It’s happened. The Republicans’ month-from-hell has arrived. It’s the month I coined a meat-grinder. And it’s going to get off to the slowest of starts owing to the long Labor Day weekend holiday. There will much work for responsible government officials to do, and very little time for them to get it done.
Yet, the president is the farthest thing from focused. The Russia investigation is terrifying him. He wants to fire his Secretary of State and it looks like Rex Tillerson would welcome that outcome. He’s fuming at his National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn because Cohn essentially called him a racist in public, but he doesn’t feel like he can afford to fire him because he’s trying to pivot to a doomed tax reform effort. He’s chomping at the bit his chief of staff put on him to limit his access to fake news and crazy supporters and advisers. He’s still obsessed with his media coverage and the camera angles and attendance he gets at his political rallies. He’s more energized by his efforts to settle scores with Republican senators who have crossed him than he is with attracting the support of Democratic senators he will soon need. He’s recently made open war on the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House, both of whom have been increasingly critical of his behavior and performance. Most of all, he misses the brief period during which the job of president was kind of fun:
President Trump spent the final days of August dutifully performing his job. He tended to the massive recovery from Hurricane Harvey. He hit the road to sell his tax-cut plan. And he convened policy meetings on the federal budget and the North Korean nuclear threat.
Behind the scenes during a summer of crisis, however, Trump appears to pine for the days when the Oval Office was a bustling hub of visitors and gossip, over which he presided as impresario. He fumes that he does not get the credit he thinks he deserves from the media or the allegiance from fellow Republican leaders he says he is owed. He boasts about his presidency in superlatives, but confidants privately fret about his suddenly dark moods.
His son Eric Trump says that the president tunes out bad coverage to avoid wanting to kill himself, but we know he doesn’t actually tune any of it out.
As Trump lashes out like a badger in a burlap sack, his attacks are not suited to his challenges. He threatens to force a government shutdown if he doesn’t get funding for his border wall, but he has absolutely no plan for getting the votes he’d need from Democrats to get his money. He doesn’t know how he’s going to get the debt ceiling raised or whether or not he should attach it to disaster relief. He doesn’t even have a theory of where the votes will come from or what he might need to trade for those votes. He says that he still wants Obamacare repealed but doesn’t understand that the opportunity to do that will end the moment the Republicans pass a new budget aimed at enacting tax reform. He senses that he’s completely blocked legislatively and calls for an end of the Senate’s filibuster, not realizing that he doesn’t and never will have anywhere near the votes he needs to make that change.
This is how September is beginning for the president. Lord knows how it will end.