Guy W. Farmer: President Trump vs. his fellow Republicans
I once received some good advice from a wise person: Never have more enemies than you can usefully deal with at any given time, he told me. But don’t tell that to President Trump, who never misses an opportunity to pick fights with his fellow Republicans.
The most recent targets of the president’s ire and vindictive wrath are Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil. Their public battles with the president remind me of middle school food fights, only worse, and demonstrate yet again Trump’s huge ego overrides whatever modicum of common sense and good judgment he may possess. And most dangerously, he seems willing to risk our national security in order to constantly stroke his large but fragile ego.
I truly believe a brave White House staffer could perform an immensely admirable public service by disabling the president’s Twitter account. If that doesn’t happen, however, we’ll continue to watch in disbelief as Trump destroys his own presidency. A couple of politically savvy friends and I frequently debate whether The Donald will self-destruct before his term ends in January 2021. Right now, we think it’s about 50-50 he won’t finish a full term before Congress impeaches him and removes him from office.
Corker and Tillerson aren’t Trump’s only Republican enemies because he’s already picked fights with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Marco Rubio of Florida, among others. Remember McCain cast the deciding vote against the most recent GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. It could have been payback.
We recall Trump’s ugly back-and-forth with his own Attorney General, former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who was one of his earliest and most vocal congressional supporters. If that’s how the president treats his friends, imagine how he treats his perceived enemies — those who criticize or disagree with anything, no matter how innocuous or trivial, he does or says. Obviously, that’s not a recipe for good government or a smoothly functioning White House. But you already knew that.
The Corker fight began when the senator praised Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff James Kelly for “keeping the country from falling into chaos” and described the White House as “an adult day-care center.” Trump responded Corker, who isn’t seeking reelection, “didn’t have the guts” to run again. But Trump needs Corker in order to accomplish his legislative agenda, including healthcare, immigration and tax reform. Go figure!
The president undercut Tillerson, who allegedly called Trump “a moron,” by challenging Tillerson to an IQ contest in yet another public demonstration of childish behavior by a semi-unhinged president. So our Secretary of State is hanging by a thread as North Korea threatens to launch a nuclear attack against the U.S. mainland. That explains why Corker warned Trump’s ill-considered tweets could put us “on the path to World War III.”
If President Trump manages to alienate enough congressional Republicans, impeachment and removal from office will become real possibilities depending upon how lawmakers choose to define “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Remember ex-President Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives — but not convicted by the Senate — for lying about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. In my opinion Trump’s transgressions are much more serious because they jeopardize national security, and that should concern all of us who are parents and grandparents.
Guy W. Farmer, a retired diplomat, is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.