Trump’s two-year pres­i­dency

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - KATH­LEEN PARKER kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com

Good news: In two years, we’ll have a new pres­i­dent. Bad news: If we make it that long. My “good” pre­dic­tion is based on the Law of the Pen­du­lum. Enough Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing most in­de­pen­dent vot­ers, will be so ready to shed Don­ald Trump and his lit­tle shop of hor­rors that the 2018 midterm elec­tions are all but cer­tain to be a land­slide — no, make that a mud­slide — sweep of the House and Se­nate. If Repub­li­cans took both houses in a groundswell of the peo­ple’s re­jec­tion of Oba­macare, Democrats will take them back in a tsunami of protest.

Once en­sconced, it would take a Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity ap­prox­i­mately 30 sec­onds to be­gin im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings se­lect­ing from an ac­cu­mu­lat­ing pile of lies, over­reach and just plain slop­pi­ness. That is, as­sum­ing Trump hasn’t al­ready been shown the exit.

Or that he hasn’t de­clared mar­tial law (all those an­ar­chists, you know) and ef­fec­tively si­lenced dis­sent. We’re al­ready well on our way to the lat­ter via Trump’s in­ces­sant at­tacks on the me­dia — “among the most dis­hon­est hu­man be­ings on Earth” — and press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer’s ra­bid­chi­huahua, daily press brief­ings. (Note to Sean: What­ever he’s promised you, it’s not worth be­com­ing Melissa McCarthy’s punch­ing bag. But re­ally, don’t stop.)

With luck, and Cabi­net-level courage that is not much in ev­i­dence, there’s a chance we won’t have to wait two long years, dur­ing which, let’s face it, any­thing could hap­pen. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of cir­cum­stances war­rant­ing a speed­ier pres­i­den­tial re­place­ment, wiser minds added Sec­tion 4 to the 25th Amend­ment, which re­moves the pres­i­dent if a ma­jor­ity of the Cabi­net and the vice pres­i­dent think it nec­es­sary, i.e., if the pres­i­dent is in­jured or falls too ill to serve. Or, by ex­ten­sion, by be­ing so in­com­pe­tent — or not-qui­teright — that he or she poses a threat to the na­tion and must be re­moved im­me­di­ately and re­placed by the vice pres­i­dent. Aren’t we there, yet? Thus far, Trump and his hench­men have con­ducted a full frontal as­sault on civil lib­er­ties, open gov­ern­ment and re­li­gious free­dom, as well as in­sti­gat­ing or con­don­ing a cas­cade of ethics vi­o­la­tions rang­ing from the se­ri­ous (busi­ness con­flicts of in­ter­est) to the ab­surd (at­tack­ing a depart­ment store for drop­ping his daugh­ter’s fash­ion line). And, no, it’s not just a fa­ther de­fend­ing his daugh­ter. It’s the pres­i­dent of the United States bul­ly­ing a par­tic­u­lar busi­ness and, more gen­er­ally, making a pub­lic case against free en­ter­prise.

To an ob­jec­tive observer, it would seem im­pos­si­ble to de­fend the per­ilous ab­sur­di­ties em­a­nat­ing from the White House and from at least one ex­ec­u­tive agency, the Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment, which re­cently scrubbed an­i­mal abuse re­ports from its web­site, leav­ing pup­pies, kit­tens, horses and oth­ers to fend for them­selves.

In a hope­ful note, a few Repub­li­cans are speak­ing out, but the list is short.

Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz re­cently got a taste of what’s ahead for Repub­li­can in­cum­bents. Fac­ing an un­ruly crowd at a town hall meet­ing in Utah, the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee chair­man was booed nearly ev­ery time he men­tioned Trump. Even if many in the crowd were mem­bers of op­po­si­tion groups, the evening pro­vided a glimpse of the next two years. From 2010’s tea party to 2018’s re­sis­tance, the pen­du­lum barely had time to pause be­fore be­gin­ning its left­ward trek.

While we wait for it to some­day find the na­tion’s cen­ter, where so many wait im­pa­tiently, it seems clear that the pres­i­dent, who swore an oath to de­fend the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, has never read it. Nor, ap­par­ently, has he ever even watched a Hol­ly­wood ren­der­ing of the pres­i­dency. A sin­gle episode of “The West Wing” would have taught Trump more about his new job than he seems to know — or care.

Far more com­pelling than keep­ing his prom­ise to act pres­i­den­tial is keep­ing cam­paign prom­ises against rea­son, sign­ing poorly con­ceived ex­ec­u­tive or­ders, bash­ing the ju­di­cial and leg­isla­tive branches, and tweet­ing his spleen to a won­der­ing and wor­ry­ing world.

Trump’s child­ish and petu­lant man­ner, mean­while, fur­ther re­in­forces long-held con­cerns that this man can’t be trusted to lead a dog-and-pony act, much less the na­tion. Most wor­ri­some is how long Trump can tol­er­ate the protests, crit­i­cisms, hu­mil­i­a­tions, re­but­tals and de­feats — and what price he’ll try to ex­act from those who re­fused to look away.

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