March 3, 2024

s slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 12 December 2019
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Trump’s slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON – Donald Trump won the White House with 46.1 percent of the vote, and he hasn’t expanded his base of support. Yet he has an extraordinary hold on the people who voted for him, the Republican Party, and, almost unnoticed, the nation’s bureaucracy.
          The GOP is Trump’s party. And that’s the case even though he has tossed aside most of the party’s core beliefs.
          The GOP under Trump has gone from preaching fiscal responsibility to ballooning the federal debt by two trillion dollars, and from warning about the Soviet/Russian menace to giving the Russian foreign minister a current meeting in the Oval Office while denying such an audience to the Ukrainian president.
          What is the hold that Trump has on elected officials to compel them to do his bidding?
          Attorney General Barr, who served as AG in the George H.W. Bush administration, dissed his own inspector general’s conclusion that the FBI’s investigation into Trump campaign officials in 2016 was not politically motivated though there was “gross negligence.”
          The mixed results inspired Trump to call the FBI “scum” at a campaign rally, and will keep GOP conspiracy theories alive well into next year with Barr promising more to come from his handpicked special counsel, John Durham, whom Trump is counting on to come through with some pay dirt.
          Then there’s South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who first said if a quid pro quo was proven, that would be serious. When it was proven, he and other Republicans moved to the “so what” defense.
          Graham said he wouldn’t read any of the transcripts of witness testimony in the impeachment proceedings because they’re bogus, a scam, a witch hunt, to quote some of Trump’s favorite characterizations.
          Graham was once upon a time Arizona Senator John McCain’s closest friend in the Senate. And McCain was no fan of Trump, having given a thumbs down to legislation that would have killed Obamacare.
          But once McCain was gone, claimed by brain cancer last year, Graham was all in for Trump. “He’s in cycle,” his friends explain, meaning he’s up for reelection next year and is afraid of a primary challenge if he isn’t full-on for Trump. Indeed, most Republican legislators are kept in line for fear of being “primaried” by a Trump-supporting challenger.
          The extent to which Trump has a hold on the government he leads is evident in the number of Cabinet positions and high-level government jobs he has deliberately filled with people who are only “acting.”
          Trump likes it that way, he has everyone on their toes, anxious to please and worried that a stray word or action could prompt the reality television star to utter his famous line, “You’re fired.” He’s decimated the higher levels of government in a way those who remember President Nixon and Watergate might call a Saturday Night Massacre in slow motion. It will be remembered that President Nixon’s Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus both refused to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and they resigned. Next in line was Solicitor General Robert Bork who did the president’s bidding.
          In like manner, Trump continues to fire or force the resignations of those who fail to do as Barr does, leaving a slew of temporary “Bork-like” officials who will. So, Trump now has his party, his Senate, and his bureaucracy.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2019 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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