Loser. That’s a word that Donald Trump fears being called more than any other. It is a word that he has wielded with relish against his enemies. But if the health care bill goes down in defeat, and at this point that is still a big if, Mr. Trump will be seen as a loser, and so will his new cheerleader Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
A loser president. It’s a moniker that every president dreads, but especially President Trump. It strikes at the very essence of his being. It is why he rails away at conspiracy theories about voter fraud. Once you are seen as a loser in Washington your enemies are emboldened and your allies become skittish. Power can evaporate faster than dew in Dalhart.
When you look back at the history of the modern presidency, the most accomplished denizens of the Oval Office came in with bold agendas that they quickly put in place. Look at Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, in particular. It must vex Mr. Trump no end to see the accomplishments of his predecessor used as a measuring stick for his own failures.
I have said it before. We are in a cauldron of chaos and confusion bordering on havoc. We have thousands of key posts in the Federal Government yet unfilled, and we see an administration struggling to get much if anything done. Many have worried about Trump’s personality and character, but that can easily be explained away by his allies as a partisan divide. An even bigger question is his competence, and so far there has been not much demonstration of this key presidential quality. That is why you see members of his own party openly flaunting Mr. Trump in the House and Senate.
We must remember that Mr. Trump is not a Republican. It is not clear to me that he believes in any governing philosophy other than his own political expediency. He was basically an independent, maverick candidate. But the GOP leadership got behind him for strategic reasons. And now they will have to own that decision. The party base can easily flee with an excuse that Mr. Trump was never one of them.
The struggles with the Republicans in Congress to formulate a coherent governing strategy shows how hollow their rhetoric was during the Obama years. They became the Party of No and not the party of ideas. Many of the best conservative thinkers have bemoaned that trend. Their concerns are now bearing bitter fruit.
Meanwhile, the specter of Russia is a shadow that grows ever darker over the White House. An isolated president in an isolated administration looking at public losses and dropping popularity will react in ways no one can predict.