Daily Surprise

Daily Surprise

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Reporters covering the Trump White House have reached a point where they have given up assuming that President Trump will ever behave in a predictable, presidential manner. Every day is another surprise.

All Presidents like to control the news cycle, but President Trump has added an entirely new level to this phenomenon. Beginning early in the morning, Trump has demonstrated that he understands precisely how to do that.  Whenever he has anything to say he tweets it out for the entire world to see; with little or limited thought as to the consequences of what he might be saying. The President than leaves it to his staff to explain away all of his mis-speaks; or within a matter of hours or less he even changes his mind. Sometimes, Trump turns around and denies having said it.

This pattern of pathological lying is precisely why his lawyers now appear to be desperately trying to convince Trump not to testify before the Mueller investigation or to agree to a grand jury subpoena. They would rather refuse the request and litigate the matter. What is curious and also scary is that the President actually believes that he can get away with anything and everything. This mindset suggests that the President indeed would be prepared to challenge the Courts, the law, the Congress and the Constitution. He believes he will outwit the Mueller investigation and the courts; and win.

Like a person obsessed in the middle of a meeting yesterday on Homeland Security, the President deviated from the subject to start championing his excitement to see the Government experience another shut-down. Repeatedly, he extolled the idea only to leave the White House spokespersons to explain that he was only kidding.

In the middle of a rally for his tax bill in Ohio, the President drifted away from his focus to suddenly accuse the Democrats–who had not applauded his remarks in the State of the Union Address—as having behaved treasonously. It is a bizarre accusation to charge anyone with treason, let alone the democratically elected Democratic Members of Congress.  Not only did the President lack any understanding of what might constitute treason, but once again this reflected Trump’s inability to comprehend that respectable, responsible elected officials—let alone regular citizens—are permitted to disagree with him.

The story that the President has now asked the Pentagon to develop a plan to hold a major military parade was a page out of the former Soviet Union’s playbook. While he may have enjoyed the Bastille Day parade in Paris last July, military parades are not part of America’s culture except on very special occasions. In addition, the cost for such a parade would be a gross waste. All it would accomplish would be to make the President feel like an autocratic ruler. (When President Nixon invested money in 1970 to dress the uniformed division of the White House Secret Service in palace guard attire, the public response was so negative that after one use, the uniforms went immediately into mothballs. Ten years later they were sold to an Iowa high school marching band.)

Still to be considered is the effect that all of this disruptive behavior is having on the Republican Party and their fate in the fall’s mid-term elections. It now appears that the Senate and perhaps the House as well may be prepared to move ahead on a two-year budget proposal.  How fast Congress will address the fate of the DACA children and overall immigration reform is not clear, but there are bi-partisan Members in the Senate who are crafting a proposal. There is a sense that here too the Senate is beginning to try to function more normally.

What remains unknown is how the President will respond if Congress passes bills that do not fully meet his demands. Will the Democrats compromise among themselves on the timing for immigration reform? Will the GOP Congressional leaders legislate or only confront? Will Trump tolerate some legislative smoke and mirrors on the border wall?  It is also not clear yet if the President may refuse to permit the release of the letter drafted by the Democratic staff of the House Intelligence Committee to counter the Nunes letter.

Stay tuned.  The week is not over.

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