Let’s start our Saturday rime together off on a lighter note. By far and away, my choice for “Comment of the Week” goes to Chuck Rosenberg, a former federal prosecutor. Talking on MSNBC about Trump’s invitation for Vlad the Imp to pop over this fall and plant some bugs in the Oval Office, Rosenberg quipped, “I just hope that Mr Putin doesn’t decide to bring his children with him, because they’ll be forcibly separated at the border.” Priceless.
No matter how you cut it, this was a disastrous week for Trump. Starting with his “The Gimp from Pulp Fiction” performance, publicly fondling Putin in Helsinki, to his invitation for Putin to darken our shores before he even told us if he had ceded Alaska because “Putin can see Alaska from his back porch,” to committing legal suicide by releasing a Michael Cohen secretly recorded tape, this week had it all. And bless his little heart, Rudy Ghouliani desperately tried to keep up with his boss. Only a drooling dotard can say that Donald Trump discussing with Michael Cohen about whether to pay Karen McDougle directly to shut her up, or repaying AMI for doing it for them with a check rather than cash was somehow exculpatory. Personally, I think it just meant that Trump didn’t trust Cohen with 150 large. He learned from Paul Manafort that giving his kind of friends oodles of walking around cash wasn’t a great idea.
But, watching the events of this last, hectic week highlighted something that has been going on for over a month now. When you talk to a Trumpcake, their greatest admiration for Trump comes from the fact that he’s “a mans man,” and that he “never backs down, he always doubles down.” Trump’s success, going all the way back to the campaign was that he set the dynamic, he set the news cycle for the day. Trump called a morning show and said something stupid, and that became the topic for the day. Which is what Trump wanted. If something negative about Trump broke, Trump said or tweeted something stupid on a completely unrelated topic, and that became the story, drowning out the negative press. No matter what happened, it was Trump who was driving the conversation and coverage, and always to his advantage.
But that changed, more than a month ago. Trump had KKKeebler the Elf roll out his shiny new child abduction policy at the border, and in doing so, knocked over a hornets nest. The media latched onto this story like a lamprey on a shark, and wouldn’t let go. Trump tried his normal tactic of doubling down, but that only doubled the recrimination, easily frowning out his supporters racist cheers. Even GOP incumbents who weren’t slinking out the doors of congress next January criticized Trump. Even Trump’s quick capitulation didn’t stop the coverage of the basically nonexistent reunification plan, but the media gleefully chortled about His Lowness’ humble capitulation, adding personal humiliation.
The same has happened with Trump’s trade war. The reasoning for the action was so convoluted that even Trump supporters could see “Stupid” written all over it. Non retiring GOP incumbents like Jodi Ernst and even Mitch McConnell have directly criticized the tariffs, and there is even talk of legislative action to take Baby Trump’s toy away from him. once again, Trump went to Old Faithful, and is threatening to double down with more sanctions on China and the EU. And as a result, some of Trump’s greatest supporters, Midwest soy farmers, are converging on Washington, to try to convince Republican lawmakers to give The Cheeto Prophet more of whatever it is that they use to keep him docile.
And now the debacle in Helsinki of disappearing into a closet for two hours to play a game of slap-and-tickle with Vladimir Putin. Robert Mueller rained on that particular parade before it even left the staging area, by indicting the 12 GRU intelligence officers. Now, not only is everybody screaming bloody murder about his press conference, but Putin is slyly sticking it to Trump by leaking some of the goodies that Trump may or may not have agreed to in that private meeting to the world. Trump has tried a twofer here. First, he had Sarah “Who’s a pretty birdie” Sanders tweet out his invitation for Putin to the Casa Blanco. This idea is going over like a lead balloon, so he went to his backup, misdirection, leaking the story about the secret Cohen recording to change the subject. But, while the media is more than happy to remind everybody what a sex degenerate Trump is, there’s plenty of time left in the hour to hammer the $1 Store Caligula about his black fishnet scene with Putin.
This is dangerous to Trump for two reasons. First, the events of the last month or so have shattered his invincibility with his base. Tough guys don’t back down, and Trump had to back down on his immigrant kidnapping scheme. And he looked pathetically weak in doing so. And as much as invertebrates like Marco Rubio may grasp the “Should have been wouldn’t instead of would” straw from Trump, nevertheless, it was the weak showing of a kid called to the principals office. And while Trumpaholics will continue to shout his praises from the rooftops, remember this, you can always tell when somebody bought a piece of shit car, by how loudly they proclaim what a great deal they got. With Trump’s name not on the ballot in November, a Duck Dynasty marathon may prove to be a tantalizing reason to not bother driving over to the high school gym to pull a lever. The Democrats have already targeted at least 40 districts as being vulnerable, and each of those representatives on the GOP side has an uncomfortable decision to make regarding Glorious Bleater.
But more dangerous to Trump is the fact that GOP incumbents are slowly, and in some cases not very meekly, peel away from Trump. Texas GOP representative Will Hurd just wrote a blistering NY Times op-ed, saying that Trump had been openly “manipulated” by Putin on the world stage, embarrassing not only himself, but the US as a country and it’s intelligence services. Hurd is not ensconced in some ruby red district, he’s in a competitive swing district. If incumbents like Hurd start campaigning against Trump, no matter how gently, it is a disaster for Trump. If they run against him and lose, that means a Democrat in that seat, opposing Trump. And if they run against him and win, then they are on a short leash, and they are going to have to pay attention to constituent concerns, and oppose him when necessary in congress to be reelected again in 2020. Either way, his House caucus is weakened. And a sufficiently weakened Trump in the House may make some of the 20+ GOP Senators up for reelection in 2020 think twice about any articles of impeachment that may bubble up from the House in 2019.
Donald Trump could remain successful only as long as he could control the narrative. It didn’t matter what the topic was, or how stupid Trump was, as long as he was the one standing on something, and everybody else was back on their heels opposing him, Trump was the “strong man,” the guy in control, the man of his supporters dreams. But, even if he blusters and holds his ground, if Trump is the one responding to the narrative, and not the one driving the narrative, he no longer looks like the one in charge. And with Trump, image is everything, simply because there is no substance.
I see no reason for this trend to reverse itself, Trump has lost control of the narrative for the foreseeable future. Trump-Russia will continue. Even if Mueller “goes dark” after Labor Day, Manafort’s second trial is scheduled for mid September. And if Cohen is indicted before Labor Day, there will be court hearings between then and November. DHS and HHS have only reunited 437 out of 2,550 immigrant children, that will drag on, with continued media attention for months yet, especially when lawsuits start piling up. The rich shitpokes got their tax cuts, but John and Jane Q Public aren’t feeling the love, it’ll be Democrats running on Trump’s tax cuts in November, instead of Republicans. The Trump tariffs will start to bite after Labor Day, and Democrats will gleefully remind everybody who to thank. And lo and behold, in mid October, only weeks before the election, the new health insurance premiums for 2019 will be announced.
Donald Trump lost the narrative for two reasons. First, through stupid and harmful actions taken purely to satisfy a base that isn’t large enough to get elected to a school board seat. But more importantly, he lost the narrative because he ran out of easy, slam dunk GOP issues to trumpet. And there are no more of those to be found under the sofa cushions. The narrative is gone, and I don’t see it coming back for him anytime soon.