DONALD Trump made another magazine cover this week, but it is not flattering to him. Newsweek depicts the embattled US president slouched in a recliner with a bag of popcorn and cell phone in hand. The headline: Lazy Boy.
As the president prepares to join the rest of Washington, DC, on an extended August holiday, he remains the most besieged American chief executive in modern times, vilified by much of the US media, the Democratic party opposition, a significant polled majority of the American people and, increasingly, his own Republican party.
Relations between Trump and the Republicans have taken a distinct turn for the worse in recent days. Pundits in the capital are pointing to his dismissal of chief of staff (and former GOP national chairman) Reince Priebus and to the resignation of chief spokesman Sean Spicer as further diminishing of the role and presence of the Republican party mainstream in the White House.
Trump’s apparent ambivalence on such Republican bellwether issues as repealing and replacing his predecessor’s Affordable Care Act have seen him alternately demanding that the GOP-dominated Congress pass an alternative health care plan and criticising that same Congress for the mean-spiritedness of its proposals.
Perhaps in no area have the disintegrating relations between Trump and the Congressional Republicans been more in view than over sanctions Congress has strengthened against Russia for its interference in the 2016 US presidential election. After the sanctions were imposed anew by Congress and Trump was virtually obliged to sign them into law, Russian president Vladimir Putin retaliated in true Cold War fashion by ordering the withdrawal of hundreds of US mission employees in various locations in Russia. Trump blamed his Republican congress for the deterioration of US-Russian relations.
Now federal tax policy looms as an issue very much on Republican minds in Congress. As with most policy questions, it is hard to discern where Trump actually stands on taxes. Meanwhile, the New York Stock Exchange continues to rise to record high levels, and there is likely to be some real basis for business optimism over Trump tax policies, once they eventually emerge from the mists of his Twitter storms.
As Newsweek and other media poke fun at Trump’s seemingly poor work ethic, they should not overlook an emerging hallmark of his presidency. Perhaps he has accomplished very little in his six-plus months in office, other than easy to enact regulatory refutations of his predecessor and seeing a reliable conservative onto the Supreme Court.
But Trump has remained unquestionably faithful to those who have remained as his obdurate 35% of voter support in national polls. He is stubbornly determined to pursue every aspect of his campaign promises, from building a southern border wall financed by neighbouring Mexico to Obamacare repeal to crippling US commitment to mitigate climate change.
Trump is apparently unconcerned that unflinching fealty to campaign rhetoric that more traditional politicians routinely finesse once elected or returned to office has often made him look fatuous and even unintelligent. He clearly takes pride in his allegiance to his campaign proposals and ideas, many of which appear to be harmful to the US.
His attack on the free trade initiatives of his most recent predecessors is a particularly glaring apostacy against long-standing Republican principles. It is fair to wonder for how long Congressional Republicans such as House speaker Paul Ryan and Senate leaders will keep the faith with Trump.
In the last week, the president launched a caustic attack on Jeff Sessions, his attorney general and a popular former Republican Senator from Alabama. Sessions has been perhaps the most diligent commander in the continuing Republican assault on civil rights in the US GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell has warned the White House against firing Sessions.
Congressional leaders of both parties have, meanwhile, risen to the defense of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is held in nearly universal high regard in both houses of Congress. Leaked information indicates that Mueller has now empanelled a DC grand jury to hear evidence against Trump and his campaign.
Mueller is directing a steady progression toward the possibility of impeachment. Congressional Republican disenchantment with the president can only make that future possibility even more a likelihood.