OUT OF CHAOS MAY YET COME ORDER... MAYBE
On the first six months of the Trump Presidency
Thursday, July 20, 2017
by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON
It has now been six months (half a year already!) since Donald J. Trump was first sworn in as President of the United States: we are, therefore, now one-eighths through yet another four-year American Administration. I have waited till now to write about his Presidency for two reasons: 1. I wanted the still-relatively new Trump Administration to "gel" before commenting thereon (for I actually expected- based primarily on the manner in which the Trump Campaign [both for the Republican nomination, as well as going into the General Election itself] had been conducted- at least some of the "chaos" that has, all too often, been discernable both in and around the White House these last six months [although, yes, I have found much of this surprising!]) and 2. I wanted to write, once I got around to doing so, as much (if not more) about the Presidency as I might write about the person who happens to now occupy that High Office or his policies and politics per se...
after all, I tend to be a "Big Picture" guy (one who very much prefers to see the forest despite all the trees!)
Arguably, the roots of the American Presidency (or, at the very least, many of its "root system") can be traced back to the political theories of one Sir Henry St. John Bolingbroke who, in 1738 (just prior to exiling himself from England to France), penned a monograph entitled The Idea of a Patriot King which Bolingbroke evidently never intended to actually make public: only after one of his friends (to whom he had sent one of the few printed copies) publicized (apparently without express permission) at least some of it as early as 1749, Bolingbroke (evidently reluctantly) permitted its publication (in order to make most clear his own views of the concept).
Perhaps an English historian of the British Empire-becoming-Commonwealth of Nations nearly a century ago now can (as his words are excerpted, by me, below) explain the very core of Bolingbroke's thesis much better than could I:
The essence of Bolingbroke's political doctrine was that the Whigs [by then long in power in Parliament and, by extension, the Crown Ministries] had ruined the balance of the British constitution by enslaving both the Crown and Parliament for their own purposes... If politics were to be brought into a healthy state [then, a]bove all, the Crown must be... enabled to play the part designed for it by the [Glorious] Revolution [of 1688/1689]. It must stand above parties, and disregard them; it must bring the ablest men into the service of the nation, without regard to their connections... Only the Crown could save the situation;... [t]he one hope of the nation therefore depended on the appearance of a Patriot King, who would... make himself the leader of a free nation, and call in the best men to advise him... Bolingbroke's theories were to have, in the nearer future, a mighty influence upon George III, who cast himself for the part of Patriot King.
As I myself have already noted on this website: King George III of Great Britain was, by the mid-1770's which gave birth to the American Revolution, already the world's premier constitutional monarch- despite the Patriots' own defining of him as "Tyrant" and "Despot"- and, thus, was hardly the "poster child" for Absolutism Louis XVI [of France] would soon be or Louis XIV had, as an historical figure, already become. Later in that same paragraph, I also took due note of the fact that the "anti-feudal"... American Declaration of Independence was written as a complaint against a monarch who was, in fact, far less "feudal" or "absolute" a ruler than that very Declaration claimed.
The same English historian [Ramsay Muir] from whom I have quoted in the paragraph immediately preceding the one just above also noted that George III (along with his own Prime Ministers between 1763 and the mid-1770s: Grenville, Rockingham, Pitt the Elder, Grafton and North) had to face a rather unique, as well as (or so this same historian puts it) terribly difficult, problem, which this historian describes as reconciling unity with freedom in a number of linked states (to which one might fairly add "over a wide geographical area").
However, as is pointed out by a Turn of the Last Century American historian of political development, [t]he real issue was one of home rule; the colonies had become too big to remain in tutelage to English politicians. A profound change in their relations to the home government would have been required in any event to make room for their growing spirit of self-reliance; and King George III and his ministers were, in the main, unfit to effectively solve this issue- if only because their position vis–à–vis the American colonies (as seen by themselves, as much as this was also to eventually be denigrated by the colonists in revolt themselves) was that of masters against servants:
Administration of the British Empire by Crown Ministers was instituted by George III (or so this American historian [Henry Jones Ford] continues), as the instrument of his personal will, and for whom he provided a parliamentary majority by the exercise of every influence which the Crown could bring to bear. Nonetheless, [t]he surrender of Cornwallis gave the death-blow to the system of personal rule which the King had laboriously erected- even on the eastern side of the Atlantic (in his 1790 work Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke- father [or, at least, grandfather] to modern political Conservatism in the West- himself asked most dismissively, where not also derisively (not to also mention tersely) "Who now reads Bolingbroke, who ever read him through?").
