Donald Trump is fast becoming one of the weakest presidents the nation has ever seen after going to war with a federal government that is defying him at every turn. Despite the fact that he has lashed out repeatedly at congressional Republicans, for instance, they are brazenly ignoring him. The same goes for Trump’s cabinet heads, who are clearly going about their business as if Trump were nothing more than pesky a flea on their behind. Annoying? Sure. But essentially toothless.
First, let’s just appreciate how desperately Trump wants Republican lawmakers to take the wrap for his failure in leadership. He blamed them today for our souring relationship with Russia, adding, “the same people can’t even give us HCare!” He declared his superiority over them yesterday in a statement on the Russia sanctions bill, asserting that he could make “far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.” And last week after Trumpcare died its umpteenth death, he not only slammed their incompetence, he tagged them as corrupt. “They’ve been working on that one for seven years,” he said during a speech to law enforcement officials. “Can you believe that? The swamp.”
It’s an unprecedented display of public derision launched from a commander in chief at a legislative branch controlled by members of the same party. The response? Basically, a middle finger in the form of a sanctions bill his administration lobbied against, an end run around him to shore up the healthcare markets with Democrats, and a more recent effort to block him from interfering with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
Honestly, that just skims the surface. And on top of that, the rest of the federal government is in open rebellion. As CNBC observed:
On Tuesday alone, the commandant of the Coast Guard announced he will “not break faith” with transgender service members despite Trump’s statement that they could no longer serve. Fellow Republicans in the Senate moved ahead with other business despite the president’s insistence that they return to repealing Obamacare. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “we certainly don’t blame the Chinese” for North Korea’s nuclear program after Trump claimed, “China could easily solve this problem.” And Vice President Mike Pence said the president and Congress speak in a “unified voice” on a bipartisan Russia sanctions bill Trump has signed, but not publicly embraced.
“What is most remarkable is the extent to which his senior officials act as if Trump were not the chief executive,” Jack Goldsmith, a top Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, wrote last weekend on lawfareblog.com.
That includes Trump’s new chief of staff John Kelly, in one of his first acts after getting the job, calling Trump’s archenemy Jeff Sessions to assure him his job was safe.
There’s more than just a vacuum of power in the Oval Office right now—it’s a veritable black hole over there.