The last presidency that had this rough a start was William Henry Harrison. Harrison died of pneumonia one month after his inauguration. In the case of the Trump administration, the new president has shot himself in the foot so often, our last best hope is that his six-shooter is finally empty and some kind soul has hidden the rest of his ammunition.
Can we just begin all over again? Is there a reset button in Washington, D.C.? But, of course, there is no reset button for a new president. And while new presidents are often tested — JFK and the Bay of Pigs disaster comes to mind — and survived, the odds are increasing every day in Vegas that Trump will not complete his first term in office. Place your bets. The administration has already lost its credibility. History shows that once credibility is lost, it is almost impossible to get it back. There is literally no one left in the Trump administration, especially the president, who can convince anyone that they are telling the truth. Truth may be the first casualty of war, and it has certainly been the first casualty of the Trump administration.
None of us should be surprised. Candi
date Trump lied early and often during his successful campaign for the presidency. He continued his “creative” untruths once in office. It is no wonder then that lying has become second nature for anyone representing the administration in interviews and news conferences and that a monstrous lie forced his national security adviser Michael Flynn to “resign” recently. Every administration fudges the truth to make itself look good. But in just over a month the symbol of this administration should be Pinocchio. Trump is not Hitler, but in some ways, his presidency seems to be unraveling like two failed presidents — Richard M. Nixon and Lyndon Baines Johnson.
In this columnist’s lifetime, both Nixon and Johnson were brought down by lies. Nixon’s presidency ended not because of Watergate, but because of Nixon’s attempted cover-up. The presidency of Johnson did not end with his decision not to run for re-election because of the Vietnam War, but because of the lies told to the American public about that war. It was during the Johnson presidency that the term “credibility gap” became popular. The Trump Administration suffers from a credibility gap.
Both presidencies were brought down, in part, by aggressive investigative journalism of the New York Times and Washington Post. Both newspapers are venerable institutions of what are known as the “mainstream media.” Both the Times and the Post were correctly criticized for their failure — and in some cases, their outright complicity in not exposing the false rationale of weapons of mass destruction leading up to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. The term “mainstream media” or “MSM” fell into disrepute with critics of both the left and right.
Trump took on the “crooked media” in his campaign. His top adviser, Steve Bannon, later characterized the media as “the opposition.” An aroused media has taken the challenge. With the help of frequent leaks from inside the administration, the media have been relentless in their coverage of the Trump administration’s incompetence and duplicity.
The most explosive story to emerge has been the news that Flynn held discussions with the Russians in the weeks before Trump became president. The specifics of those conversations are still unfolding while this column is being written. However, what is known is that the subject of Obama’s recent sanctions was discussed and that Flynn lied about that fact to Vice President Mike Pence. What is important to note is the president was informed of Flynn’s lies by his then-Acting Attorney General, just a day before she was fired by Trump for refusing to comply with enforcing his executive order on immigration. It wasn’t until Pence complained about being hung out to dry on the Sunday morning news shows for repeating Flynn’s lie, that Trump was forced to act and Flynn “resigned.” Why didn’t Trump get rid of him the moment that he knew what Flynn had become? Perhaps, the more important question is did Flynn act alone? If not, whose instructions was he following?
Our own security agencies have confirmed the existence of a Russian dossier on Trump. Its factual content, in part, has also been confirmed. Isn’t the president himself then also vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians? Trump has consistently refused to criticize Vladimir Putin. In fact, Trump praised Putin’s leadership. In the face of incontrovertible evidence, the president refused steadfastly to acknowledge Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and when he did, tried to minimize those actions. Trump also refuses to release his tax returns that could potentially shed light on rumored business entanglements with the Russians.
If Trump thinks this story is going to go away because of Flynn’s resignation, he is badly mistaken. If he believes that he can bully the media into submission, he needs to remember Nixon and Johnson. If he thinks the Republican Congress will not bail on him if they believe he has become a political liability, watch his fellow GOPers man the lifeboats.
Someone once said that Nixon did have real enemies, but the sword that killed him was handed to them by Nixon. Beware. The swords are out.