How long till leading Republicans turn on Trump? It's happening already

After the health care fiasco, leading Republicans are souring on Trump at last — and it's only the beginning

Published July 19, 2017 5:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump; Paul Ryan   (Getty/Mark Wilson/AP/Andrew Harnik/Salon)
Donald Trump; Paul Ryan (Getty/Mark Wilson/AP/Andrew Harnik/Salon)

At some point, congressional Republicans will entirely abandon President Donald Trump. How do we know this? If you look closely, you’ll notice that it’s already happening. One by one, Republicans on the Hill are growing tired of Trump’s poorly-informed, lazy, self-centered lack of leadership, and it’s a safe bet that more than a few members are wondering whether the 2018 midterms will turn out better without Trump dragging them down.

Whether this precipitates a Barry Goldwater Watergate moment in which Republican leadership hikes down the block to insist upon Trump’s resignation remains to be seen, but what’s immediately observable is that the Trump coalition is rapidly vaporizing, leaving the chief executive with fewer and fewer influential defenders in Congress. The rapid, awkward demise of Trumpcare and the president’s confounding reaction in the aftermath might’ve been the last straw in an already ungainly relationship between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Frankly, if I were Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or Speaker Paul Ryan, I’d strongly consider cutting bait with Trump given the way he has repeatedly set them up to fail while doing little to exercise any kind of meager leadership. Without a substantive ally in the White House, it becomes less likely they’ll continue to tolerate and backstop his uneducated, rookie gibberish and social media outbursts, embarrassing the party and tainting it with the stink of his failed administration. How much longer will they continue to tolerate Trump playing honk-honk-goes-the-truck and tweeting on the john while they spend valuable political capital on legislation he barely understands and, despite his marketing acumen, has repeatedly fumbled?

The failure of Trumpcare was partly about the president’s lack of even a basic, entry-level sense of how a bill becomes a law. It was also partly about Trump’s running-on-fumes political capital. The whole concept of repealing and replacing Obamacare with the snap of his short fingers merely set up Trump and Congress to fail. Not only is it nearly impossible for conservatives to create a affordable, universal health care program, but it was never going to get done within a few short months, much less “on day one.” Since Congress was unable to match a lofty goal established by a political amateur, Trump set them up to fail.

Compounding the failure to pass the Senate bill, Trump began to screech weeks ago that if it didn’t pass, he would simply push to repeal Obamacare without an immediate replacement. Incidentally, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., reminded us what would happen in the event of a repeal:

On the political front, Trump’s threat to push for a repeal once again begged for failure: If the Trumpcare bill couldn’t pass with Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress, how the hell would a full repeal have any chance of passing? Nevertheless, what did Trump stupidly do seconds after Trumpcare failed on Monday? He threatened to repeal Obamacare. What happened after that? We learned it would never pass the Senate, given that at least four GOP senators almost immediately announced they would vote against a repeal bill. (In fact the Senate couldn’t pass a full repeal even if they had 51 votes. Without 60 votes, they can only repeal the budget-related aspects of Obamacare via reconciliation, which would leave major sections of the law intact, such as essential health benefits and other consumer protections.)

A top Republican told CNN’s David Wright on Tuesday, “[Trump] was playing with a fire truck and trying on a cowboy hat as the bill was collapsing, and he had no clue." Elsewhere, Trump has lost the support of Charles Krauthammer and Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano regarding the Trump-Russia scandal. The very fact that Fox News has begun to talk about that issue shows a weakening of support there, to say nothing of Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith, who ripped the Trumps' bungled response to the various Russia bombshells. Likewise, Trump has long since lost the support of Republican A-listers like Joe Scarborough who’s gone so far as to leave the party he’s represented on cable news and in the halls of Congress for decades, thanks to Trump’s erratic and undisciplined shenanigans.  

Compounding the rapid collapse of Trump’s Republican support, the Wall Street Journal editorial board -- normally a safe space for the GOP -- excoriated Trump on Tuesday. Here are the two most salient paragraphs from the piece:

Don’t you get it, guys? Special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating the Russia story. Everything that is potentially damaging to the Trumps will come out, one way or another. Everything. Denouncing leaks as “fake news” won’t wash as a counter-strategy beyond the President’s base, as Mr. Trump’s latest 36% approval rating shows. ...

Mr. Trump somehow seems to believe that his outsize personality and social-media following make him larger than the Presidency. He’s wrong. He and his family seem oblivious to the brutal realities of Washington politics. Those realities will destroy Mr. Trump, his family and their business reputation unless they change their strategy toward the Russia probe. They don’t have much more time to do it.

If you’re a Republican and the Wall Street Journal editorial board flogs you like this, you’d better circle the wagons and lawyer up. As the board suggested, serious trouble is brewing, and it could boil over faster than Trump expects.

The president has, through his unapologetic bullshit and glib incompetence, virtually isolated himself as federal investigators circle the White House like vultures, waiting for Trump and his people to continue incriminating themselves. While he still maintains his 35 percent support -- the gaggle of brainwashed loyalists who still aren’t bored with all of this “winning” -- there’s blood in the water now, and we can feel sure there are more than a few private, informal conversations taking place in which the concept of “President Mike Pence” is sounding very, very tremendous.

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.