By Gary Younge
The Guardian (3/15/18)
Even by Donald Trump’s standards, Tuesday was extraordinary [3/13]. First came the tweet that he had fired his secretary of state Rex Tillerson. Then a state department spokesman issued a statement claiming Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his dismissal, and had heard about it on Twitter. A few hours later the spokesman had been fired too. Meanwhile the lawyer of porn actor Stephanie Clifford (stage name: Stormy Daniels), who allegedly had an affair with Trump, warned the country to “buckle up” as Clifford sought to extract herself from her non-disclosure agreement so she could “publish any materials, such as text messages, photos and/or videos relating to the president that she may have in her possession”. Back in Washington, the Trump team announced it would be hiring John McEntee, Trump’s former personal assistant, as a senior adviser for campaign operations. The day before, McEntee had been escorted from the White House because he is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes.
“The problem with Democrats looking on Donald Trump’s presidency as a slow-motion car crash is that it concedes they are spectators at a moment when they should be in the driving seat.”
While all this was going on, voters in south-west Pennsylvania’s 18th district went to the polls in a byelection, in a district Republicans have held for the past 15 years. It was so safe that Democrats didn’t even bother contesting the last two elections. Trump trounced Hillary Clinton there by about 20 points. It should have been a shoo-in for the Republicans. By the end of the night Democrats were celebrating a wafer-thin victory, though this may yet be challenged.
Witnessing Trump’s presidency unravel so spectacularly provokes a perverse joy. The venality is so baroque, the vulgarity so ostentatious, the inconsistencies so stark, the incompetence so epic and the lies so brazen, it leaves you speechless. His vanity is without guile and the scandals that embroil him without end. Almost everything he says and does has been publicly contradicted, by himself, usually on Twitter. On Tuesday he said of Tillerson’s departure: “Rex and I have been talking about this a long time … We were not really thinking the same”.
On 1 December he tweeted: “The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon – FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!” It’s amazing to think he ever imagined he could get away with it. And with each test at the ballot box it seems he can’t. Republicans have been crushed in elections around the country. Some defeats, like that of the alleged paedophile Roy Moore in Alabama, are unlikely to be repeated; others, like the gains across Virginia in November, indicate more sustained progress. There has been a relatively consistent swing of about 15 points to Democrats in state and congressional races that has seen them take over 40 seats from Republicans, including in states such as Florida and Wisconsin where Clinton lost in 2016. Midterm elections are almost never good for the party in the White House. On current trends, this November will be a disaster for Republicans.