What the Future Holds

Let us construct a plausible narrative for the future of the Trump Administration, that being possible because narratives can be predictive. They are not just the conventions through which stories are told but also discoveries about chains of causation as those apply in human endeavor, sometimes a story coming back upon itself and sometimes just enlarging upon itself. Werther just can’t let go of Charlotte and devote his life to translating Ossian, and neither can Raskolnikov let go of his guilt, while Dickens is filled with new beginnings, and Jane Austen’s new beginnings are always with the same people rediscovering their ties to one another.

Try, first, the most benign interpretation of Trump and the Russians.  Trump was taken with Putin as the model of a leader perhaps when he met him in Russia and has stuck with this fantasy because Trump believes in his own myth that only a strong leader is worthy of respect and because simple people have often been taken with the idea of a strong leader. If that is the case, then his dismay at being charged with unsuitable ties to Russia is understandable, he will settle down when these charges prove unsubstantiated, and will get on with the nationalist program he has embarked on rather than with the populist program which he championed as a candidate. The narrative switcheroo will then have to do with how one program replaced another, how his authoritarianism moved from a personality quirk to a governing philosophy.

But that narrative line will not do because too many facts get in the way. There are all those people now or once around him, like Tillerson and Manafort, who are just too tied in with the Russians for it all to be a coincidence, and there are all those lesser light associates who had contacts with the Russians during the campaign for it all to be benign, especially when some of the figures, like the Attorney General and the ex National Security Advisor, who felt the need to lie about those contacts. Why lie if the contacts were benign? The author has left too many clues not to believe, as Chekov put it, that they have to be used by the narrative. So it is reasonable to believe that something nefarious is going on, that the Russians have something on Trump that he does not want revealed or that he has become a believer in the Russian cause, the latter unlikely because Trump does not have the mental stamina to be a true believer in anything. If that is the case, then we are going to face a very long impeachment process, one that will also throw in the emoluments clause, even though Republicans would never get on board an impeachment train if emoluments were the only track on which it were mounted. Meanwhile, the Republican Congress will be relieved of the duty of repealing Obamacare, something for which they have mixed feelings about now that they can actually do it. So they will dither away the time till the Midterms and emerge with their majority intact and with a new President, Mike Pence, who will help them get through the legislation about which they are at the moment timorous. That would make of Trump a tragic story, befitting Richard Nixon, a man overcome by his weaknesses whatever might have been, so some people might think, his good intentions.

Here is a third scenario, one that is prompted by Trump’s tweet over the weekend accusing Obama of a felony, that coming off Trump haranguing his staff because Jeff Sessions had decided to recuse himself from the Russian business. Trump is losing control of himself, devoid as he is of the temperament to be President, an office which does indeed require a person to be the calm one in the room. Even Lyndon Johnson lost his temper only when he wanted to, other Presidents Henry Fonda-like in their coolness under fire while their aides stumble around trying to suppress their emotions. If that is the case, then the talk show mentions of the Twenty Fifth Amendment become plausible. This Amendment for the removal of a President had been passed in the event the President had a stroke or something and so was meant to eliminate the possibility of a Wilson in decline rather than to deal with a political crisis. But Trump might have enough of a breakdown, become so engulfed in his rants, that people will become afraid of him having to handle a national emergency, one that can happen at any moment, and not to be trusted to leave the matter to his national security team. So Trump might be dragged from his throne Lear-like, protesting every moment of the way, his children saying it is for his own good, him having been a hero for the little man however much he could not finish the job. And the true Conservatives, not the upstart Populists, will finally have control of the White House, to do what they will.

These days, Mika Brzezinski stares at the camera, her mouth agape, so as to express her amazement at the situation at the White House. Can Fox News be that far behind? The denouement will be sooner rather than later. Or maybe not. This weekend can bring a new plot twist, the citizen, like the playgoer and the reader, rushing ahead from what is known at that point to figure out what is going to happen next, to speculate what will be the rest of the trajectory of the story and what end it will include.