The Press Conference
During my lifetime, before today, I remember two times when I thought this country, and possibly the planet, was facing an existential moment: The Cuban Missile Crisis and the days around the Saturday Night Massacre (when the U.S. was also dealing with a Mideast crisis that would lead an out of control Administration to put the military on nuclear alert). In both cases the United States was facing an aggressive Soviet Union sensing vulnerabilities in the White House. In the first case a young president, having already been humiliated by the Soviet Union, had to control a military bureaucracy who had no trust in him. In the second case, a totally dysfunctional president facing a special counsel who had subpoenaed the tapes that would prove Nixon had committed high crimes and misdemeanors, was simply incapable of dealing with the Arab-Israel conflict which the two superpowers had taken sides in.
Today marks the third one. If you have not seen the president’s first news conference, you can see and read the transcript via the New York Times. I urge everyone to contemplate this. We have a chief executive who is intellectually, temperamentally, morally and developmentally incapable of the kind of responsibility he was elected to assume. There is no need for me to highlight the more bizarre aspects of this performance, because it will be obvious to anyone who takes the time to read or watch. Personally, I feel rather stupid having spent two days analyzing Sean Spicer’s cover story for the Flynn scandal, because, as we should have known, Trump was not going to follow the story, and in fact would continue to incriminate himself, because he just can’t help himself. Trump has no poker face, he has no ability to think two steps ahead. His one tactic which he has used all his life is: You gave me the credit, if you force me to repay, I will go bankrupt and you will lose more than me.
Here is the current story concerning Flynn. It is unbelievable to read:
No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence. Very simple. Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So, it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it.
I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job. And it came out that way — and in all fairness, I watched Dr. Charles Krauthammer the other night say he was doing his job and I agreed with him. And since then, I’ve watched many other people say that.
So here we see where Sean Spicer got the “instinctive” part of the limited hangout. It came from Trump himself. It combines the deniability of wrong-doing of a coward with the lawyerly argument that could have been made if he was man enough to admit he was behind Flynn’s actions. But the story has now moved beyond Flynn. We are now in the realm where his campaign aides may have actively conspired with Russia to influence the election. And Trump refused to answer those question, evidently this is going to take a while for Spicer and crew to come up with a plausible cover.
The fact that he is cracking is evident from everything about this conference. He was unbelievably confrontational, utterly inarticulate (even for him), totally undisciplined and evidently unprepared for the conference. There is nobody there in the White House who can control this man. He spoke of how someone told him about his electoral vote margin, how he was briefed about how “nuclear holocaust would be like no other,” about how Hillary Clinton gave Russian a quarter of “our uranium” from which “bad things” can happen, etc., etc., etc.
It is clear to me that the stress of his campaign’s crimes has gotten to him. But that isn’t even the worst. What we see is a 70 man, unprepared this, trying to flair about juggling not only the baggage his conduct brings to the job but the stress that takes a toll on much younger office holders, who have, unlike this man, have prepared their entire lives for this job. We have seen a man already pushed to his brink, and he hasn’t seen nuthin’ yet.
We are about to see if this country has the institutions and good will among its citizenry to survive this crisis. I don’t want to see the betting odds on that question, because we probably would not be around when we win our bet.