Bullies prey on the weak, and they’re usually very good at figuring out who the weak are. Master bully Donald Trump is particularly good at it. He must think that Mitch McConnell is very, very weak.
The other day Trump ripped into McConnell, calling him a “son of a bitch” and a “stone-cold loser.” True to form, Trump doubled down on his bullying by going after McConnell’s wife as well.
McConnell is the leader of the Senate’s Republicans, but Trump doesn’t think much of his leadership. It’s pretty clear he’d like someone else in charge. Lindsey Graham is jockeying for the role, as is Ted Cruz. Graham might get it. Cruz almost certainly won’t.
One of McConnell’s main jobs is helping Republicans win Senate elections. It should be one of Trump’s as well. The two of them should be cooperating, but working with someone who insults your wife can’t be easy. The party faithful may applaud Trump’s bombastic behavior, but it hard to see how it will help them win.
Mitch McConnell Is angry. Some companies (Coca Cola, Delta Airlines) are speaking out against the voting rights law that Georgia Republicans just passed. Mitch thought they were over the line and channeled his inner Trump to try bullying the companies.
“Stay out of politics,” he warned them. Or what? He didn’t say.
McConnell’s position is massively ironic. Republicans have been happy to take corporate money for years. They were also supporters of the Citizen’s United ruling that let corporations spend money to buy political ads. Apparently buying political ads is fine as long as you agree with McConnell’s politics.
The problem is, Mitch doesn’t really wear the bully mantle well. Sure, in the Senate he carries a big stick. But as a populist leader of the Republican party, it just isn’t happening for him. He’s past his sell by date. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham are running rings around him. Graham may even take his place as top Senate Republican (Cruz would love to, but it would never happen. Too many Republicans hate his guts.)
McConnell may have even scored an own goal with his threat. What if the Democrats agree with him and propose legislation to keep companies out of politics? It’s a slippery slope.
One hundred years ago, bully was a good thing. The word meant fantastic, awesome, wonderful. President Teddy Roosevelt thought the presidency was a great platform to preach his message from – he called it a “bully pulpit”.
Bully no longer has that positive connotation but under bully in chief Donald Trump the pulpit lives again. Trump bullies his opponents because it works, just as it does in the schoolyard. Until someone fights back and beats the bully up, the bully will just keep on doing it.
Trump not only bullies his opponents, he bullies his own team. Trump bullied Jeff Sessions unceasingly until he finally fired him.
The latest casualty is John Kelly. Kelly joined Trump’s ‘team’ in the summer of 2017. Within 3 months Trump gave him the bully treatment. Kelly didn’t fight back and from then on Trump owned him. Now he is gone as well.
So far, no Republicans have had the guts to push back on Trump’s bullying. It will be interesting to see if the Democrats can effectively push back once they take control of the House.
Hint: Don’t bet on it.
John Kelly probably thought that he was operating by the old rules. There are just things that one did not do. Lines one does not cross.
Yet, after working as Donald Trump’s chief of staff for two and half months why didn’t he realize that Trump doesn’t have any lines? When Trump is attacked, he fights back with whatever he can, even if it means fighting dirty. In fact, Trump’s base is tired of Washington’s version of the the Marquess of Queensberry rules. They want him to fight to win, and they don’t care how.
So Trump had no compulsions about dragging Kelly’s dead Marine son into a Twitter battle that he was having with a Gold Star family and their congresswoman. What is surprising is that Kelly allowed himself to be goaded into defending Trump publicly, even spouting ‘facts’ that turned out to be false.
Kelly, a Gold Star father, publicly lied to defend his boss’ public lies about his conversation with a Gold Star mother.
Kelly’s wife is probably furious with him for not telling off Trump after he brought their son’s death into national politics and for then allowing his integrity, and by extension their family’s, to be publicly compromised.
But what can Kelly do? He likely believes, as Bob Corker pointed out, that he is one of the few people keeping Trump from starting World War Three. His sense of duty to the country won’t let him quit.
Once a bully finds out he can roll over you, he will keep doing it. Trump rolled over Kelly and got away with it. And now he owns Kelly.
Donald Trump has a lot riding on Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. Trump’s M.O. is classic bully: threaten someone mercilessly with the expectation that they will kowtow to you because you are stronger. Trump’s message to Flake is, “I can take your senate seat away by supporting your opponent so you’d better get in line.”
If Flake wins his primary battle a year from now (August 2018) then Trump’s threats will be shown to be empty. This could be right around the time that the Senate is considering impeachment charges against Trump, assuming the House actually proffers them. Even if not, senate committees could be uncovering a whole lot of unflattering information about the Donald, his business and his political alliances with the Russians, Arabs and others.
Not a good time to have Flake win the primary and show that your threats are harmless.