Trump vs. the GOP: The president turns on his own party
During his surprising ascent to power, “President Trump has enjoyed breaking the conventional rules of politics,” said Josh Dawsey in Politico.com. But in recent weeks, Trump has “flabbergasted” even his own aides by launching a war against his fellow Republicans in Congress. “Convinced the American public sees Congress as failing,” the president has publicly blamed Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for being unable to repeal Obamacare, and in a profanity-laced phone call privately raged at the Kentucky senator for not protecting him from the Russia investigation, according to a report in The New York Times. Trump has also fired salvos at Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake—threatening to find a candidate to primary the latter in the 2018 midterms—and attacked Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, a former close ally who publicly questioned the president’s “stability.” The Republican civil war may soon turn into a massive “political disaster,” said Chris Cillizza in CNN.com. Trump insisted last week he would veto any budget or debt-ceiling bill in September that didn’t include funding for his border wall. If Congress doesn’t raise the nation’s debt limit by Sept. 30, the federal government may shut down. “Believe me, if we have to close down the government, we’re building that wall!” Trump shouted at his rally in Phoenix, as his supporters roared.
This is “sheer madness,” said Brian Beutler in NewRepublic.com. The border wall is unpopular and unnecessary, and defaulting on the national debt or shutting down his own government would cause potentially “horrific” economic consequences—including rattling the stock and bond markets and damaging U.S. credit. It would also backfire politically. Republicans control both the legislative and executive branches of government, and would be naturally blamed for the chaos of a shutdown, which would see national parks closed, airports snarled, and government workers either sent home or asked to work without pay. The GOP could be punished at the ballot box in 2018, and if it loses control of the House to Democrats, chances of impeachment rise exponentially. For Trump to threaten a shutdown over the wall makes about as much sense as “robbing a bank with a gun held to his own head.”
What else is Trump supposed to do, with establishment politicians like McConnell “obstructing the will of the people?” said Tammy Bruce in FoxNews.com. Voters sent Trump to the White House precisely so that he could shake up Washington and halt illegal immigration, stop the flow of jobs abroad, repeal and replace Obamacare, and improve national security. And yet the Republican-led Congress, which has an approval rating of just 10 percent, keeps standing in Trump’s way. If these lawmakers keep failing to do their jobs, Trump is right to call them out publicly and ask voters to punish them at the ballot box.
Trump’s most loyal supporters “clearly hate McConnell and his colleagues,” said Jonathan Tobin in NationalReview.com, but this is a war he can’t win. Trump needs McConnell “if he’s going to get done any of the things he wants done,” including tax reform. The majority leader and other Republican leaders have made it clear in recent weeks they don’t fear Trump—whose approval rating hovers below 40 percent—and won’t be intimidated by him; funding for a wall, Republicans have indicated, probably isn’t coming. Since Democrats will oppose every item on his agenda, Trump needs to make up with the Republican leadership if he “still has hopes of governing rather than merely using the White House as a platform for his public vendettas.”
You forget one thing, said Timothy O’Brien in Bloomberg.com. Trump doesn’t care about policy or governing. The only thing he cares about—and has ever cared about—is “winning.” For him, that means beating his many perceived enemies and fostering “the illusion of personal strength.” Throughout his real estate and casino career, he often battled business partners and politicians when it was against his self-interest, claiming victory later even when he lost. As president, he’s doing it again—turning on his own party. It’s time for Republicans to admit that Trump is simply “unfit to govern,” said former Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner in The New York Times. Republican members of Congress and their staffs privately call the president a “child king” and “self-pitying fool,” and after the debacle of his Charlottesville comments, there’s a widespread realization that “he’s never going to change.” As a major confrontation looms, the interests of the GOP and “those of Donald Trump no longer align”; he’s already done serious damage to the Republican brand. “If the party doesn’t make a clean break with him, it will be generational.” ■