Thursday Reads: Will Trump Fade Away?

Paul Renard

Painting by Paul Renard

Good Afternoon!!

On Tuesday, I asked if we will ever be free of Trump and his demands for narcissistic supply–even after we pry him out of the White House. At The Atlantic, two writers argue that Trump is already losing his battle to remain the center of attention.

David A. Graham: Trump Is Rapidly Becoming Irrelevant.

To a remarkable degree, people have already stopped paying attention to the 45th president.

The past few weeks have offered a preview of what Donald Trump’s post-presidency might look like: The president fulminates at length, playing pundit, but is a practical nonfactor in policy discussions. He can still command the affection of millions—and raise millions of dollars from them—but the balance of the country has already moved on and tuned out. Trump’s ability to command the news cycle has been eclipsed by the virus he couldn’t be bothered to stop and the rival candidate he couldn’t beat.

Graham notes that we still must be alert to Trump’s efforts to damage our democratic institutions and policies.

His election-related efforts are sputtering: Trump has watched while state after state certifies election wins for Biden. He has watched as dozens of judges have punted long-shot lawsuits out of court. He watched as dye ran down Rudy Giuliani’s face in a news conference that was somehow both jaw-droppingly insane and jaw-clenchingly dull. Having exhausted nearly every option, the Trump legal effort has now resorted to recycling old, failed gambits. With the Electoral College meeting on December 14, the end is in sight.

The relevant description of Trump’s role is “watching.” The president has long been an obsessive TV viewer, but without a campaign to run and with no events on his schedule, there is less to distract him from the tube—and his gripes about Fox News and praise for the network’s smaller rivals, Newsmax and One America News….

Paris in the Rain, by Dan McCole

Paris in the Rain, by Dan McCole

He is now back to feeding his followers a steady diet of false and misleading claims about the election results, though it is difficult to tell whether he really believes his claims, is just processing his grief, is simply taking advantage of a lucrative fundraising opportunity, or some combination thereof. 

This punditry will likely be the central element of Trump’s post-presidency. Armed with his Twitter following and perhaps a cable-news show or even channel, Trump will be able to spout off to his heart’s content….

Trump’s diminishing relevance over the past 10 days is a good preview of what to expect come late January. Trump won’t go away entirely, and he certainly won’t get quiet, but fewer Americans will listen to or care about what he has to say. They’ve voted with their ballots, and now they’ll vote with their attention.

Yascha Mounk: Why Trump Might Just Fade Away. Americans will soon grow tired of the president, despite his efforts to stay in the limelight.  

Trump’s veneer of invincibility is fading. He lost his bid for reelection, and staged the most incompetent coup attempt since Woody Allen’s Bananas. He can rant and rave about what happened in November, but he can’t keep his followers from seeing Joe Biden inaugurated in January. Fear of what he might attempt next is giving way to laughter. He looks weaker and more scared by the day.

When Oprah Winfrey left her show to start her own network, she was the biggest star on television. Many analysts predicted that her new venture would be a huge success. At the time, some press reports even suggested that bosses at the main broadcast networks were seriously worried about the competition.

Contrary to these expectations, the Oprah Winfrey Network struggled to find an audience. In the first years of its existence, it bled tens of millions of dollars. Today, OWN has established a stable niche for itself, and even makes a little profit. But with an average viewership of fewer than 500,000 people in 2018, it plays in a completely different league from the four major networks and the most commercially successful cable channels.

This should serve as a warning to anybody who is now fielding pitches to invest in the Trump News Network. If Trump follows the lead of other authoritarian populists like Hugo Chávez and hosts a regular television program, he can undoubtedly induce his most devoted fans to tune in. But to be commercially viable, his channel would have to expand that core audience, recruit other hosts who are capable of sustaining the public’s attention, hire journalists who can actually cover what is going on in the world, and attract advertising from run-of-the-mill corporations.

Mounk argues that Republicans are unlikely to supports Trump’s plans for another presidential run in 2024, even if he is capable of carrying if off four years from now and it’s likely that most Americans will be sick of his antics by then, if they aren’t already.

