As the worst week in a cursed presidency wound down, I spotted more and more forecasts that Donald Trump would resign, including from Tony Schwartz, who wrote “The Art of the Deal” for Trump and presumably understands his tortured psyche.
They struck me not as wishful or fantastical.
They struck me as late.
Trump resigned the presidency already — if we regard the job as one of moral stewardship, if we assume that an iota of civic concern must joust with self-regard, if we expect a president’s interest in legislation to rise above vacuous theatrics, if we consider a certain baseline of diplomatic etiquette to be part of the equation.
By those measures, it’s arguable that Trump’s presidency never really began. By those measures, it’s indisputable that his presidency ended in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday afternoon, when he chose — yes, chose — to litigate rather than lead, to attend to his wounded pride instead of his wounded nation and to debate the supposed fine points of white supremacy.
He abdicated his responsibilities so thoroughly and recklessly that it amounted to a letter of resignation. Then he whored for his Virginia winery on the way out the door.
Trump knew full well what he should have done, because he’d done it — grudgingly and badly — only a day earlier. But it left him feeling countermanded, corrected, submissive and weak, and those emotions just won’t do for an ego as needy and skin as thin as his. So he put id before country and lashed out, in a manner so patently wrong and transcendently ruinous that TV news shows had to go begging for Republican lawmakers to defend or even try to explain what he’d said.
Those lawmakers wanted no part of him. The same went for the corporate chieftains he considers his peers. And for the generals he genuinely reveres. The heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines all went out of their way to issue statements condemning the hatred that Trump wouldn’t take on. A soft coup against a cuckoo: It confirmed how impotent Trump had become.
On Tuesday he “relinquished what presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan have regarded as a cardinal duty of their job: set a moral course to unify the nation,” wrote The Times’s Mark Landler, in what was correctly labeled a news analysis and not an opinion column. Landler’s assessment, echoed by countless others, was as unassailable as it was haunting, and it was prompted in part by Trump’s perverse response to a question that it’s hard to imagine another president being asked: Did he place the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., on the same “moral plane” as those who showed up to push back at them?
“I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane,” Trump answered.
Indeed he wasn’t. And if you can’t put anybody on a moral plane, you can’t put yourself on Air Force One. On Friday Trump finally dismissed his polarizing chief strategist, Steve Bannon. That’s excellent. And irrelevant. A president’s team doesn’t matter when he himself is this lost.
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