Magazine article The Spectator

You're Fired! Trump's Theatrics vs Political Reality

Magazine article The Spectator

You're Fired! Trump's Theatrics vs Political Reality

Article excerpt

Trump's theatrics vs political reality

Washington D.C.

Even a reality show needs good plot twists, and Donald Trump has delivered them like the master he is. First the misdirection: a week of publicly humiliating his attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, to the point where Sessions would surely quit or be fired. Then the sudden swerve -- it was the press shop, not the justice department, that was decapitated. Sean Spicer was out as press secretary. Anthony Scaramucci, a mini Trump whose language was as blue as the lenses of his fancy sunglasses, was in as White House communications director. Reince Priebus, chief of staff, was next to go, sacked after clashing with 'the Mooch'. And then the climactic twist: in virtually his first act in office, Priebus's replacement, Marine Gen. John Kelly, fired Scaramucci.

For any other White House, this would be a crisis. For Trump, it's a reprieve from the misery of the investigation into his suspected ties to Russia. The President fired FBI director James Comey back in May because Comey wouldn't stop investigating Michael Flynn -- who briefly served as National Security Adviser --and wouldn't tell the public that Trump himself wasn't under suspicion. Comey's firing led the deputy attorney-general, Rod Rosenstein, to appoint a former FBI director, Robert Mueller, as a special counsel to lead the Russia inquiry. Since then, Trump has looked for someone else he can fire.

He'd like to fire Mueller, but it would look better if the attorney-general did that. Alas Sessions, who had meetings of his own with Russian officials last year, recused himself from the case. So to get rid of Mueller, maybe Sessions would have to go first. And that's where the main storyline stood when this new Scaramucci character was introduced and swiftly killed off.

The entertainment value of American politics shouldn't be underestimated. Trump is President today because he understands this. Ever since John F. Kennedy, the American President has had celebrity appeal, and the right star -- a Kennedy, Reagan, or Bill Clinton -- can outshine the dullards of ordinary politics. Reagan and Clinton used the theatrical qualities of presidential power to great political effect. Trump is attempting to do so as well, but the political realities just won't cooperate. The first reality is that the Russia investigation is not going to go away, and Trump's frantic attempts to scuttle it have only made his problems worse. The second reality is that Trump's policy agenda doesn't match the political coalition he leads in the Republican party.

The Russia inquiry threatens to destroy the Trump administration, despite the fact that investigators have so far uncovered no evidence of any crime committed by the President or his associates. His critics assume he must be guilty of something because he acts like he is.

Trump seems, above all, to be worried about the investigation looking into his finances. Quite possibly there are embarrassing, but not necessarily illegal, ties between Trump family business entities and foreign governments, including Russia. Exposure could be harmful not only to Trump's political position but, perhaps more importantly, to the family business empire. That, at least, is one avenue for speculation that does not involve sensational election-rigging with Moscow. …

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