Times Square Station, by Louis Ebarb

Times Square Station, by Louis Ebarb

Another Atlantic writer, Timothy Noah suggests that we may learn much more about Trump’s time as “president” after he leaves office: The Trump You’ve Yet to Meet.  Just because we know bad things about the 45th president, don’t assume that there’s nothing bad left to find out.

How well do we know Donald Trump? Pretty well, it would seem. Nobody has ever accused the outgoing president of possessing a complex personality. His behavior in office confirmed the common view, barely disputed even by his allies, that he is a shallow narcissist, blind or indifferent to common decencies, with poor impulse control and a vindictive streak. His futile attempt to litigate away electoral defeat may appall you, but it probably doesn’t surprise you.

Still, just because we know bad things about the 45th president, don’t assume that there’s nothing bad left to find out. Journalists like to pretend that we know everything about a president in real time, but our information is never close to complete. There’s always more to learn, and it’s seldom reassuring.

Americans had no idea until after he left office how completely Woodrow Wilson depended on his wife, Edith, after he suffered a stroke in September 1919; she waited two decades to admit in her memoirs that, on instructions from Wilson’s doctors, she’d winnowed his written communications with Cabinet members and senators, digesting and reframing “in tabloid form those things that … had to go to the president.”

Nor did Americans learn until a decade after his death that John F. Kennedy, a much less devoted family man than Life magazine let on, shared a mistress (sequentially if not concurrently) with the Chicago Mob boss Sam Giancana, whom the CIA recruited in one of several harebrained plots to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Then there’s Richard Nixon. Americans knew many shameful things about Nixon thanks to the Watergate investigation that prompted his resignation. But only after he left office did we learn, for instance, that Nixon ordered an aide to compile a list of Jews who worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics so he could demote some of them.

Noah lists many possibilities for how we will learn more about Trump and his time in the White House. I hope you’ll read the whole thing. Some possible sources of information and questions to be answered:

Trump, for all his talk about loyalty, has never commanded much from the people who work for him. No visible bonds of affection or respect bind Trump to his employees, leaving fear the sole motivation for keeping the troops in line. (See Cohen, Michael.) Most of that fear will evaporate by January 20, by which time trade publishers may be turning away proposals for tell-all books lest they create a market glut. Unlike the previous two administrations, which were somewhat difficult for reporters to penetrate, the Trump White House leaked like a sieve. Après lui, le déluge….

Charles W. Bailey Jr.

Digital art by Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

How close did we come to war with North Korea when Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury” on Kim Jong Un? After Trump decided instead to become the first president to meet with Kim, how close did Trump come to agreeing to remove U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula?

Exactly how much revenue did Trump properties collect from the federal government during his presidency? How much from people seeking to influence Trump’s presidency?

Who has received promises from Trump that they’ll be pardoned? Did Trump promise in advance to commute Roger Stone’s sentence?

What were the domestic arrangements in the Trump White House? Can Melania and Barron really be said to have lived there, or did they spend more time in their New York apartment, or at her parents’ house in Maryland, where Barron went to school?

Did White House aides observe signs of mental decline in Trump related to aging?

Some stories from today’s news that suggest Trump’s power to control the narrative and intimidate fellow Republicans is fading:

The Daily Beast: Mike Pence Backs Away From the Trump Election ‘Fraud’ Train Wreck.

Vice President Mike Pence has been a go-to fundraising draw for the president’s campaign, and since October, no more than a day passed without his name emblazoning a fundraising email for the Trump reelect.

But that changed late last month. Since Nov. 25, not a single fundraising email from the Trump campaign or its Republican National Committee fundraising account has featured Pence’s name in the “from” field. And this week, that Republican National Committee joint fundraising committee, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, made another subtle change: a handful of its emails swapped out the official Trump-Pence campaign logo for one featuring just the president’s name….

