Haven’t the conservatives who work for him felt this way all along, or at least since he went full MAGA on trade? The guy has like two nationalists in his administration. Apart from them, who’s happy to see an impulse withdrawal in Syria followed by Mattis walking the plank?
To be clear, the people who spoke to Haberman aren’t mad that Trump cucked out on wall funding for a few days until Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh scared him straight. They’re mad at everything else, beginning with the seaminess of the Michael Cohen business. Which makes me wonder: Was she talking to social conservatives? Which sweet summer children who went to work for Trump are surprised to find him paying off mistresses under the table? Smells to me like some righties who’ve known all along who he was are seizing the general discontent over the past week to finally voice longstanding frustrations, or to feign longstanding frustrations. If Trump’s approval were to begin to sink under the weight of criminal investigations, Democratic-led House hearings, and so on, some of the opportunists who climbed aboard the Trump train might climb down and start insisting they were Trump-skeptical all along.
Ah well. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how many defectors there are, POTUS can at least rest easy knowing that Mick Mulvaney will be there to fill each new cabinet vacancy.
Wait, what’s that? Mulvaney’s a traitor to MAGA too?
As a sign of the mood inside, officials at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue tell us that Trump is complaining about his incoming chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, in conversations inside the West Wing and with Capitol Hill.
Trump asked one trusted adviser: “Did you know [Mulvaney] called me ‘a terrible human being'” back during the campaign?
We’re told that Trump was furious when the slight surfaced in a two-year-old video right after he promoted Mulvaney. (A spokeswoman says that was before Mulvaney met Trump.)
Mulvaney called Trump a “terrible human being” a few days before Election Day 2016, after the “Access Hollywood” tape had appeared and a dozen allegations of sexual harassment and assault had been made. What was he supposed to say? Most Trumpists I know readily concede that POTUS is a terrible human being while noting (a) we elect a president, not a pope, and (b) so long as he delivers on policy and judges, who cares? If anything, a bad guy might be more ruthless in pursuing his side’s agenda than a good guy would. You think Marco Rubio would have approved family separation to try to deter illegal immigration?
I doubt even Trump cares on the merits that Mulvaney insulted him. The affront isn’t thinking that he’s “terrible,” it’s disloyalty.
It’s a safe bet that Mattis thought Trump was “terrible” too but concluded that duty required him to serve if asked. Jeffrey Goldberg remembers this exchange with the general in 2016:
“Your article was really long, and so I was printing it while I was working out,” Mattis said. “I got off the machine to read some pages, and I thought I had got some printouts mixed up. I thought I had printed out things that Trump had said, not President Obama.” At the time, Donald Trump was emerging as the probable Republican nominee for president. “I went through it carefully, and I saw that it really was Obama calling our allies ‘free riders.’ He sounded like Trump. Here’s a sitting U.S. president calling our allies ‘free riders.’ That’s pretty bad, insulting our allies.”…
I tell this story because it underscores a salient point: James Mattis understood from the beginning the nature of Trump’s intellectual, ideological, and characterological defects, even as he was pulled into Trump’s orbit, and into his Cabinet.
As for Haberman, she’s framing this alleged quiet revolt among Trump campaign alumni as tea leaves on impeachment, implying that it might presage a wider revolt in the Republican establishment that leads to removal from office. (If you don’t want to watch the whole clip below, those comments come at 7:30.) I just can’t imagine it. The establishment’s fear of “Trump” has never really been fear of Trump himself. It’s fear of his devotees, the sort of people POTUS himself had in mind when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose votes. There are lots of those people. In fact:
In the 75-year history of Gallup’s polling, no president has had so narrow a range between his lowest and highest job approval ratings. Even the few who are in the ballpark — Nixon, Johnson, Ike — had much higher ceilings and floors on their numbers than Trump did. If a president is topping out at 45 percent, obviously there are a lot of people against him even on his best days; you’d expect him, then, to have bad stretches where his approval sinks into the 20s on his worst days. Not Trump. Opinions pro and con are fixed, no matter how wildly the news varies from day to day. He has 35 percent core support, rain or shine — no more than that, really, but no less, and the Republican establishment depends entirely on it to win elections. With the GOP base’s loyalty having been transferred to Trump individually, and with that loyalty unbending regardless of circumstances, there’s simply no option for congressional Republicans to oppose him. At the end of the day it’ll always serve their electoral interests better to back him up than to oppose him. Which helps explain why Haberman’s sources here are unnamed.
The shutdown is a microcosm of the phenomenon. It’s not Trump who McConnell’s afraid of defying, it’s the Coulter-Limbaugh audience that props Trump up and that’s now been convinced that wall funding is imminent if the party just “fights” hard enough. Bob Corker knows, even if his description of a talk-radio “tyranny” is goofy:
Sen. Bob Corker warns of “tyranny” on President Trump’s handling of shutdown and the events of the last 24 hours.
“Do we succumb to tyranny of radio talk show hosts?” Corker told us on Hill
“We have two talk radio hosts who influenced the president – that’s tyranny isn’t it?”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 21, 2018
Short of 20 Republican senators choosing to be lame ducks, there’s no Haberman-esque scenario in which they declare war on that audience and vote to remove him after impeachment. Given the dynamics, it’s silly to even suggest it.