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Barely a week after being booted as Secretary of State on Twitter by Donald Trump, a sober Rex Tillerson delivered his goodbyes to staffers in Foggy Bottom. He managed not to mention the President once. But he did make this observation: “This can be a very mean-spirited town”.
Welcome to Humiliation City, a place run by a man whose political career was built in part on a single catchphrase from a single reality show. Few better ways exist for stripping a person of their dignity and self-confidence than to declare them “fired” on national TV. You’re a loser, go.
Trump has amply demonstrated his gifts as Crusher-in-Chief. Let’s go over a few of the highlights. Then we’ll consider how Trump might suffer some overdue just deserts.
It’s almost too easy to raid the list of administration officials discarded by Trump, much as he might toss an empty tub of deep-fried chicken when he’s done eating. Bannon, Tillerson, Spicer, Scaramucci. He dismissed Reince Priebus as his first Chief of Staff after calling him “weak”. Andy McCabe had retired as deputy FBI director, then Trump arranged for him to be fired two days before he was due to leave just to deprive him of his pension. I call that vindictive.
The ouster of HR McMaster as National Security Advisor, to make way for foreign policy hawk John Bolton, came by tweet, albeit one packed with praise for him. But there were humiliations aplenty for the Army general during his months at the White House, not least the day he was pushed into the Rose Garden to deny to reporters that Trump had leaked classified information during an Oval Office meeting with Russian officials when it was clear to the world that he had.
But the best was surely the day last summer when he had every member of his cabinet praise their Dear Leader – and swear undying loyalty to him – with the whole nation watching. A finer example of mass humiliation in the nation’s capital you have rarely seen. “What an incredible honour it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership,” Tom Price gushed. Yeah, well. Price got the ejector seat in September.
So how about some Trump-shaming? If there is any justice, he’ll one day be on the receiving end of what he has so freely dished to others, won’t he? It could be political humiliation, and there are signs of that happening even right now. What wall? Or it could be a private-life thing and I don’t just mean Melania snatching her hand away from his when the cameras are rolling.
There are now 19 women claiming to have had affairs with Trump or accusing him of unwanted advances. Evading the issue is getting harder. Last week Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate, filed suit seeking the right to speak publicly about her liaisons with him and then did in a detailed interview on CNN, and a New York Supreme Court judge allowed Summer Zervos, a former Apprentice contestant, to pursue a suit claiming Trump sexually abused her. Stormy Daniels, a former porn actress is also suing. Yet I wonder. No one seems to doubt these women are telling the truth. Maybe it’s old news and the damage won’t be as great as you’d imagine. You may argue that Trump humiliates himself every single day without trying. But these things tend to be more satisfying when the person concerned recognises it.
There is always the chance of CNN staging a cage fight between the President and Joe Biden. Not going to happen. But the former vice president, who may run for the White House in 2020, fantasised in Florida last week about giving Trump a bloody nose, literally. “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him,” he said, prompting Trump to tweet: “He would go down fast and hard, crying all the way”. Personally, I’d put money on Joe.
Two more things have the potential to bring tears of shame to Trump’s eyes. One is the Russian collusion probe and only special counsel Robert Mueller knows where that is headed. The other is politics. Ghastly approval ratings might do it, but he may be accustomed to them by now. A series of losses for his candidates in special elections, from Pennsylvania to Virginia and Alabama, would have most political leaders wringing their hands. Again, maybe not him.
But his political score card is worsening. At week’s end Trump briefly threatened to veto a $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress to keep the government open, the only significant piece of legislation likely between now and the midterms in November. It contained the biggest slap in the face of his presidency yet by denying him his most cherished pledge to his supporters — the building of a wall along the US-Mexico border. He wanted $25bn. Republicans and Democrats conspired to give him $1.6bn. He eventually had little choice but to sign it.
But in the end it isn’t wronged women who will puncture Trump’s hyper-inflated ego. Nor is it leaders of his or the other party on Capitol Hill. It is the voters. They have two opportunities. In November they can rob Republicans of control of the House and possibly even the Senate, hobbling him for the rest of his term. And then, there is 2020, when the man who claims to win at everything could find himself denied a second term and dispatched by helicopter to exile. Dispatched and – finally – humiliated like so many others who have been humiliated by him.
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