Last March U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon warned of the imminent “deconstruction of the administrative state.” No one thought at the time that this code language for decapitating the F.B.I. while it was engaged in an investigation into the relationship between Trump and the Russians.
Which may explain why Trump’s beleaguered press secretary Sean Spicer was either hiding in the bushes or standing with his staff among the bushes later in the day, as was later reported as a correction. Either way, he was dumbstruck by the news, just like the rest of us.
Every week since Trump’s election in November has been a mix of reality show and politics, served with a high dose of drama, chaos and confusion. Last week, White House officials apparently called the Prime Minister’s office to invite Justin Trudeau to call Trump and beg that NAFTA be renegotiated instead of cancelled. Trudeau made the call and Trump backed down. Trump being Trump, a likelier scenario was that he told his officials to pretend they were calling out of their own volition. Everything is games and mirrors with Trump.
The day after Trump fired F.B.I. Director James B. Comey, he awkwardly appeared at a photo op in the Oval Office with former Nixonian-era Secretary of State Henri Kissinger, a reminder of another loose cannon president. Trump then cozied up with Russian foreign minister Sergey V. Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. Trump banned American media and photographers from witnessing the gathering only to later find out that Russian state news outlets had made public photos of the beaming threesome.
Mainstream U.S. media outlets, like the New York Times and the Washington Post – those Trump call “fake news” – were reporting that Comey’s capital punishment-worthy offence was requesting additional resources for the F.B.I.’s Trump-Russia investigation.
Trump’s wildly vacillating version of why he fired Comey appeared to morph by the hour. Comey had lost the confidence of Americans or his own staff at the F.B.I., or Trump was always set on firing him for his misconduct during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails, or the deputy Attorney General and the A.G. had both requested it, or that he was fired for either incompetence, being a “showboat” or a “grandstander.” Pot meet kettle.
The U.S. likes to think of itself as the leader of the Free World. With its powerful constitution and democratic institutions, there was a time where the superpower could well wrap itself around that notion. But with Trump the demagogue in charge of the White House, we can officially let go of that myth.
Trump likes to think of himself as brilliant and tough but with a kind heart. A misunderstood kind of guy. It’s the reason why he can’t stand Saturday Night Live’s Alec Baldwin impersonations of him. They portray him as too “mean.”
Apart from being a scheming, lying bully, Trump’s indeed a mean coward. Comey was meeting with F.B.I. staff in Los Angeles when his firing broke on a television. He thought he was being pranked. Red-faced Comey soon found out that it wasn’t a joke.
So much for Trump being a tough but nice guy. He’s neither.