April Fools’ Day has come and gone, but on the first of the month, I kept marveling at how — starting even before he ran, continuing through his campaign and certainly since Inauguration Day — Donald Trump has played us for a fool. Successfully, I might add.
After all, we elected him, or enough of us did. Millions of people were and are attracted to his message of hate and ignorance — that, combined with justified anger at the establishment. Even though millions more did not vote for him, he and his operators finessed a Democratic candidate who frittered away the huge advantage of being far more qualified, due in large part to her campaign strategists who were in totally over their heads. So Trump took the Electoral College. It may be a quirky American way of choosing our great leader, but with all his rhetorical and Twitterical foolishness, he won fair and square. Or maybe foul and scary, if you count the Russian interference and alleged collusion. More about that in a moment.
The point is that we now have installed a chief executive for whom every day is Fools’ Day — January, February, March and April Fools’ Days, with more to come. Every single day, POTUS and his people bring us what seem to be new practical jokes. Trump’s tweets alone display his mind running wild, uninhibited by facts, knowledge or rational thought. His various policies are crazily irresponsible or downright cruel. The only thing that has rescued the nation from disaster just 70-plus days into his administration is incompetence. Trump and company have managed to botch up nearly all their initiatives. His immigration blockade ran afoul with the courts, as anyone who took high-school civics could have predicted. The crashing and burning of the hasty, nasty health care package displayed less-than-rudimentary knowledge of the legislative process. So down in flames it went. He’s had trouble staffing key spots in the various federal departments under his command, partly because he and his comrades in the White House bunker can’t find people to fill the positions.
Speaking of comrades (note the clever segue here), perhaps part of the dithering is because Donald Trump and his Trumpsters are genuinely spooked by the accusation that he owes his election to Vladimir Putin. He’s probably stunned that his feeble intimidation tactics aren’t scaring inquisitors away. His opponents, even some friendlies, are not backing off; the media aren’t either; no matter how many times he threatens them and snarls “fake news,” the story is not going away. As it continues to unfold, it reads like a trashy political novel, except that it might end up a nonfiction blockbuster, or even a presidency-buster.
His greatest hope is to recruit key players to try to block the details from getting out. Unfortunately, the one he has chosen is Devin Nunes. On paper, Congressman Nunes would appear to be a good person for the job. After all, he is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which, along with Senate Intelligence, is charged with investigating the Russian connection. Unfortunately, Nunes’ blatant efforts to defend Trump have shown that he’s such a bungler, he’s been called “Inspector Clouseau.” If he is swept aside, the Trump presidency could be exceedingly vulnerable.
Let’s fast-forward to the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency. If Congress and the White House can’t come to a budget deal, the government might shut down that very day. There is wide disagreement, particularly with Democrats who are not about to vote to support Trump by providing billions of dollars for his border wall and other policies he has put forth that they consider destructive. That may be the next confrontation, but we can’t be sure. The president is always just an instant away from crisis with all his foolishness.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.