April 12, 2024


Today’s Events in Historical Perspective                                                                     
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
The Don
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift         
          WASHINGTON — Is the Donald behaving like the Don, a mafia super boss? “Be brutal, be tough,” he has said.
          He hasn’t yet won the Republican nomination, but he controls the GOP and is exercising power in what looks like a shadow government. He just killed a bipartisan immigration reform deal that was months in the making and browbeat RNC chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel into stepping down so he can name a “Stop the Steal” acolyte to fill the position. And woe unto errant Republicans who refuse to kiss his ring.
          Trump talks regularly with House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., a loyal toady who follows the former president’s dictates. Johnson proclaimed the border bill “dead on arrival,” and he has put up barriers to aid for Ukraine, a decision that has national security implications.
          Ukraine, a U.S. ally, is struggling to hold territory against Russian forces while Republicans heed Trump’s wishes to back away from that beleaguered country. Former Fox News megastar, Tucker Carlson, is Trump’s man in Moscow, where he was treated like royalty and granted a rare interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an autocrat Trump never disparages.
          What’s going on here? A disgraced former president, indicted on 91 felony counts, insisting wrongly that he won the last election, is taking reins of power before he is even nominated as the Republican standard bearer.
          In the United Kingdom, this is called a shadow government consisting of a full shadow cabinet. Because the British have a parliamentary system, where snap elections are routine, the leader of the opposition must be ready on a moment’s notice to plug into key positions his or her party’s choices.
          In Britain, there’s no waiting from the first Tuesday in November to January 20 to inaugurate a new leader. And that is the tempo Trump seems to be setting with a growing sense of inevitability about his winning the nomination and scores of Republicans in Congress and statehouses are lining up out of conviction or cowardice to do his bidding.
          In the House, Speaker Johnson acquiesces to Trump’s every wish and refuses to even hold a vote for the most conservative reform of border issues Republicans said they wanted. Trump’s politics-before-country reasoning: it would give President Biden a win.
          In the before times, Senate leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would have steered border security and aid for Ukraine through a divided GOP caucus, but he is no match for the troika of next generation Trumpster lieutenants in the Senate: Ohio’s J.D. Vance, Missouri’s Josh Hawley, and Arkansas’ Tom Cotton.
          McConnell is at the end of his career, and he is choosing capitulation. He could have stood up to Trump after January 6 when a jury of senators fell short of conviction in Trump’s second impeachment, but he said the judicial system would deal with him later.
          The judicial system is struggling under the weight of Trump’s numerous appeals to delay the multiple federal and state criminal and civil proceedings he is fighting. Polls show that if convicted of a crime a majority of voters would not support him.
          But until then, there is nothing preventing him from trying to win another term as president. The Supreme Court just heard arguments about a Colorado ruling that relies on a post-Civil War statute barring insurrectionists from holding elective office. Trump will win that one, just as he may win his jury trials where only unanimous verdicts can convict.
          Trump seems to function with untouchable success like the Godfather, “Don” Vito Corleone in the 1972 movie, who memorably ordered without ordering: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
           “Find me the votes,” Trump demanded of Georgia officials, offering sweet talk mixed with threats, for they understood that to run afoul of Trump was likely career-ending, and yet many from the governor on down did.
          In a 1992 interview for a New York magazine piece, Phillip Johnson said, “You’d make a good mafioso,” to which Trump replied, “One of the greatest.” Perhaps he wasn’t serious.
          Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2024 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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