Trump’s Bully Pulpit

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.

 

Rudi for Attorney General

Now that the election is over, Donald Trump is cleaning house (again). His first move was to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump was upset that Sessions didn’t do enough to protect him personally. He wanted an attorney general that would shield him from any investigations of his misdeeds.

Sessions wouldn’t do this, even after Trump repeatedly insulted him in public and on Twitter. In retrospect, it shouldn’t be surprising that an accused racist would have a thick skin.

There are several candidates to replace Sessions, but Rudi Giuliani should be on Trump’s shortlist. He has the political chops, he’s a former prosecutor and most importantly, he’s a Trump lap dog.

Sure, it would look bad if the lawyer defending Trump in Robert Mueller’s investigation became Mueller’s supervisor. But hey, the election’s over and who cares what people say. Trump certainly doesn’t – he has a thicker skin than Sessions.

Sessions Comes In From The Cold

Jeff Sessions is finally redeeming himself. It only took a year of prodding and insults from boss Donald Trump to get Jeff Sessions mobilized.

First he headed all the way out to California to pick a fight over immigration with the “sanctuary state”. Any fight with California is ridiculously easy to start and such red meat for Trump supporters that it boggles the mind that Sessions waited so long to start one.

Once he finally did, the results were worth it. He put the focus on California which was a perfect set up for Trump’s trip out there the following week. They protesters were all charged up and Trump got exactly the press and messaging he was looking for. Great teamwork.

But Sessions was not done. Friday he fired the FBI’s Andrew McCabe for Trump. If one follows the rule that the the more Trump tweets about a subject the more threatened he feels, then Trump is feeling extremely threatened by Robert Mueller’s investigation. He may not be able to get rid of Mueller, but discrediting every one of Mueller’s witness could be good enough, and Sessions just gave him a big hand in doing so.

One had to wonder what is going through Sessions’ mind. On the one had, he probably figures that if he does not become a more forceful Trump supporter he will be on the way out, like Rex Tillerson. On the other hand, as Attorney General he is the key point person in the Administration on defending the Constitution and representing the law enforcement community, which is probably why he took the job in the first place.

Sessions was able to avoid tough decisions at first by recusing himself and keeping a low profile. Understandably, it pissed Trump the loyalty addict off that Sessions wasn’t going out whole hog for him. Sessions had to make a choice – help Trump discredit the FBI and possibly end run the Constitution or be fired. He made his choice and Trump added another pawn to his collection.

 

The Inverse Clinton Equation

The equation is pretty simple. The more trouble Donald Trump finds himself in, the more he calls out the Clintons for illegal behavior.

The equation even translates to Trump’s underlings. The more hot water Jeff Sessions finds himself in regarding Russian connections, the closer he gets to appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Clintons.

It works because the Clintons are today’s Kennedys – the political family full of drama that can’t stay out of the news, even when they aren’t being investigated. There isn’t a lot of middle ground about the Clintons – most either hate them or love them (and not necessarily equally).

So firing up the Clinton headline machine is the best way to distract from Trump’s woes. The sad thing is that it will work.

The Wrong Leaks

Jeff Sessions just announced that he will redouble retriple his efforts to stop government leaks after pressure public humiliation by Donald Trump. That may probably won’t have an effect on the flow of harmful information about the Trump administration to the media, but that’s beside the point.

The leaks that the media should be really going after are ones about Trump’s business. For all of the media’s investigative prowess, no one has been able to create a score card detailing how much Trump is profiting from his presidency.

Sure, there have been articles exposing conflicts of interest. However, the detailed financial statements are missing. One would think that Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Economist, etc. would be able to put these together. They have the skills, but they are missing the data.

What they need are leakers. They know how to get people in government to talk – let’s see if they are any good at cultivating business people.

The fact that Trump is making millions or more off the presidency probably won’t bother his core supporters. But it could make a bunch of congressmen jealous and even more resentful of him.

Loyalty Is A One Way Street

Richard Nixon’s enemies list was secret but Donald Trump’s is right out there for everyone to see. If Trump does not like what you are doing, he will let everyone know in a tweet. Or fire you. Or both.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not the person is a Trump supporter. If Trump is upset with you, be prepared to be called on the carpet. Jeff Sessions was the first US Senator to support Trump, but he is now the subject of major presidential Twitter sniping. Reince Priebus supported Trump through the primaries to the dismay of the Republican establishment, which wanted any nominee but Trump. Priebus now has the distinction of losing his job faster than any Chief of Staff in history.

Both of these men were among the most solid Trump loyalists. But their experiences have shown that while Trump knows how to appreciate loyalty to himself, he has no loyalty to anyone else. It is all about “what have you done for me lately?”

Republican Washington is picking up on this. It will only get worse for Trump’s agenda as members of congress realize that he will sell them down the river in a New York minute if he doesn’t like something. Not exactly the Dale Carnegie approach, and it will likely fail sooner rather than later.

It Wasn’t Supposed To Be This Way

Donald Trump must be wondering. Here’s a guy who acknowledges having been ‘raked over the coals (in public) for thirty years.’ He finally ascends to king of the hill, winning the presidency. It’s time for a little bit of respect, right?

But it is not working out that way. The press, which has never been friendly, is even worst to him. His political party cannot seem to get things done, which makes him look weak, which is the opposite of the strong presidential image he deserves.

Heck, he can’t even get respect from his own administration. The press continues to get plenty of leaks from the White House, which totally pisses him off unless of course he is the leaker. His press secretary doesn’t seem to be able to make him look good – he had to go. Even his attorney general won’t go to bat for him. This guy was one of his most loyal supporters and now he’s just ducking the hard stuff.

No, Trump must feel like he got the ultimate raw deal. Which may be part of the explanation for his tweets about pardoning. He may be thinking, “Screw it. I don’t care about the recognition and respect. I’m just gonna do what I want and if they want to come after me and my family they can. I’ll just pardon our way out.”