Such a cartoonish show of force is clearly designed to scare off potential competitors before they even get in the ring. But like many exaggerated projections of strength, it’s giving off the unseemly whiff of flop sweat.
There is a parallel here. Once upon a time, a Republican incumbent president popular within his own party faced minor competition both in early-state GOP primaries and among a rowdy Democratic field. There was some scandal and gross arm-twisting emanating from the White House, though not yet in a seriously prosecutable way; meanwhile the left was flirting more openly with socialism than it had in a generation.
In the end, Richard Nixon would squash the antiwar Californian Pete McCloskey like a bugin New Hampshire, before romping to the kind of general-election landslide that Donald Trump can only dream about. But along the way the president’s paranoia, crude habits and questionable taste in personnel — Roger Stone, anyone? — sowed the seeds of his administration’s destruction.