Newspaper Kiosk in Bologna, Italy, photo by Fillippo Carlot

Newspaper Kiosk in Bologna, Italy, photo by Fillippo Carlot

Several high-level sources say that the graphics change, along with Pence’s disappearance from the headers of President Donald Trump’s increasingly frantic and conspiratorial pleas, are not actually coincidental. According to four people with knowledge of the matter, they reflect an effort by the vice president and his team to distance Pence from some of the president’s more outlandish claims about a conspiracy to undermine the election and illegally deny him a second term in office.

“It is an open secret [in Trumpworld] that Vice President Pence absolutely does not feel the same way about the legal effort as President Trump does,” said a senior administration official. “The vice president doesn’t want to go down with this ship…and believes much of the legal work has been unhelpful.”

Axios: Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told President Trump on Wednesday he’ll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: “This is the only chance to get our bill passed,” a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump’s threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

The backstory: Inhofe leveled with Trump — over speakerphone while walking through the Senate’s Russell Building — that the bill won’t meet his demand to repeal liability protections for tech companies, or block efforts to re-title military bases named for Confederate figures.

The Washington Post reports on the public disgrace of a Trump sycophant: Joseph diGenova resigns from Gridiron Club after saying fired cybersecurity official should be shot.

Joseph diGenova, the Trump campaign lawyer who had been a fixture in Washington legal circles for decades, resigned under pressure Tuesday from the elite Gridiron Club after an uproar over his comments suggesting a former government official should be executed.

DiGenova later said he was joking when he made the comments about Christopher Krebs, the federal cybersecurity official who was fired by President Trump after asserting that the 2020 election was secure and free of widespread voter fraud. “Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs . . . .” diGenova said on the conservative “Howie Carr Show” on Monday. “He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”

Still, the White House denounced the statement, Krebs said he would consider legal action — and the 135-year-old Gridiron Club asked diGenova to step down.

Vlad Yeliseyev

Painting by Vlad Yeliseyev

Ivanka in legal trouble? CNN: Ivanka Trump was deposed Tuesday in DC attorney general’s inauguration lawsuit.

Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and adviser, sat for a deposition Tuesday with investigators from the Washington, DC, attorney general’s office as part of its lawsuit alleging the misuse of inaugural funds, according to a court filing.

In January, the DC attorney general’s office sued the Trump Organization and Presidential Inaugural Committee alleging they abused more than $1 million raised by the nonprofit by “grossly overpaying” for use of event space at the Trump hotel in Washington for the 2017 inauguration….

The attorney general’s office has also subpoenaed records from Barrack, Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and Rick Gates, the former inaugural committee deputy chairman, the filing said.

Republican election officials are standing up to Trump. The Washington Post: Election officials warn Trump’s escalating attacks on voting are putting their staffs at risk.

Intensifying attacks on the integrity of the vote by President Trump and his allies are fueling deep alarm among state and local officials, who have watched with dread in recent weeks as election workers have been targeted by fast-spreading conspiracy theories.

They echoed calls by Gabriel Sterling, a top Republican election official in Georgia who on Tuesday urged Trump and other GOP politicians to tamp down their baseless claims of widespread fraud. In an impassioned statement, Sterling blamed the president for “inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.”

He noted that a 20-year-old contractor for Dominion Voting Systems has been besieged with online attacks after QAnon supporters falsely claimed a video showed him manipulating voting data, when he was in fact simply using a computer and thumb drive.

Similar threats have cropped up across the country since Election Day.

More details at the link.

Finally, Bill Barr is publicly pushing back on Trump’s election fraud claims. ABC News: Barr had ‘intense’ meeting with Trump after AG’s interview undercutting voter fraud claims: Sources.

harvard-square-out-of-town-news-sean-moore

Harvard Square Out of Town News, by Sean Moore

Barr spent roughly two and a half hours on White House grounds on Tuesday for what White House and Department of Justice officials previously said was a pre-planned meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

However, sources told ABC News that once Barr was in the building for meetings, Trump wanted to see him.

One source briefed on the meeting described Barr’s interaction with the president as “intense,” but would not elaborate on any additional details about the content of their discussion.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a press briefing Wednesday afternoon declined to answer whether the two had spoken since Barr’s interview, and also declined to say directly whether Trump still had confidence in Barr.

