The problem with Trump is no longer an aberrant past presidency – it’s the corrosive impact he could have on the nation in the future.
As Trump teases another White House run, his demeanor and the new accounts of his last days in office become too odd to ignore, given that he is already the prohibitive frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Prior to that, he is the spearhead of the GOP bid to recapture the House in the midterm elections next year. The price of entry for any party candidate is loyalty to the blatant lie sold to millions that Trump is still the rightful president. And he’s undoubtedly the dominant force in Republican politics – though his increasingly radical conduct may make his appeal in a national election more questionable. At least in a free and fair election.
The revelations in Woodward and Costa’s “Peril” are among the gravest and most alarming to date. If confirmed, it wouldn’t just be a case of a president tearing up the structures of American democracy – as he did with the U.S. Capitol insurgency on January 6, designed to disrupt certification. of Biden as the winner of the November election. But they would also represent a sign that the country’s top military officer believed Trump was a grave danger to the world as he tried to cling to power.
And Milley was far from alone in her concerns. Then CIA chief Gina Haspel feared an out-of-control Trump was on the way to a right-wing coup or going after Iran. And in another stunning move, reporters say Milley also had back door contact with his Chinese counterpart, who was alarmed that even Beijing could be in Trump’s sights.
Milley in the center of the storm
Milley has not publicly commented on the bombs. But he was at the center of a debate Tuesday night on whether he had acted out of justified prudence to reduce a president who had derailed.
Some, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, for example, have called on Biden to fire Milley, after claiming the general violated the almost sacred principle of civilian control of the military by hijacking a possible presidential order.
But Woodward and Costa addressed Milley’s actions in the book’s prologue, according to the copy obtained by CNN. “Was he subverting the president?” ” they wrote. “Some might argue that Milley had overstepped his authority and seized extraordinary power. But his actions, he believed, were a good faith precaution to ensure that there was no historic break. in the international order, no accidental war with China or others, and no use of nuclear weapons. “
At the very least, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs will be pressured to explain his side of the story to Congress.
The level of documentation in the new book, including a transcript of an appeal in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Milley agreed to the danger posed by the then president’s “mad” behavior, suggests that there could be more to say.
Earlier reports from early summer indicated that Milley had informally planned various ways to arrest Trump, including cascading resignations of senior national security officials, because he was so concerned about the President’s behavior. era after the November election – even going so far as to speak out loud about his fears that Trump would attempt a coup.
On Tuesday night, Trump attacked Milley, calling for action against him.
“For the record, I never even thought of attacking China – and China knows it,” Trump wrote in a statement. “The people who made history are sick and demented, and the people who print it are just as bad. In fact, I’m the only president in decades who hasn’t dragged the United States into a war. . “
Why Trump can’t be ignored
The book raises several alarming issues.
The fact that people behind the scenes were even more frightened than outsiders by Trump’s behavior after prompting sacking from Capitol Hill puts the national trauma of early January into an even more serious perspective.
While Trump’s rhetoric was often worse than his actions – in his warning that he could rain “fire and fury” on North Korea, for example – there is ample evidence that America and the world faced additional danger with him in power. This is corroborated by his two blatant abuse of power indictments and his apparent attempt to obstruct justice by sacking then FBI Director James Comey.
Some opponents of Trump, Democrats and consumers of journalism want the media to stop talking about him because he no longer holds power. And there’s nothing Trump desires more than attention – even the shine of bad publicity. The next presidential election is three years away, and perhaps new evidence of Trump’s apparent inability to perform office will offer steel to Republican rivals who may face him in a presidential primary race. It seems like a long time, however, since any GOP official who has criticized Trump in recent years has found himself shut out of the party’s base.
But there can be no further doubt about the kind of presidency the United States would face from a vindicated and unrestrained Trump in a new four-year term. And Republicans, especially in the House, who have effectively returned their party to its brand of authoritarian conservatism should also be held accountable for the kind of personage they allow and try to rise to power.
Still, a new book involving Woodward is unlikely to do anything to weaken the former president’s base of support. A CNN poll released this week found that 63% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they wanted Trump to be their party leader. Six in 10 say supporting Trump and believing he won in 2020 is an important part of what it means to be a Republican.
If recent history is any guide, Republicans in positions of power will shrug their shoulders at the new revelations. The conservative media complex calls them “fake news”. And the idea that a senior official in the military establishment may have attempted to subvert Trump’s powers will only embolden those who believe that a “deep state” has always thwarted an innocent president.
There is a sure feeling – confirmed by five years of scandals, crushing presidential standards, and evidence of the political damage an out-of-control president can cause – that what doesn’t kill Trump’s political career makes it stronger.