Can Trump run against himself?

Trump has already laid the foundation for running against his own first term — in the tweets he regularly fires off against members of his administration who have resigned or been fired and then turned on him. (Former National Security Adviser John Bolton is just the latest in a long line of examples.) These missives invariably denounce the former staffer in unmodulated terms, as unambiguously awful, and treat the resignation or firing as evidence of Trump’s own toughness and high standards. What he never notes is that he invariably hired the incompetent traitor in the first place.

But let’s imagine he did that, conceding that he made a mistake in hiring (or keeping on) James Comey, Jeff Sessions, James Mattis, John Kelly, John Bolton, and the rest of the not-at-all-dearly departed. Naturally he wouldn’t accept the blame himself — and he wouldn’t be entirely unjustified in this refusal. Trump was a businessman, not a politician. He knew little about policy and even less about the Very Important People in Washington who are supposed to help presidents govern. From the start, he’s been hugely reliant on advisers and leading members of his own party — the very people his 2016 campaign was aimed at discrediting and dislodging from power.

Just as Trump could pin the blame for bad hiring decisions on these GOP dead-enders, he could conceivably go much further in blaming the manifest failures of his own first term on these same people — on Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney, Justin Amash, Reince Priebus, H.R. McMaster, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pence, and the other card-carrying members of the Republican establishment who’ve controlled Congress and run the White House for the past three and a half years. These are the very people who’ve vacillated between criticizing Trump and doing his bidding with maximal obsequiousness.