Obviously, therefore and thereby, the ultimate result of the American Revolution/War for American Independence sent that Bolingborkean ball sailing over the net into the Americans' court (while Britain was able to, more or less, finesse just such an issue as "unity and freedom within a larger political entity" for roughly another half century-- until the Mackenzie rebellion in what is now Ontario begat the Durham Report which, in turn, begat United Canada [and, but a generation thereafter, the first self-governing 'Dominion' with the British Empire just north of the Border]):
The very notion of "personal rule" by a relatively powerful (Alexander Hamilton would come to call it, instead, "energetic") Executive was, in fact, that which those Americans firmly imbued with that "Spirit of '76" very much decried as "Despotism" and "Tyranny". However, the near-anarchy within post-War now-independent America (embodied by such events as "Shays's Rebellion" [which I recount, and in no little detail, here]) forced the leadership cadre of the United States as a whole to finally confront both the problem (Unity vs. Freedom over a large extent of land), as well as its underlying issue (that the Americans now actually had Home Rule), during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia.
Just one part (albeit, quite obviously, a rather important part!) of the solution come up with by the Framers meeting therein was the very office of President of the United States. I have often opined on this very website that the President is- and, indeed, was originally intended to be (if only "more or less")- an "elected King" (or "elected Queen", should a woman ever be elected to that High Office); the President was also, or so I would argue, intended to be Bolingbroke's 'Patriot King' and there is no question whatsoever that George Washington, in his capacity as first President of the United States and throughout his service as such, strove (however uneven the result, however unsuccessful [insofar as 'Patriot King'-ship be firmly, let alone permanently, enshrined within that High Office as an institution] in the long run) to be just that!...
for Washington, throughout his service as President, ever tried his utmost to be above faction or party (making sure that, for instance, both Alexander Hamilton [leading light of what would become the 'Federalist' party] and Thomas Jefferson [principal guide to those who would come to be known as (old) 'Republicans']- themselves, at the time, among "the best men to advise him"- served in what would be his First Administration), but the personal rule of even an elected 'Patriot King'- while at least generally tolerated in a George Washington (albeit less so during even his own second term)- could not long survive the Administration of his successor, John Adams. For reasons rather different than those that had already engendered even Burkean conservative resentment in Britain, Bolingbrokean "kingship" itself could not well weather the emergence of an (old, Jeffersonian) 'Republican' plebiscitary Presidency (in place of the Framers' own original hopes as to less political, as it were, workings of what later would come to be called the Electoral College) and the consequent (ever more influential as time wore on) impact, in relation thereto, of Mass Politics...
still, many among we Americans have- from time to time, throughout our own History since- longed for our own 'Patriot King' during many a presidential campaign and even after a new President has been elected (and we ever search that History for the few examples [if any] we might find, such as Abraham Lincoln in saving the Union during the Civil War): George Washington, that is, ever remains an ideal-- even where he rarely, if ever, seems to have really become a role model.
Doubtless, there were many among those who voted for Donald Trump this past November who, yet again, did so while hoping for the emergence of at least a kind of Bolingbrokean 'Patriot King'- if only in the somewhat 'watered-down' sense that Trump (the first President ever elected who lacked any elective- or, for that matter, appointive- political experience, as well as true military service) might well yet prove to "stand above parties, and disregard them" (though just how many hard-core Trump supporters also wanted something along the lines of "personal rule" is arguable: clearly, some did, while others did not [although Trump's own personal style suggests he might have been able to deliver it anyway]).
