Via Mediaite. Who? Which Trump fan has said “enough”? Most rank-and-file Trumpers seem to be following Roger Kimball’s line, that Mattis “exhibit[ed] a petulance and smallness unbecoming a man of his distinction” by enumerating his philosophical differences with Trump in his resignation letter. Trump’s own exhausting, endless petulance and smallness Kimball gingerly describes as “heterodox behavior and rhetoric,” allowing merely that “The President speaks a novel language most of us are unused to hearing among politicians” on foreign policy. If anything, Trump supporters are using Mattis’s airing of principled grievances to justify Trump’s own perpetual complaining about everything. “See? Even the so-called adults in the room whine.”
Why, here’s some of that “heterodox behavior” now:
After canceling his Christmas trip to Florida in view of the government shutdown, Trump was marooned this weekend at the White House watching hours of cable television news shows. Advisers said he stewed over commentary hailing Mattis as heroic — a human guardrail against the president’s impulses.
Trump was so angry with Mattis that on Sunday morning he directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to inform the defense secretary that he was being pulled from office two months early, according to a senior administration official.
Nothing says “leadership” like asking an underling to fire the four-star Marine whom you’ve put in charge of the country’s defense. I’m curious to see what the numbers look like the next time Military Times polls this question (the data here is from September):
But I digress. Who are these alleged defectors from MAGA Nation whom Scarborough spies leaving the ship over Mattis and the Syria pullout? He probably means Republicans on the Hill, all of whom have reacted with “concern” at the news if they’re on the record with reporters or with full-blown profane panic attacks if they aren’t. It’s true that normally reliable Trump defenders like Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio have been cautiously and tactfully critical. But no one’s said “enough.” No one’s threatened to block Trump on a key priority unless he agrees to reverse course on Syria. Apart from Rubio muttering about “oversight,” whatever that might mean in this context, everything’s peachy keen.
In fact, yesterday I noticed that superhawks like Graham and Liz Cheney who adamantly oppose withdrawal from Syria nonetheless strongly support Trump’s pointless attempt to get Democrats to fund the border wall via a shutdown. If Republicans really were leaving the Trump train, members of the House and Senate might be less supportive of Trump’s own core priorities in retaliation for him being less supportive of their own. As it is, I think they’re more supportive of a showdown over the wall than they were before Trump pulled the plug on Syria and Mattis left. That’s because Trump’s base (formerly known as the Republican base) will tolerate other Republicans disagreeing with him only up to a certain point. If you’re going to sharply contradict on him one key matter, like Syria, you need to shore up your MAGA cred by sharply agreeing with him on another, like the wall. Graham and Cheney are protecting their right flanks from potential primary challenges in 2020.
So I ask again: Who’s saying “enough” rather than just very politely taking a different view on Syria? What “Rubicon” has been crossed? Even Brit Hume, whom Scarborough cites as evidence, never said anything about being done with Trump. All he did was speculate about how others might react to this episode:
Too much of the criticism of Trump has been overblown, too often about things that either didn’t happen or didn’t matter. That is not true of Syria/Mattis. This is a big deal, both in the substance of the Trump decisions and the way the whole episode was handled.
— Brit Hume (@brithume) December 23, 2018
— Brit Hume (@brithume) December 24, 2018
The Zito piece Hume cites claims that “Trump has lost Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell” over the Syria/Mattis double whammy. McConnell did issue a statement after Mattis’s resignation expressing his “distress,” but he was last seen on the Senate floor two days ago loudly endorsing Trump’s demand for a wall. Trump tweeted this just last night:
Mitch McConnell just told a group of people, and me, that he has been in the U.S. Senate for 32 years and the last two have been by far the best & most productive of his career. Tax & Regulation Cuts, VA Choice, Farm Bill, Criminal Justice Reform, Judgeships & much more. Great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 24, 2018
No Republican in Washington with anything to lose will say “enough” to Trump unless and until the grassroots cult of personality around him says so first. And they’re surely not going to say so over Syria or Jim Mattis. That’s the irony of Scarborough’s comment — inasmuch as anyone has come close-ish to saying “enough” to Trump over the past week, it’s the nationalists who beat him up initially for not being willing to risk a shutdown to try to fund the wall. If he had sold them out on that, he would have lost Ann Coulter plus, uh … well, he would have lost Ann Coulter. But apart from her, as long as literally anyone else can be blamed for his failures, there’s no Rubicon he can cross that will cost him his base. And his base is all he cares about at this point, for good reason.