What is Trump’s worst possible motive?Bottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Politically Aware Thursday, August 31st, 2017
Commentary: Politically Aware
“Sometimes when I try to understand a person’s motives, I play a little game … What’s the worst reason they could possibly have for saying what they say and doing what they do?… How well does that reason explain what they say and what they do?” – Lord Petyr Baelish, Game of Thrones
After watching the Game of Thrones season seven finale on Sunday, I played Lord Baelish’s little game with President Trump. The result was scarier than an ice dragon.
What is Trump’s worst possible motive? Making money for himself? A Putin-esque level of authority? Both are bad, but there is something even worse. In his heart, I think Trump would like to leave the presidency to his children as the crown jewel of the Trump Estate. Just look at what he says and does.
To keep the presidency in the family, Trump must survive the Russia scandal and challenges to other actions. His pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio was a step to that end. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s threats of prosecution will be much less effective once witnesses know that Trump will reward silence with a pardon. The promise of clemency could also embolden voter suppression efforts in minority communities, moving future electorates in Trump’s direction.
Further, the pardon strengthens his connections with certain law enforcement groups, potentially important in the event of a constitutional showdown. What if an impeached and convicted Trump refused to leave office? Some branch of law enforcement would be required to remove him. That gets tougher if they see him as a benefactor. Tougher still if he has the military on his side. While I think General McMaster and former Generals Mattis and Kelly serve his administration out of a sense of duty, Trump likely has his own reasons for wanting them inside the tent.
As long as there are elections, the children must be passable candidates, which is why Ivanka and Jared took White House jobs. They may be advisers now, but they could move up the ladder as others leave the administration. Kushner’s portfolio includes peace efforts in the Middle East. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is finally fed up, what’s to prevent Kushner from succeeding him? After two years as Secretary of State, Kushner could easily replace an insufficiently loyal Vice President Pence on Trump’s 2020 ticket.
Trump’s recent attacks on Republicans like Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Sen. John McCain also make sense in this light. Trump needs to ensure that if establishment Republicans try to compete with the family, the party is too weak to beat his loyal supporters. A free media and the truth are also dangerous to a dynasty, and therefore frequent Trump targets.
Tin foil hat time? I hope so. I think America is strong enough to survive one Trump and decline a second; however, his words and actions do show a pattern. It’s past time we stop assuming Trump is unhinged and seriously consider the doors he may be trying to open.
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