A question running alongside Donald Trump’s political career is whether he will ever pay a price for his verbal insults.
It was widely thought Mr. Trump might have damaged himself fatally when in mid-2015 he said of John McCain’s time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Even now, Mr. Trump’s verbal smackdowns come so fast and furious that it’s hard to keep up. As far back as I can remember—about a week or so—objects of Mr. Trump’s ire have included
- the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the
- special counsel who is investigating him, and
- the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
- The attacks on “fake news” roll in and out like the weather.
Mr. Trump did the news conference primarily to offer his analysis of the midterm election results, which the president described as “very close to complete victory.”
.. It eventually became clear that what Mr. Trump meant by close to complete victory was the results in races with candidates for whom he personally campaigned—such as Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Indiana—rather than the election outcome for Republicans more generally.
.. “And Barbara Comstock was another one. I mean, I think she could have won that race, but she didn’t want to have any embrace. For that, I don’t blame her. But she lost. Substantially lost. Peter Roskam didn’t want the embrace. Erik Paulsen didn’t want the embrace.”
This is unprecedented. Politics ain’t beanbag, but no president has ever ridiculed the losing members of his own party. No one in politics mocks a defeated election opponent.
.. This moment could cost Mr. Trump in the next two years. The Republicans Mr. Trump hung out to dry in that news conference have friends in Congress and across Washington, and it’s not likely they are going to forget this.
.. Every U.S. presidency at some point comes under intense political pressure. Some break, like Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon. But until then, all could count for their survival on the political and personal loyalty of members of their party or the people who worked for them.
Who with political power that matters will Donald Trump call on when his darkest hour arrives? Many will lift a finger, but how high?
Mr. Trump has proven his resiliency. But that news conference was an odd moment, kicking fallen Republicans while associating himself with the tender mercies of Nancy Pelosi. Washington, he may find, can quickly become a lonely place.
Republican officials in Congress and the White House are now openly discussing finding a GOP replacement to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Speaker of the House, after Ryan failed to pass the American Health Care Act out of the House and misled the public and President Donald Trump when he promised repeatedly the bill would pass.
Ryan was caught on an audio file from October—obtained by Breitbart News and published a couple weeks ago—saying he is “not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future.” While the audio file does not make the comments clear, Ryan’s staff later claimed that it was specifically about the Access Hollywood tape scandal from the election. The audio tape of Ryan, recorded from a House GOP members’ conference call, does not make that context clear... the president is concerned that Ryan may not have his—or his agenda’s—best interests at heart. Ryan’s failure to deliver the votes on healthcare cement Trump’s skepticism of Ryan, they say... After the election in November, it was widely reported that there were enough Republican votes to remove Ryan as Speaker—and the only reason conservatives kept him is that Trump won the election and embraced Ryan. But now Trump may perceive Ryan as a burden rather than someone who can help enact his agenda.. It has gotten so far along in the process that alternative names are being thrown around—anyone from House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), to former Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)—to Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Peter Roskam (R-IL), according to one senior House GOP aide... The fact that Frelinghuysen—a committee chairman of the powerful House panel that oversees the disbursement of government cash–came out publicly against the legislation is proof that Ryan has problems inside the House GOP conference that go much deeper than the House Freedom Caucus. It is worth noting that Frelinghuysen is a direct descendant of America’s founding fathers, and his family has served in Congress in every generation since the 1700s... There are ongoing discussions in House offices conference-wide whether Republicans should use the same tactic that conservatives used in 2015 to remove now-former Speaker John Boehner from the House. Back then, Meadows—then just a member of the House Freedom Caucus—introduced what is called a resolution with a motion to vacate the chair... Asked explicitly whether President Trump has confidence in Ryan remaining as Speaker, White House press secretary Sean Spicer would not answer Breitbart News, yes or no.