border wall. You know ... the one that Mexico was going to pay to build?

To Trump’s probable surprise, he tried and failed to scare the Mexican government into surrendering to that demand, just like he hasn’t been able to scare North Korea into giving up its nukes or China to give up its trade barriers or auto companies to stop relocating overseas. Hell, he couldn’t even scare the Pentagon into giving him the big parade he wanted.

it’s clear by now that Trump came into office with an exaggerated sense of both the extent of presidential power and of his own personal ability to make the world treat him with love, fear and respect. Foreign governments, CEOs and congressional leaders aren’t contestants on “Celebrity Apprentice,” nor are they Trump Org. lackeys eager to do the boss’s bidding. After almost two years in office, they have taken his measure and aren’t impressed.

Nonetheless, choosing this fight, at this time, makes almost no sense even for a blunderer of Trump’s scale. It is explainable only by his apparent sense that the only America that matters, the only real Americans, are those who show up at his rallies and watch Fox News and who share his belief that the world will bow down to a leader of sufficient bluster.  He believes they will love this kind of showdown, that they will rally to him and take his side against Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, and he’s probably right.

The problem is, that’s about 30 to 35 percent of the country, and there are signs that even they have grown disenchanted with their hero. They are a little less quick these days to rush to his defense, a little less eager to brush aside his crudeness and ignorance and self-worship. Some even show a capacity to be embarrassed by what they’re witnessing and their role in his elevation. It all leads me to think that in the end, the man who brings down Donald Trump will not be named Robert Mueller, but Donald Trump.

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