The moral of the Helsinki freak show, the NATO tragicomedy and the children in cages near the border isn’t just that Donald Trump lacks any discernible conscience, real regard for this country or mature appreciation of history and our exalted part in it. It’s that this next election matters — immeasurably.
.. when it comes to babysitting this president, the Republican Party is a lost cause.
.. 79 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s sycophantic performance at the news conference with Vladimir Putin, while 85 percent deem the investigation of Russian intrusion into our elections a distraction. They bear less and less resemblance to the followers of a coherent ideology and more and more to the members of a cult. That word is gaining currency in our political discourse for excellent reason.
.. roughly 40 percent of Americans who were eligible to vote didn’t.
.. ages 18 to 29. But fewer than one in two of them cast a ballot
.. Trump won the presidency because of about 78,000 ballots in three states. A nation’s direction can hinge on a margin that small. Every vote counts.
.. Does our discipline rise to the level of our anger? Does our will? A large-enough showing by voters opposed to Trump would overcome the forces of gerrymandering and overwhelm the Koch brothers.
Whatever the case, Cohn couldn’t take it. His departure demolishes three theories, cherished by administration apologists, as to why the Trump presidency will be a success (or at the least not a disaster) despite the temperament of the man at the top.
Theory No. 1: The grown-ups are in charge.
- In the trade debate, Cohn lost out to the third-tier White House official Peter Navarro, who likes to hang around the West Wing in hopes of sneaking in to see the president.
- On immigration, 32-year old Michele Bachmann acolyte Stephen Miller runs the show.
- H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, is widely reported to be seeking an exit.
- His deputy Dina Powell already made her escape.
- Reince Priebus was once supposed to be a White House grown-up, and look at what happened to him. His successor,
- John Kelly, was supposed to quell the disorder, but has just as frequently contributed to it.
In most administrations, senior officials strive to stay in office a full term, or two years at the least. It’s supposed to be the honor of a lifetime.
Theory No. 2: Trump doesn’t believe his own crazy rhetoric.
The trade deficit has been a fixation of Trump’s since at least the 1980s.
- Withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was his first shot at it.
- Last week’s announcement of steel and aluminum tariffs were the second.
- Terminating Nafta will be his third.
.. What makes the tariff episode more alarming is that Trump announced the policy without any effort at a coherent policymaking process. It simply landed on Cohn much as news of a North Korean nuclear test might: radioactive and beyond his control. If Trump feels no compunction doing this to Cohn, what’s to stop him from behaving similarly with, say, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis?.. As for Russia, Bob Mueller’s probe into potential collusion has made foreign policy cooperation untenable — but that only holds as long as the probe continues.
Theory No. 3: Serious Republicans will contain Trump’s follies.
It’s nice to see Paul Ryan and Lindsey Graham contradict the president on tariffs. But they and other so-called principled Republicans will surely fold on this, just as they have folded on immigration, the border wall and Trump himself.
.. Now the party’s steady transformation into an American version of France’s National Front is probably unstoppable.
Republicans unhappy with that drift — paging Nebraska Sen. Ben . Sasse — should leave while they can with honor intact. Gary Cohn’s exit isn’t just another resignation. It’s also a final warning.