Under Siege

Alan Zendell, March 20, 2018

“Under siege” is one of those phrases that’s so overused it’s almost a cliché. This week it’s being used by every news outlet to describe the Trump White House. To me, it evokes memories of Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett at the Alamo. (No, I’m not old enough to actually remember it.) Isolated and badly outnumbered, the Texan defenders fought to the end, with Mexican General Santa Anna ordering no quarter in the final battle.

The defenders, who had actually taken the Alamo from the Mexicans months earlier, could have abandoned the fight when it became clear they would lose. Though we lionize the Legend of the Alamo today, it’s really a lesson in what happens when we pursue lost causes in defiance of reason. Is that what’s going on at the White House these days?

Trump seems to be under siege from every direction. One could argue that everyone’s piling on now that they sense he’s vulnerable. But it can also be argued that Trump’s problems are mostly of his own making. Consider: there’s the Mueller investigation, the indiscretions of Trump’s son which fanned the flames when they might have been squelched months ago, the Access Hollywood tape which lends more than a little credibility to the stories of all the women who claim either consensual affairs or sexual assault by Mr. Trump, and finally, the president’s strange affinity for the man who should be his arch enemy, Vladimir Putin.

If he seems isolated, that too is a product of his own actions. His disregard of the norms of governing and his lack of respect for the truth have alienated him from much of his party. Relentless attacks and insults against Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell, and insults aimed at fellow Republicans John McCain, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker and Lindsay Graham as well as key members of his Cabinet have resulted in the wall of silence that stands in place of what would normally be vocal support for the president.

Trump’s well known approach to accusations hurled against him is deny, deny, deny. That worked during the presidential campaign, so why not continue the same way now? Actually there may be good reason to change tactics, as more and more becomes known about what really happened. The recent disclosures by Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, who was filmed by British Channel 4 bragging that he met frequently during the 2016 campaign with Trump and helped elect him were the latest revelation.

Now Trump is being sued by three women, a porn star, a former Playboy Playmate of the Month, and a former contestant on The Apprentice, all claiming they had affairs with Trump and were paid hush money to cover them up. One of them, porn star Stormy Daniels has now publicly passed a polygraph test with greater than 99% certainty that she’s telling the truth. Is this piling on or is it more a case where, as the smoke keeps getting thicker it’s more likely something’s on fire?

As Special Counsel Mueller begins to close in on Trump’s financial dealings amid widespread speculation that Trump’s businesses may be in debt by as much as a billion dollars to Russians with close ties to Putin, how does the president react? He rails against his Cabinet and intensifies his attacks on both the Justice Department and the FBI. And while proclaiming his innocence and renewing claims that the probe of his finances is just another witch hunt, he expands his legal team to include television personalities, an impeachment specialist, and experts on nondisclosure agreements.

Again, it might be argued that an innocent man might well do all those things, except for the appalling silence from all the people who should be standing up in his defense. Instead we hear references to the need to uphold the rule of law and allow the Mueller investigation to reach its conclusion without further interference. That sounds more like a warning than a defense of the president. It also sounds like posturing from experienced politicians who see an impending train wreck that could take them down with him.

Just as the 1830s Texan appropriated the Alamo from under General Santa Anna’s nose, Trump stole the Republican Party out from under the Ryans and McConnells, and those people have long memories. As the noose tightens and the wolves close in on their prey, don’t be surprised if they are just as merciless as General Santa Anna was.

On the other hand, as Trump feels more and more cornered, what might this paranoid narcissist do to defend himself? Is anything off the table?

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