The end game, now, seems clear.
After a bit more polling and watching CNN and letting the man in the White House just keep going, Republicans in Congress likely will take the easy way out and appoint a special prosecutor to do the dirty work. And so Donald Trump stands ready to rival Zachary Taylor when it comes to short-lived presidencies.
After barely a year as president, Taylor did himself in by eating too many cherries with iced milk on the Fourth of July in 1850. He could, perhaps, have been saved by a modern-day colon blow, which is, precisely, what promises to guarantee Trump’s demise.
"I did not expect to encounter what has beset me since my elevation to the presidency,” the stricken president said on his antebellum death bed. And now we have Sean Spicer: “There’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.”
Spicer is right, actually. The only thing that has changed since Trump’s ascension to the White House is a collective national awakening. There always has been a silent majority in this country, a great middle that mutters “meh” when presented with the purported best that each party can offer every four years. All along, we knew that Trump lied and played footsies with Russia and hid tax returns and degraded women and did sundry other stuff that should have disqualified him from being assistant deputy whip to deputy assistant to the county dog catcher. That was fine, given he didn’t have a chance. Now, that he has a chance, we are reminded, as we have not been reminded in generations, that who goes to work in the Oval Office each day, when they’re not in Florida, really does matter.
Trump is Roosevelt/Lincoln/Washington in reverse, the sort who would sell rubble from the carving of Mount Rushmore at casino gift shops, if his casinos hadn’t gone broke and ended up in the hands of those who know how to profit from drunken gamblers. To watch Republicans delay using the hook they hold is both predictable and scary, and they risk having the moniker GOP become synonymous with WTF if they don’t do the inevitable, sooner rather than later, and appoint a special prosecutor to muck out this Aegean stable. More than indigestion is at stake with a man who would muse responses to North Korean missile tests between cheese and dessert, or perhaps caviar, courses.
An investigation by an independent prosecutor with full subpoena power is the only logical response to Trump’s pre-inaugural dalliances with a foreign power, as well as the president’s refusal to disclose tax returns, and Republicans who say that congressional committees controlled by Republicans can handle this are testing thin ice. The best role for these committees is to receive and consider the findings of an independent investigator while politicians retreat and let truth take its course.
In less than a week, Trump will lose his chance to best William Harrison as the president with the shortest tenure in the White House. There is nothing particularly memorable or quotable from Harrison’s inaugural address, which was heavy on references to the Roman empire and lasted nearly two hours – one can scarce imagine the applause when he finally finished -- but the ninth president did exhibit remarkable optimism about his prospects while talking about the Constitution: “I give my aid to it by renewing the pledge heretofore given that under no circumstances will I consent to serve a second term.” One month later, he was dead from pneumonia.
After a week in office, Harrison remarked on the challenge presented by a steady stream of glad-handers seeking jobs. “I am so much harassed by the multitude that call upon me that I can give no proper attention to any business of my own,” an overwhelmed president said. Eight score and 16 years later, we have a president who seems to have spent entirely too much time giving improper attention to business of his own. And the longer we wait to get to the bottom of it, the greater the risk we run.
Contact Bruce Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.