Trump Takes America Hostage
In Epic Temper Tantrum
The White House/YouTube screen capture
By Ray Cunneff
May 22, 2019
At any other time in America's history, what we saw today in President Donald Trump's Rose Garden tantrum, a self-pitying hissy fit with a dark subtext of petty vindictiveness, would have been considered historic.
But it seems in the Age of Trump we're making history nearly every day. "Unprecedented" has become the operative word for our times, but Trump's live-television meltdown today strongly hints that we ain't seen nothin' yet.
We've understood for some time that Trump recognizes no limits on his authority and his unfettered exercise of presidential power. We know he has a showman's instinct for theatrics, the propagandist's skills at false narrative, the marketing analyst's tools for pandering, and the con man's rapacious lust for wealth. He is also batshit crazy.
So what happens next? Just about anything is possible from here. If he's willing to torpedo bipartisan talks on a much-needed infrastructure plan, to essentially take the nation's business hostage in what amounts to an extortion scheme arising from consciousness of guilt, in order to shut down all inquiries into his conduct, then what's ahead is even more frightening uncharted territory.
It's not just the infrastructure deal that's being blown up by Trump, it's Mitch McConnell's bipartisan two-year budget agreement, that he was hoping to conclude only yesterday, that is now in jeopardy. And even the vote on the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, one that Trump was anxious to declare a win, is now at risk.
Trump would have us believe that his walkout of the infrastructure meeting was a spontaneous response to news reports that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said the night before that he was "engaged in a coverup". But it became almost immediately apparent that this was a bit of carefully choreographed 'reality-TV' drama meant to justify draconian measures taken out of naked self-interest.
As some of you know, I've been working on a book about the rise of Trump, but it's a story without an ending. Yet even while defying all the rules of storytelling, the beginning and middle are so compelling and revealing that they might actually help shape the end.
We need to better understand how we got here if we are to navigate where we are going. It's only when you take a step back from the daily, sometimes hourly, avalanche of assaults on our sensibilities and examine the wandering stars that came into a bizarre alignment that made Donald Trump possible that can we begin to undo the damage already inflicted on our representative democracy.
It's not hyperbole to say that everything's on the line. It's also not an overstatement to say that, however "unprecedented" this moment may seem, our most perilous times are very likely still to come.