It’s hard to say if the tide will turn permanently on Donald Trump after yesterday’s disgraceful performance while standing next to Vladimir Putin — there’s no doubt that many in his base will continue to stand with him, regardless — but there’s been more vocal opposition to Trump from Republicans and conservatives than any other time during his Presidency. No major Republicans have come to Trump’s defense, and even his strongest loyalists — Newt Gingrich, Anthony Scaramucci — have spoken out against him. The best Laura Ingraham could offer was, “He’s still new to this.” Even Fox & Friends, which has never wavered in their support of Trump, spent a good six minutes this morning expressing befuddlement and lecturing the President on how to behave on the world stage.
President Trump fires back at critics over his meeting with Putin pic.twitter.com/Ycb1pkls9f— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) July 17, 2018
The one exception, of course, was Sean Hannity, who gave the President softball questions during an interview last night, at which the President consistently swung and missed, using his first interview after the summit to reiterate the strength of Vladimir Putin. “I thought President Putin was very, very strong,” Trump said, before adding that he was “fascinated” with Putin’s idea of letting Russia have access to Mueller and his team. However, even Hannity got pushback from his own panel after the interview, and all Hannity could muster was constant interruptions and a lot of “What about Obama?” He even spent several minutes talking with Sebastian Gorka about a vote that former CIA Director John Brennan — who called Trump’s behavior yesterday “treasonous” — made in 1975, as though something that happened 40 years ago was relevant in today’s political landscape.
I know it shouldn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but I think that there’s something about what Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Twitter yesterday that resonated even with Trump Republicans:
“You stood there like a little wet noodle. Like a little fanboy. I was asking myself when you were going to ask him for an autograph, or a selfie.”
Schwarzenegger hit Trump where it hurts him the most: His “manliness.” Someone said yesterday that if there is a pee tape, that Trump probably wouldn’t care about it leaking because it would bolster his strength as a man, at least in the opinion of his supporters. Why do you think he survived the Access Hollywood scandal? Because grabbing someone by the pussy illustrates a kind of machismo strength, at least with the men who support him. It doesn’t hurt Trump when he calls out the #MeToo movement. It doesn’t hurt Trump when he rails against immigrants or offers false equivalences between Nazis and liberals. Or when he calls out the press. Those actions, to his supporters, are acts of strength.
Trump is a bully, and being a bully is a quality that his base admires in the President. They want someone who stands up for them, even if that means standing up for racism, bigotry, trade, isolationism. Even if it goes against their better political interests. Last week, there were articles about Harley Davidson workers and farmers who are getting crushed in the trade war who nevertheless stood by Trump. “At least he’s out there fighting for us.”
His base probably loved it when he called out Angela Merkel, when he embarrassed Theresa May in that interview with The Sun, because our President was making a fool of other world leaders. But yesterday? Trump looked like a “little wet noodle. Like a little fanboy.” He looked weak. He got pushed around by Vladimir Putin. He exhibited zero strength. He couldn’t even stand up for himself when Putin called him out for ending the Iran deal. When he wasn’t sucking up to Putin, he was grasping for straws, rambling about servers and Hillary and Obama and name-dropping obscure right-wing conspiracies that few people are even aware of. The best and really only compliment that even Hannity could offer Trump about his performance was, “You were very strong at the end of that press conference. You said: “Where are the servers? What about what Peter Strzok says? Where are the 33,000 emails?,” as though bringing up partisan minutia in front of the world displayed some form of strength.
All it did was make Trump look petty. He couldn’t stand up to Putin, so he attacked people who weren’t in the room instead of the man standing next to him. He rambled and stuttered and sputtered while the Russian President stood beside him and gloated. I’m not a Trump supporter. I don’t know what’s going on in their minds. But I have to think that there were a goodly number of them who were sick to their stomach, because what they saw on the stage was not a man “out there fighting for America,” but a “little wet noodle” who allowed himself to be steamrolled by Putin, and it doesn’ matter if the Russian President is characterized as a “competitor,” a “rival,” or a “geopolitical enemy.” Whatever you want to call him, he took away all of Trump’s bluster and made the President of the United States look like a chump. He didn’t own the libs yesterday; he got owned by Putin.