Even a broke clock is right twice a day—and this is one of those times for President Donald Trump. Since the invention of the quad-blade razor no group of people on the face of the planet has been more despised than those in Congress, and Trump has handpicked them as his victim of the moment. In his patented “.45-calibre-to-the-side-of-the-head” method of dealing with all the issues in his life, Trump has found, for the second time during his presidency, blunt trauma and a “take no prisoners” mindset can benefit a majority of people—including those at the opposite end of his metaphorical gun barrel.
The first time came in dealing with the North Korean regime, wherein Trump matched overt, pointless threats from Kim Jong Un with diminutive put-downs and withering insults. You may argue who started it, but at the end of the day, I’m betting on Trump in this showdown.
The same can be said for the ongoing issue in Congress that is the GOP and healthcare. While the president joins the GOP in the rhetorical cry of “Democratic obstruction”—going so far as to hypocritically denounce the Democrats standing next to Obama’s chief obstructionist Mitch McConnell on the back steps of the Oval Office—the president has been equally damning of Congress. McConnell vowed never to cooperate with former president Barack Obama, but with the tables turned on him, he now wails like an insufferable spoiled child. The GOP has been the party of obstruction for eight years; with a majority in both houses and a GOP president, the party has been exposed for the incompetent, bungling bombastic boobs we all knew them to be. Trump, finding his broken clock moment, has now sent out Steve Bannon, his Middle Earth minion, among the populace with a threat to have uncooperative Republicans forcibly extracted from the government sugar tit.
It’s hard to look at the president lowering his sights on the GOP and Democrats and not inwardly chuckle. Nobody has it coming more.
It is hard for anyone who has either covered Congress or suffered the affects of the last decade of ineptitude, inaction and divisiveness to look at the president lowering his sights on the GOP and Democrats and not inwardly chuckle. Nobody has it coming more than them.
The quickest to return to the fold is McConnell, who renewed his vows with the president in a joint news conference near the Rose Garden on the back steps of the Oval Office earlier this week. It was a quick and tawdry affair, with McConnell showing proper fealty to King Donny and taking the appropriate moment to vow how strongly the two men love and respect each other (until something else puts the relationship asunder). “I can’t quit you,” McConnell seemed to say in his blankest, stunningly and seemingly drugged stupor. In reality, McConnell saw the consequences of fighting the Lord of the Dark Side and quickly knuckled under. It was to be expected.
But Trump’s foray into shaming Congress and bullying North Korea shouldn’t be referenced as anything more than the broken clock being correct twice a day. The Trump administration still remains the largest hot mess to visit the Republic in my lifetime. A cross between P.T. Barnum’s sideshow and Trump’s TV show The Apprentice, there is nothing more chaotic than the current administration. But Trump thrives on chaos, and nowhere has that been more apparent than during this week’s impromptu joint news conference with McConnell. Reporters were given no advanced notice; instead, we were summoned over a loud speaker to assemble “At the Palm Room doors now!”
In a raucous, rough-and-tumble affair, reporters scrambled to get in questions as Trump smiled, winked at reporters (one foreign reporter was completely surprised when Trump winked at him; “What I do?”, he later said) and waved his right index finger like a baton, deciding who to single out among the screaming reporters vying for attention. Those of us who got to ask a question left feeling a sense of accomplishment—and none of the questions were softballs.
Trump is far better in chaos than anyone else in his administration and he is quicker than the Road Runner to reverse himself when his bombastic hyperboles launch him into the realm of falsehoods and errors—unless, like the itinerant gambler he is, he decides to double down on his deception. Moments after saying Obama never called the parents of dead servicemen, NBC’s Peter Alexander called Trump on that fact. He quickly backtracked, but the damage was done.
His chaos and his tweets, along with his misunderstanding of anyone who’s had life experiences different from his own, continue to hobble his administration’s efforts at healthcare and tax reform. Trump continues to say taking a knee is rude and African Americans continue to express frustration that he’s usurped the issue. It was never about respecting Old Glory. It was about police brutality.
But it is, to some extent, the press’s infatuation with the First Amendment issue brought on by NFL players as an issue related to freedom of expression—then compounded by the president shifting its focus from police brutality to blind patriotism—that has obscured the original intent. After I asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a recent briefing whether the president was trying to “carve out” an exception to the First Amendment for blind flag worship, she said no.
So what it boils down to is this: The president has an opinion, he tries to force his opinion on others and he doesn’t want to talk about the original issue because it makes him uncomfortable, not to mention there’s no benefit to him or his base dealing with the issue of police brutality. Blind, unquestioning faux patriotism, on the other hand, that makes little sense and is actually quite unpatriotic? That’s right in his wheelhouse. His base hoots and hollers and he gets to strut like a peacock on speed.
Make no mistake about it: We continue to be part of a presidential reality show, emphasis on show instead of reality. “We must recognize that government and the process by which we go about electing our leaders ought never be mistaken for entertainment, or graded for its entertainment value or its ratings,” Arizona Senator Jeff Flake said. So while a broken clock may be right twice a day, it serves to remember that the clock is still broken.