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Coming Apart? Maybe Not

Day by day the Trump administration is coming apart. Revelations abound about the dysfunctions of the Trump team, about Trump’s ignorance and incompetence, and now about a “resistance” group in the White House that is actively countering Trump’s “amorality” and “erratic” leadership style. Donald Trump surely can’t last much longer. Or can he?

We might all be guilty of wishful thinking here. Yes, between Bob Woodward’s Fearand Mr. (or Ms.) Anonymous’ assaulton Trump’s character, you would think any normal leader would decide that enough is enough. But Donald Trump isn’t a normal leader with normal emotions. As Woodward reports, he believes in never taking a backward step, never apologizing, never showing weakness. He’s like Hitler in his bunker—except that Trump won’t commit suicide.

More importantly, Trump hasn’t been mortally wounded by any of the books about him. Nor has the anonymous op-ed really exposed new and terrible things about Trump’s character that we didn’t already know. In fact, the op-ed supports Trump in two ways. First, the writer claims that some officials are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda.” S/he acknowledges that Trump has delivered on key campaign promises beloved to both his base and Republicans in Congress: “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.” What the writer, possibly a senior intelligence official, most resents is Trump’s performance in foreign affairs, such as his embrace of dictators, his trade policy, and treatment of allies—in short, his unfitness to be a commander in chief. Major defects, to be sure, but evidently not serious enough for the writer to resign in protest.

Second, Trump, with help from Steve Bannon, has consistently maintained that a “deep state” has been undermining his presidency since day one. Now along comes a “senior official” whom Trump can say proves the existence of the deep state, giving life to Woodward’s stories about other officials who have all along engaged in acts of bureaucratic sabotage. Trump’s cry of “treason” may seem credible to many.

When the smoke clears for the umpteenth time in this absurd presidency, we may find ourselves still at square one, hoping for electoral victories in November and the start of impeachment proceedings in January. We’re no closer than we were a few days ago to mass White House defections, Congressional Republicans turning on Trump, or people in “the base” suddenly realizing what a jerk they elected. Meanwhile, Brett Kavanaugh is a day closer to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, many children remain separated by ICE from their families, shootings continue unabated, and bad news mounts on climate change. So let’s get back to work.

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Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest.

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