Trump’s Mob-Like Vengeance Campaign

‘If it’s a lie, then we fight on that lie. But we gotta fight.’

Mitt Romney isn’t the only senator to experience what happens to a Trump ally when they fail to demonstrate sufficient loyalty.

Democrat Joe Manchin represents one of the reddest states in the country. Trump won West Virginia by over 40 points in 2016. As a result, Manchin has consistently cozied up to the president.

As a political creature, Manchin is a rare breed in these hyper-partisan times. A self-described centrist, he’s been a thorn in the side of fellow Democrats since he arrived in Washington…under Trump, he’s voted with the president more than any other Democrat—backing the White House on everything from Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination to a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. “I told [Trump], ‘I’m the only thing that keeps you bipartisan,’ ” Manchin says.

In the summer of 2018, Manchin went so far as to suggest that he might endorse Trump in the 2020 presidential election. As the impeachment trial was underway, the senator from West Virginia led efforts to censure the president as an alternative to removal from office.

But in the end, Manchin voted “guilty” on both articles of impeachment. That made him a target.

The senator responded.

Obviously, Trump wanted to get the last word.

Monday morning, Manchin appeared on a couple of morning shows and shot back.

Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday brushed off the stream of insults hurled at him by President Donald Trump, offering the president some stern advice: Grow up.

“I expect—every American and myself would like my president and our president to act like a responsible adult, and he’s not,” Manchin told CNN’s “New Day.” “For the sake of the country, I hope he does.”…

In an interview on MSNBC later Monday, Manchin swatted back more forcefully at Trump’s “Munchkin” moniker and Trump’s assertion that the senator “couldn’t understand the Transcripts” of events at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

“First of all, the munchkin, I’m taller than him, I think, a little bit bigger than he is,” he quipped. “Not heavier—he’s much heavier than me, but I’m a little taller than him so I guess he got that little bit off.”

Manchin added that he didn’t know Trump’s intent when the president referenced the transcripts.

“I hope he wasn’t referring to because I’m from West Virginia, that we can’t understand or comprehend,” he said. “I think we do a pretty good job of that, and I understood it very well. I read it and I understood it.”

Over the weekend, I watched the movie The Irishman and thought about Donald Trump’s history with the mob. What we are witnessing in response to both impeachment testimony and votes is the traditional mob tactic of taking out anyone who threatens your dominance. At this point, the president can’t go around “offing” his enemies, so he tries to do it verbally.

I’m sure that Trump’s enablers just love it when he talks tough like this. But the truth is that, in politics, doing so means an ever-decreasing circle of people you can depend on for support. In other words, the president might have just reduced the number of votes he can count on in the Senate by two: Romney and Manchin. More importantly, the one person who could occasionally give his initiatives the veneer of bipartisan support is being treated as an enemy.

In David Simon’s series The Wire, Stringer Bell gets tired of the constant war for corners and develops a vision in which the major drug kingpins in Baltimore cooperate with one another, while he and Avon Barksdale invest their money in “legitimate businesses.” Barksdale is too caught up in the game.

The parting of ways on that vision eventually leads Barksdale to have Stinger killed… and the war goes on.

When Barksdale has second thoughts, Slim Charles tells him, “Fact is, we went to war and now there ain’t no goin’ back… If it’s a lie, then we fight on that lie. But we gotta fight.” Could there be a better description of Donald Trump and his vengeance campaign?

The president has been playing this game for a long time. Just like Barksdale, he’s going to continue doing so… no matter the cost.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.