President Trump retreated to one of his private golf courses on Wednesday night amid the uproar over his sympathetic words for neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Trump needs his safe spaces, now more than ever, because he is becoming increasingly more isolated, politically and personally.
In a news conference at Trump Tower on Tuesday, the fake president taunted the "fake news" reporters and doubled down on his contention that anti-fascist demonstrators were as complicit as the fascists themselves for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend that left one young woman dead and many more injured. Reportedly, Trump has no regrets about the things he said. Apparently, he is very pleased with himself for delivering a belligerent defense of all the "very fine people" among the openly anti-Semitic, racist demonstrators. That perception was reinforced by his hyper-nationalist political advisor, Stephen K. Bannon, who enthusiastically declared the news conference "a defining moment" for Trump's presidency.
And, indeed, it was a defining moment. It made crystal clear the truth that Donald Trump cannot shake his warm feelings for "blood and soil" racists who see him as their ally. White nationalist leader Richard Spencer is absolutely on target with his contention that, though Trump may not be ideologically in lock step with the movement, the president has a "psychic connection" with the alt-right.
So, Trump has the support of Spencer, Bannon and a bunch of pudgy, pugilistic, socially awkward men in polo shirts carrying torches and Confederate flags and raising their arms in Nazi salutes. Elsewhere, though, his support is shrinking. His poll numbers hit a new low this week — 34%, according to Gallup. Given that a quarter of Americans consistently prove their looniness by subscribing to preposterous conspiracy theories like birtherism and Pizzagate, that poll number indicates Trump is getting ever closer to being the president only of fools and fascists.
On Wednesday, Trump rushed to dissolve two highly-touted business advisory councils before all the CEOs on those panels quit. Business leaders had been bolting for the exits like an audience in a burning circus tent after Trump failed to make a distinction between the Nazi sympathizers who invaded Charlottesville and the people who showed up to protest their vile philosophy. On Tuesday, Trump slammed the departing CEOs as "grandstanders" and said he could easily replace them, but, by Wednesday, the president must have realized no prominent businessman in his right mind now wants to ruin his reputation by colluding with him.
In another dramatic move, five top military leaders — the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and National Guard — made strong statements condemning racism and Nazism. The Army chief of staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, sent out a tweet that said, "The Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism or hatred in our ranks. It's against our values and everything we've stood for since 1775." Such pointed comments from the military's top brass are highly unusual and are a sharp, if indirect, rebuke to the commander in chief.
Several conservative pundits and Republican activists expressed outrage at Trump's defense of the white nationalists. On Fox News, Charles Krauthammer branded Trump's comments "a moral disgrace." Most GOP elected officials shied away from criticizing Trump so directly, even as they issued their own condemnations of bigotry. Some, though, did take Trump on, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who said the president was wrong for not assigning all the blame for the Charlottesville tragedy to white supremacists. "We cannot allow this old evil to be resurrected," Rubio tweeted.
Reportedly, some members of Trump's Cabinet and White House team were upset by the president's comments, too. As Chief of Staff John F. Kelly stood off to the side of Trump during the Tuesday news conference, he exuded the body language of a man who realizes he has sold his soul to the devil. The media is now abuzz with speculation about how long these people can work for a man with such a skewed moral compass before self-loathing impels them to resign.
Seven months into his four-year term, Trump is fast becoming as politically isolated as Richard Nixon in his final days in office. He feels no sense of loyalty to anyone, except, perhaps, members of his family. He insults allies, demeans his own appointees and treats even well-meaning critics as enemies. Trump is a man without real friends in Washington. In the rest of the country, a majority of people now see him as incompetent, if not a clear and present danger to the republic.
But Trump still has his base. And he will cling to them and coddle them, even if some among them are Nazis and white supremacists. It is a twisted neediness that makes Donald Trump blind to obvious evil.
Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter
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