WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — As Donald Trump’s bumper-car presidency careens and crashes through its historically unprecedented final days (see also: final daze), his closest advisers and newbie conspiracy confidants have been sometimes convening in panic and other times ducking and dodging to avoid their unhinged leader.
Some of them sometimes despair because even they have no idea what he might do next. Or what his next flailing and failing might mean for the fate of our country’s once-revered democracy.
Ever since he rode down his gold-plated escalator and into the Oval Office, Trump has heard and heeded the voice of the people in his political base who pleaded: “Please lie to me.”
And he did. He told his people just what they wanted to hear — never mind whether or not any of it was true. But Trump has been in full panic mode, untethered to truth or reality, ever since history has officially recognized Trump was the 2020 re-election loser. (Trump was defeated by the same margin he called “a landslide” when it made him the 2016 winner.)
Now Trump has reversed the plea of the vox populi. He is the one who is desperately pleading to his suddenly uncomfortable and fearful advisers — and especially to his newbie conspiracy-theory advocates: “Please lie to me!”
Trump has been unproudly begging advisers and conspiracy promoters, at all hours, to please assure him that:
Yes, there is proof the 2020 election was rigged and you got robbed. (There is none).
And yes, there is a surefire way you can overthrow our democracy’s Election Day verdict and win the election you just lost. (There is not).
How do they handle Trump’s panicky pleas? We can picture the scene by rewinding our mind’s eyes to that White House briefing when Trump asked Dr. Deborah Birx if she agreed with him that a great COVID cure might be to inject everyone with disinfectant such as bleach.
Poor Birx, trapped with cameras rolling, performed a health-doctorial imitation of the “Honeymooners’” Ralph Kramden’s black-and-white classic: “Humina-humina, huma-huma-huma” routine.
The smartest of Trump’s corps of apologist/advisers, Attorney General William Barr, is Trump’s newest ex. Sensing his commander in chief may want to plunge us into a coup rather than abide by the constitution, Barr resigned and fled rather than be a helpless passenger on the last ride of Trump’s BAM-SLAM bumper-car presidency.
Trump has continued to ask his conspiracy counselors (attorneys Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, et al.) how he can overthrow the 2020 election results. In a stunning move, the U.S. Army felt it was necessary to publicly state the Army has no role in America’s election process. OMG.
Trump has started dissing all his loyal advisers who dared to say they saw no proof of voting fraud, from Barr to even chief of staff Mark Meadows. You may think that’s just Washington backstabbing-as-usual. And you may even be unbothered by Trump’s rush to issue enough pardons to wall-to-wall carpet Washington’s swamp.
But even the most trusting Trumpers among you should be upset about what you just discovered Trump did to you, your family, friends and neighbors behind your back. He actually wanted you to get big bucks — a $2,000 government check in pandemic rescue money.
Democrats always wanted that big check for you and Trump’s congressional Republicans didn’t. But Trump was AWOL during the summer and fall negotiations. He allowed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his team to settle for a mere $600 check in the deal they just made days ago.
But on [Dec.22], Trump shocked his team by publicly insisting the massive pandemic aid bill must include a $2,000 check. Democrats quickly agreed, but Republicans balked. Why didn’t Trump fight for you to get that money you need months ago?
Who knows? Trump silently flew to golf at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort, leaving it unclear if you’ll ever get the aid you need.
We don’t really know what Trump cares about in these last weeks of his presidency. Those who are closest to him know he sometimes seems still desperate to save a presidency he has already lost.
Shamefully, Trump continues to bash and trash our 2020 election as a fraud. Never mind that Barr and others say they have seen no evidence that supports Trump’s inflaming but baseless claims.
From Trump’s closest advisers to the U.S. Army’s top command, those whose jobs require them to be watchful and ready to act now worry about what they cannot see or know for sure. But they don’t know what, if anything, our 45th president might try to order or command in what must be this president’s final hours.
Our democracy has proven itself strong and enduring in recent weeks. But these are tense times. It may be tested, yet again.
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2020 Tribune Content Agency.