The Washington Monthly's David Atkins looks at recent news reports and concludes that Donald Trump is going to quit.
The President is reported to be isolated and in a foul mood amid utter chaos, lashing out at all and sundry. The Mueller inquiry is taking an increasingly wide scope and threatening to ensnare his immediate family. His son-in-law has been stripped of his security clearance, his surrogate daughter and emotional support is leaving the White House, he mistrusts his Chief of Staff and is at war with his own Attorney General.
... by far the easiest play would simply be to step away.
This sort of talk surfaces every time Trump is in more trouble than a normal person would tolerate. But I don't believe it.
I believe reports that Trump is profoundly unhappy and rudderless right now. But notice what he did yesterday: He delivered two speeeches in which he went after his political opponents. One was at the annual Gridiron Dinner in Washington, where he made wisecracks about Adam Schiff and Oprah and said that Maxine Waters should take an IQ test. But in addition to that, he spoke to a gathering of Republican donors at Mar-A-Lago and delivered what seems very much like one of his improvised 2016 campaign speeches, updated to take recent events into account.
The remarks, delivered inside the ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago estate during a lunch and fundraiser, were upbeat, lengthy, and peppered with jokes and laughter. But Trump's words reflected his deeply felt resentment that his actions during the 2016 campaign remain under scrutiny while those of his former rival, Hillary Clinton, do not.
"I'm telling you, it's a rigged system folks," Trump said. "I've been saying that for a long time. It's a rigged system. And we don't have the right people in there yet. We have a lot of great people, but certain things, we don't have the right people."
... "Is Hillary a happy person? Do you think she's happy?" he said. "When she goes home at night, does she say, 'What a great life?' I don't think so. You never know. I hope she's happy."
Elsewhere in his remarks, Trump went after former President George W. Bush for his decision to invade Iraq after faulty intelligence indicated the country had weapons of mass destruction....
"That was Bush. Another real genius. That was Bush," Trump said sarcastically. "That turned out to be wonderful intelligence. You know? Great intelligence agency there."
We joke about how lazy the president is -- the eight hours of TV he watches per day; the fact that he's spent 25% of his presidency at golf resorts. I'm not disputing that assessment -- the president is lazy. Which is why it's striking that he'd agree to deliver two speeches in two locations on one day of rest. Any other president would regard that as a lot of work. Our lazy president seems to think it's rejuvenating.
He won't quit the presidency. He'll just revive his spirits by beginning an active reelection campaign much earlier than any previous incumbent. He's already announced that he's running for reelection earlier in his term than any other sitting president. He's told us who'll run his reelection campaign. Yesterday's Mar-A-Lago speech was to donors who are bundling for his 2020 campaign. So he's really gearing up. All he needs to do now is to start barnstorming the country, or at least the red parts of it, delivering campaign speeches. I assume he'll start doing that much earlier than any candidate ever has.
A December Washington Post story told us that "the White House is planning a full-throttle campaign to plunge the president into the midterm elections." We were told that Trump has said to advisers that "he wants to travel extensively and hold rallies and that he is looking forward to spending much of 2018 campaigning." I think a lot of those rallies are going to consist of Trump holding forth on what he cares about rather than praising the candidate he's supposedly come to support. Remember the speech Trump gave for Luther Strange before the Alabama Senate primary -- the one that was more about Trump's obsessions (kneeling football players, NFL safety rules) than about Strange?
That's what Trump's midterm speeches will be like. Ultimately, they'll be about him and his 2020 campaign. And then -- probably just after New Year's Day 2019, if not before -- he'll officially go on the campaign trail for himself.
It's clear that there's no part of being president that Trump likes as much as he likes campaigning. So that's what he'll do to make the job fun for himself.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog