Vox's Ezra Klein recently interviewed MSNBC's Chris Hayes and Hayes makes a compelling case that Donald Trump has zero interest in being leader of the United States. Instead, he's much happier leaving all the tough decisions to his staff so he can focus on watching cable news and "making America great again" via Twitter:
I don't think the president wants to be in charge. I think he wants to sit on his couch and yell at his TV screen and tweet things, but he's almost happy to be able to kind of get it out of his system and not have anyone listen to him. I think his optimal equilibrium is hectoring Jeff Sessions but Jeff Sessions not quitting, or tweeting out the thing about transgender service members and the military ignoring him, or tweeting out threats to North Korea and not actually changing American posture.
I think that that we have arrived at a new equilibrium in which both the interior members of his staff, the actual federal bureaucracy, the US Congress, the US public, the global public, and global leaders all basically understand the president is fundamentally a bullshit artist and you just shouldn't listen to what he says.
This fits Trump's erratic personality perfectly. By essentially outsourcing his job, he can claim the credit for everything that goes right and blame everyone else when it goes wrong.
When a botched raid that he signed off on got a serviceman killed, Trump blamed "the generals" as if he were not, literally, their commander:
“This was something that was, you know, just — they wanted to do,” Trump said. “ And they came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected.”
“And they lost Ryan,” Trump continued.
When the push to repeal Obamacare turned into a rolling disaster because of a total lack of leadership on his part, Trump blamed the Democrats:
“If we had even a little Democrat support, just a little, like a couple of votes, you’d have everything. And you could give us a lot of votes and we’d even be willing to change it and move it around and try and make it even better,” he continued at the Iowa rally. “But again, They just want to stop, they just want to obstruct. A few votes from the Democrats, seriously, a few votes from the Democrats, it could be so easy, so beautiful, and you’d have cooperation.”
And the Republicans, Mitch McConnell specifically:
"Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn't get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!" Trump tweeted on Thursday.
Trump wasn't entirely wrong to blame Republicans but his inability to lead the party in any way whatsoever contributed mightily to the debacle. In fact, Trump continues to complain about how the ACA doesn't work properly while he's the person in charge of making sure it does. That's like blaming the car and the tree you crashed it into because you went for a joyride and never learned how to drive. Like many people in the business world, Trump had no idea how complicated running a country could be.
Hayes is almost certainly correct that Trump doesn't want to actually be president. Even before he was elected, Trump was shopping around for a Vice President who would essentially run the country for him while Trump watched TV all day and held rallies where people would cheer his awesomeness:
Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a Kasich adviser after the Ohio governor ended his own Republican presidential campaign, promising that if he accepted the vice presidency, Kasich would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.
The adviser asked what Trump would be in charge of, the report said, and Trump Jr. responded: "Making America great again."
This, perhaps, explains Mike Pence's odd obsequiousness when it comes to Trump. Now that Bannon is gone, maybe he'll get to run the country as the power behind the throne. It also explains why Bannon had to go. He wouldn't stop trying to make Trump's campaign promises a reality and that required Trump to actually work. Far better, from Trump's perspective, to let Republican operatives run the country while he went golfing on the weekends. He would sign whatever hey put in front of him, pose for photos, and give the occasional interview to brag about what a great president he was.
This wouldn't be the first time Republicans have had a figurehead in the Oval Office. It's not exactly a secret that Ronald Reagan had no idea what he was doing and was simply there to put a friendly face to policies cooked up by his staff. It's even less of a secret that he had Alzheimer's by the end of his presidency but it didn't matter because he was president in name only. Clearly, Trump is hoping to coast through his time in office the same way (complete with debilitating mental illness), reading scripts and playacting as Commander in Chief.
Unfortunately, figureheads need to be able to sell the policies of their handlers and Trump can't. Like Reagan, he's used to reading a script but Trump can't stop himself from going off on tangents to moan about how mean everyone is to him or how he won the election. He also can't stop lying about anything and everything on a minute by minute basis. Combine this with his abusive tweeting and Trump has become more of a roadblock for the GOP's agenda than the filibuster.
For a man that wants to be a puppet, Trump can't resist tangling his strings. It's almost enough to make one feel bad for the Republicans who hitched their wagon to the Trump Crazy Train.
But not really.
There are 443 days left to the 2018 elections.
- This article kills fascists
Please consider becoming a paid member of The Daily Banter and supporting us in holding the Trump administration to account. Your help is needed more than ever, and is greatly appreciated.