Never Out of Mind
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
When Richard Nixon saw his presidency crumbling around him he decided to take whirlwind trip to both Europe and the Middle East. From the middle of June until July 3 1974, Nixon traveled to nine countries in two trips. It did not avoid what he knew was beginning to look to be inevitable but the trip permitted Nixon a last spin on the company’s dime.
As President Trump leaves for a five nation visit to Asia he clearly is not —certainly not yet—facing an impeachment process which had already gotten underway against Nixon in 1974. Most people in Trump’s political situation would feel a sense of political unease as they set out on this trip.
The forthcoming House struggle over the newly unveiled tax bill, alone, which will begin in earnest on Monday, is enough for a President to want to be near a telephone as the deals are being cut. After Mueller’s surprise disclosures last Monday, however, Trump ought to realize that matters could get very serious and personal very fast. The President has no specific idea as to if, whether, or when the next shoe will drop, but most people in this situation would be more than a little nervous.
The events of this past week suggest two facts. Mueller is taking his time being the methodical and thorough prosecutor that he was expected to be. He will not be rushed. Together with his top staff, he is plodding forward, setting up all his ducks for maximum results. Were the President to consider firing him, it is likely that the case may have been so effectively mounted that even his absence will not stop the inevitable—whatever it will be–to develop.
The number of family members, White House staffers, and Trump friends who have a heighten sense of anxiety now has grown dramatically. Mueller has created the precise climate within which he can proceed deliberately, knowing that in all likelihood possible sources will be stepping forward to speak with him as much as he will be seeking to question them.
Second, the actions of President Trump this week gave further credence to some of the dangers his conduct poses to the country. The President has no interest in controlling himself. The things that an individual might share with a family member or a close friend, Trump has no problem tweeting to millions around the world; thus his remark that the Uzbeki terrorist who plowed into innocent bystanders and bicyclists on New York’s West Side deserved the death penalty. This type of public pronouncement becomes aid to the terrorist claim suggesting his inability to receive a fair trial after the President already has sentenced him before the entire world.
The problem with Trump’s shoot from the hip chatter is that it potentially can endanger the country and the world. An international crisis can easily occur were a foreign leader to misinterpret or misread a presidential tweet. Jeff Seasons can be miffed but Kim Jong-un is another story.
When the Washington-Moscow hotline was originally installed people assumed it was a telephone line not a teletype machine. Every word was able to be analyzed as to meaning in two languages and to be parsed at both ends for alternative meanings before messages were sent.
The next thirteen days could develop into an interesting trip on multiple levels. It also could create quite a scene to which the President will return.