White House, GOP chaos spell trouble for Trump agenda
President Trump insists there's "no chaos" in the White House, despite a wave of firings and betrayals. | Ross D. Franklin / AP

Even by Trumpian standards, Washington was a wild and crazy place last week. It was a week of extremes: extremely foul language, extreme backstabbing, and, capped off at the eleventh hour, the extremely moving personal acts of principle on the part of two cancer-stricken senators.

It was a dizzying and contradictory display: in one moment, after the Obamacare repeal vote, a feeling of enormous promise; in the next, after the firing of Reince Priebus as chief of staff, a palpable dread and sense of peril.

The defeat of the Obamacare repeal was promising indeed. Think about it. A united front of Wall Street, the Chamber of Commerce, and a Republican White House aligned with GOP majorities in the House and Senate could not stand against the grassroots opposition of the Resistance. Wow!

On the other hand, Priebus’ perilous dismissal after an obscene dressing down by Trump’s now former communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, and his replacement by General John Kelly marked a new stage in the White House’s factional wars—and an ominous one at that.

With Kelly, Trump brings into the center of the Oval Office’s decision-making another dissident general in the anti-Obama tradition of Mike Flynn. Kelly reportedly opposed Obama’s plans to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and fought hard against the administration’s plans to assign women to combat duty.

The general was introduced to Trump by Steve Bannon. An unnamed White House official told The Hill that their relationship “goes back a decade” and that “the chief strategist was instrumental in bringing the general into the administration in the first place.” Kelly apparently won the commander in chief’s admiration during his brief tenure at Homeland Security, where he militantly defended the Muslim ban.

In this regard, Kelly revealed his belief that the U.S. is perpetually besieged and in a permanent state of war. He recently wrote: “We are under attack from failed states, cyber-terrorists, vicious smugglers, and sadistic radicals.” The general continued, “We are under attack from people who hate us, hate our freedoms, hate our laws, hate our values, hate the way we simply live our lives.”

As if Trump needed to add any more hate to his repertoire.

Indeed, in the midst of the attacks last week on Priebus, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Sen. John McCain, and whoever else came across Trump’s field of vision, it fell to former Assistant Attorney General Sally Yates to sound a stern warning that behind the fusillades lay a darker purpose: namely, the undermining, if not undoing, of the rule of law itself. It’s beyond abnormal, Yates warned, it’s dangerous.

With the departure of Priebus and press secretary Sean Spicer from the White House, some have argued that Trump is now unmoored from the Republican Party establishment and is relying on the sheer force of his office, along with his hard-right and fascist-tinged base, which makes up a third of the electorate, to maintain himself.

What comes next?

Any attempt to dismiss Robert Mueller as special counsel—whether by firing Sessions and securing a new attorney general via recess appointment or by some other underhanded means—must be rejected.

Needless to say, investigations of the administration, including the newest revelations concerning Trump’s involvement in writing Donald Jr.’s explanation of the now infamous meeting with Russian intermediaries at Trump Tower and the lawsuit claiming the president personally approved an actual “fake news” story by Fox News regarding the murder of Democratic operative Seth Rich, must be pursued with all deliberate speed.

As the dust begins to settle on the health care fight, at least for now, tax reform and the next federal budget are now coming into focus. In all these cases, greater opportunities now exist to defend working-class and democratic interests.

With Labor Day, autumn arrives, and with it, the beginning of the 2018 election season. In light of Washington’s craziest week in memory, the battle to control the House and Senate promises to be the contest of our lifetimes.


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