So, that’s my summary of the notion that Trump may fade away after he leaves the White House. I don’t know if I buy it or not, but there is some evidence that Republicans are breaking free of the cult. I’d love to get your input on this.

 


14 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Will Trump Fade Away?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice Thursday, everyone!

    • Beata says:

      Wow, BB, so much to read and think about in this post!

      Pence distancing himself from the Trump train wreak does not surprise me. He’s getting ready for 2024. He’s been getting ready for a long time, bidding his time, acting the bootlicker role, making the connections he will need in the future.

      My concern is not Trump at this point, although he could still do some damage. I think he will soon fade away into the dustbin of history. The right-wing, antidemocratic threat will remain however. The question, IMO, is who will come after Trump? Someone smarter, more disciplined, more dangerous? Cruz? Pence? Someone not on the radar yet?

      Biden better not blow this chance or the right-wing will be ready in next election.

  2. dakinikat says:

    Thought you might want to read this!

    https://gen.medium.com/the-absurd-outrage-over-bidens-all-female-press-team-4f9cffb0bc40

    The idea that women are only in leadership positions because of their gender is nothing new. (Just ask any woman who supported a female presidential candidate.) But why are people who have never had a problem with mostly white male leadership suddenly aghast about a bit of gender homogeneity in the incoming Biden administration?
    Because to them, white men are a politically neutral group: the default choice. Any deviation from that standard must be about identity politics. It has never occurred to them that white men are the most political identity of all.
    For centuries, straight white men have been at the world’s helm because they were straight white men. Still, despite eons of patriarchy and the systemic disenfranchisement of marginalized communities, we are supposed to believe that the glut of white men in power is based on competence alone. How many times have we heard that an all-white male panel, board of directors, or leadership team was chosen solely on ability? They were race- and gender-blind in their process, they swear! It was all about who was best for the job!
    Let’s say that’s actually the case and that the throngs of straight white men in positions of power are really there solely because of their smarts — why, then, would it be so hard to believe the same could be true for a group of women? (Given the sexism women have to overcome, I’m willing to bet that an all-female group would actually be more adept than a group of men who haven’t had to face the same hurdles.)

  3. dakinikat says:

    Reading through your stuff there got me wondering has Pence been seen around Trump recently?

  4. quixote says:

    Tangential to the post, but I wanted to be sure I mentioned it since I was the one raising the question about the safety of the *RNA* in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. (The vaccine part is fine.) Finally saw the answer in a New Scientist article: It degrades in a few days like any other free-floating mRNA in the cell. So it is *not* a problem. (Phew! Stupid companies for not mentioning that right the way along!)

  5. palhart says:

    And especially lazy, rich, straight, white men. Example: Katie Porter grilling Steve Mnuchin (worth $300M) in a hearing over his wanting to transfer the remaining $455B of the CARES Act to the general fund before the end of the year. As Porter pointed out, it states in the act that such a transfer can only occur on January 1, 2026, or thereafter. He didn’t bother to familiarize himself with the act or Porter’s background (Yale BA and Harvard JD) because she’s merely a female congresswoman earning a below par salary and representing the unwashed and undeserving!

  6. Pat Johnson says:

    He is bound to fade away. How long can that incessant whine continue to hold anyone’s attention?

    I am surprised he is still hanging around DC. My first thought was that he would mince off to Mar A Lago for Thanksgiving and never return to DC. But apparently he will seek the attention whether or not it is good or bad because this is the only thing that he lives for.

    America got stuck with this idiot for 4 years and can’t seem to shake him off. He won’t let us! Yet the day is coming when “out of sight, out of mind” will actually mean something if we never have to see or hear from this nut job ever again.

  7. NW Luna says:

    I’m pessimistic about the MSM’s willingness to not give him attention, though his ludicrous actions about the election may make him tiresome enough for them.

  8. Jnana Hodson says:

    A lot of people BELIEVE his BS, and that won’t go away. They believe Covid is a hoax, after all. And facts are a hoax.
    None will admit that the only hoax is the man they worship blindly.
    Is there even a cure?
    This is going to be ugly for longer than we’d like.