A late-afternoon laugh via MSNBC, part of the ongoing media series this week about whether the president is merely “mercurial” or a full-blown wackaloon. Go figure that the subject of his latest conspiracy theory is in the second camp.
So now that Matt Lauer is gone when will the Fake News practitioners at NBC be terminating the contract of Phil Griffin? And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the “unsolved mystery” that took place in Florida years ago? Investigate!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2017
There is no 25th Amendment solution to Trump. Laying aside the fact that the president should never be removed for incapacity when his capacity is debatable, lest a precedent be set that turns the amendment into a coup clause, you’d never find the political will among Republicans to support it short of Trump beginning to drool on himself. The story of the GOP from last year’s convention to the present moment is that the leadership won’t risk angering the party’s voters by crossing him no matter how worried they might be about his basic fitness. And Trump knows it.
Again and again, Trump veered far past the guardrails of presidential behavior. But despite the now-routine condemnations, the president is acting emboldened, as if he were impervious to the uproar he causes…
Trump has internalized the belief that he can largely operate with impunity, people close to him said. His political base cheers him on. Fellow Republican leaders largely stand by him. His staff scrambles to explain away his misbehavior — or even to laugh it off. And the White House disciplinarian, chief of staff John F. Kelly, has said it is not his job to control the president…
Castellanos added that for many voters, and especially Trump’s base, there’s an “upside” to his bellicosity. “A strong daddy bear is what a lot of voters want,” he said. “Right or wrong, at least he’s fighting for us.”
Read that again if you’re under the illusion that McConnell is going to move to kick Roy Moore out of the Senate, especially with Trump inevitably in Moore’s corner. As for POTUS becoming “unmoored,” as Maggie Haberman claimed yesterday on CNN, it’ll probably get worse before … I was going to say “before it gets better,” but it’s not going to get better.
What we’re hearing: Officials tell us Trump seems more self-assured, more prone to confidently indulging wild conspiracies and fantasies, more quick-triggered to fight than he was during the Wild West of the first 100 days in office.
Imagine Trump if he signs a huge tax cut into law, which seems likely, amid soaring stocks and rising economic growth.
Imagine if Roy Moore wins in Alabama, which seems likely, too. It surely won’t humble Trump — or hem him in.
He’s like the Incredible Hulk, after the media and Mueller made him mad.
The silver lining is that as Trump has veered into fringier culture-war territory, he seems to have further loosened his grip on policy. He was willing to sign any compromise the GOP could come up with in Congress to replace ObamaCare. He seems similarly willing to sign anything they can agree on to get tax reform through. He’s given his military commanders greater leeway in directing their own operations and pointedly referenced Mattis’s input at the White House a few days ago when he addressed North Korea’s ICBM launch. His judicial picks are by and large a fine conservative collection of Federalist-Society-pipeline nominees, the occasional outlier notwithstanding. The culture war is clearly more interesting to him than policy is. You can fault him, rightly, for having his priorities out of whack but if you’re worried about an “erratic” Trump steering the ship of state into an iceberg, console yourself with the fact that there’s not much evidence that he’s steering it. Certainly not with a heavy hand.
Remember, if you believe John Kasich’s staff, Donald Trump Jr proposed choosing Kasich as vice president last year with the promise that he’d be in charge of foreign and domestic policy. When a Kasich staffer asked Junior what Trump would be doing, the alleged reply was, “Making America great again.” That’s sort of what’s happening now, no? An NFL tweet here, an anti-Muslim video there, and the egghead stuff left to his cabinet and Congress.
By the way, if you’re wondering whether Scarborough could sue Trump for libel for casually suggesting that he murdered his intern in 2001, the answer appears to be no. Federal law bars tort suits against public officials in their individual capacity when those torts are committed in the course of their official duties, and “official duties” are defined broadly for statutory purposes. If not for that statute Scarborough *might* be able to win a suit against Trump for defamation, even as a public figure, since Trump’s suggestion pretty clearly was made with reckless disregard for whether there was any truth to the theory that Scarborough committed foul play. But the oblique phrasing of the tweet above would probably defeat the claim. Trump didn’t clearly allege wrongdoing; he didn’t even mention the intern. All he referenced was an “unsolved mystery” worthy of further investigation. Although political junkies knew what he was talking about, it might be simply too vague to amount to a false assertion of fact.