And so, another day in TrumpWorld comes to a close. And like many of you, I find myself wondering how many more we can possibly take.
It’s not just the non-stop, every-damned-day madness of it. It’s the day-after-day-after-day accumulation of that madness. It’s knowing that we’re only two months in and that, according to my calendar, there are many more maddening months of Donald Trump yet to come.
And there’s this idea that keeps coming back to me — that those of us living in TrumpWorld are already suffering from the political version of PTSD and that the symptoms will only grow worse. It’s all going too fast, and yet not nearly fast enough. What’s that line about the center not holding? We can’t even find the center any more.
On this day, the head of the FBI basically called the president a liar before a congressional committee. In modern terms, and maybe in any terms, that is unprecedented. Of course, Trump is a liar. Everyone knows he’s a liar, his hapless defenders most of all. But knowing it and hearing James Comey very publicly confirm it are two different things.
In any other time, it would have been shocking to hear Comey’s testimony. But what was truly shocking was how unremarkable it all seemed. There were no gasps. There was no one—outside of combative Sean Spicer anyway—rushing to Trump’s defense. This is exactly what everyone expected Comey to say.
And yet. And yet.
When Comey wasn’t putting the absurdity of Trump’s wiretap accusation to rest, he was confirming the news that the FBI was, in fact, investigating whether anyone in the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russians to, well, undermine American democracy.
And when Comey wasn’t deflecting questions about the investigation, Rep. Adam Schiff, a rare bright Democratic light, was making the circumstantial case for why the FBI should be investigating, finally asking this: “Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated.”
And when Schiff wasn’t hitting the Flynn-Sessions-Manafort-Stone-Page-Russia connection, we were hearing that, of course, the British were no more likely than Obama to have planted a bug in Trump Tower.
It’s hard to imagine a worse day for a president. But what we can safely predict is that worse days are coming and that the pace, if the first two months are any indication, will only quicken.
The last time there was a day like this at the White House, Nixon was president, and, in Woodward and Bernstein’s telling, he was roaming the halls late at night talking to the portraits of presidents past. You may remember the famous SNL sketch in which Dan Aykroyd, playing Nixon, approached Lincoln’s portrait and said, “Abe, you were lucky. They shot you.”
You know the joke told in liberal circles that the best five seconds of the day come just after you wake up and before you remember Trump is still president. But, as it happens, long before that magical five seconds, Trump is already up getting his tweet on.
Here’s the text of one Trump sent early Monday in an effort to undercut Comey: “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!”
While Comey made short work of that tweet, Trump wasn’t done. Trump — or, more likely, someone on his staff — was live tweeting the Comey hearing and making this claim: “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.” And so we watched — and this was shocking — as Comey was asked live about the live tweet and said, of course, that he hadn’t said any such thing. The live tweet was dead on arrival.
And so we have a tweeted Trump lie to launch the hearing, a tweeted Trump lie to set the stage for the hearing, and a tweeted Trump lie during the hearing. This, my friends, is the real March madness.
A couple of weeks ago, in maybe the most cogent tweet of the Trump era, one-time Reagan aide Bruce Bartlett had said, “Take Nixon in the deepest days of his Watergate paranoia, subtract 50 IQ points, add Twitter, and you have Trump today.”
If Trump today had never accused Obama of wiretapping, this day could have been quite different. The headlines would have gone to Neil Gorsuch, who was in his first day of hearings as Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. This was the easy day, a day of opening statements, handshakes, smiles and Gorsuch scoring a bipartisan introduction from Michael Bennet, who isn’t saying whether or not he’ll vote to confirm Gorsuch, and Cory Gardner, who is a definite yes.
Instead, the headlines included the fact that, despite the evidence, Trump wasn’t backing down from the wiretap claim, which originated, Trump has admitted, when he read something on Breitbart. Instead of asking his intelligence team to look into it, he sent out a tweet accusing his predecessor of a felony. And when his intelligence team calls him out on the lie — we’re still waiting for the new evidence — Trump says he still believe it’s true because, well, he believes it’s true.
That’s TrumpWorld today and counting. God only knows what it will be tomorrow.
Caricature by DonkeyHotey via Flickr: Creative Commons