I myself wrote, in my post-2016 Election commentary for this website that Mr. Trump is the first President-elect in my entire lifetime... to be pretty much a completely blank slate: some might even fairly argue that the term palimpsest might well be the more accurate descriptive! Simply put: we simply don't really know just what the new President will actually do (this, not only because of the manner in which his campaign had been conducted, but also precisely because he himself had no political record per se: thus, he might as well have turned out to be as much Democrat as Republican [and there were- and, indeed, yet remain- many a conservative political pundit who feared just that, as odd as that might sound to those of a more liberal political bent]!)
It is still much too early in his Administration to make the fairest assessment of just how much, or not, President Trump might be willing, - or,for that matter, will yet be able- to "stand above parties, and disregard them" (although, so far, he principally has- perhaps here we might perceive the influence of his Vice President, Mike Pence, or instead the fact that former Republican National Committee Chair Reince Preibus has yet survived, at least to this point, as White House Chief of Staff?- relied mostly on the Republican leadership in Congress [with little else but oft-tweeted denigration of the Democratic leadership therein] to try and push at least some kind of 'Trump Agenda' through into Law, with decidedly mixed results [albeit less "mixed" on the "big stuff" (where this strategy has not worked all that well) so far, to be sure!]); it is also still too early (though one will soon- within mere months from now- have to begin doing so) to project forward into the 2018 Midterm Election campaign (let alone that for the Presidency itself come 2020!) the political impact- positive or negative- of all this...
indeed, we seem to now be at something of a "crossroads"- come the High Summer of 2017- as to just where the Trump Administration might be headed, both politically and electorally, and how this will all play out in both the 2018 and 2020 campaigns yet to unfold.
This past February, White House 'Chief Political Strategist' Stephen Bannon spoke before the Conservative Political Action Conference and, among other things, declared that the then- still very new Trump Administration was itself dedicated to what he called "the deconstruction of the administrative state", at least at the level of the American Federal Government. Bannon's comment was- to me- most interesting, if only because it might well be the very core of the best answer to the question 'What, exactly, is 'Trumpism'?' Up till then, the best clue one had was the very slogan used by Donald Trump's own presidential campaign: "Make America Great Again"
In my most recent piece for this website, I noted that [m]odern Political Science sees Government as consisting of three basic elements: Administration of the State itself, popular Accountability, and Rule of Law. As regards a solely American political and constitutional context, I further suggested that one imagine the Executive (either in the person of the President himself, or the workings of an Administration that bears his name) inside a "bubble" (yes, the very "sphere" of its Power) and ever pushing out against the walls of that bubble in order to attempt to expand it (yes, indeed, truly "pushing the envelope"), while both popular Accountability (in the form of the duly elected members of both houses of Congress as representative of the People) and Rule of Law (Jurisprudence: the application of law through rulings handed down by the Courts in live "cases or controversies" brought before them) attempt to press the walls of that same "bubble" back inward.
By most, if not all, accounts, the United States of America has (arguably) the weakest State of any Western country (and this despite the many conspiracy theories out there regarding the so-called American 'Deep State'). This might seem, to at least some (not least those same conspiracy theorists!), a rather strange statement considering the very power the US Federal Government is able to wield over its own citizenry, let alone the position the USofA yet (even with some of the more thorny issues- many now having many an American ally looking at the United States askance- engendered by President Trump's trips abroad so far) holds as "the World's sole remaining Superpower" (how, then, might a National Government so powerful- internally, as well as externally- be at all "weak"?). But 'State' here refers only to the administrative apparatus (as already noted just above)- the Bureaucracy, if you will- and not to the US Federal Government as a whole (thus, "State"- in this particular context- is, indeed, Bannon's "administrative state"!).
The anti-Statism inherent in American political culture (that is: the generally strong dislike- on the part of the American People- of governmental regulation in and of itself [which, in turn, has historical roots going back to the 'Patriots' of the mid-1770s not at all wanting a Bolingbrokean 'Patriot King']) mitigates against a governmental administrative structure that is much too far-reaching (well-- if only as regards a given American him/herself: regulation of those "Others" that same 'given American' doesn't much care for, or even trust, might well, often as not, be most welcome! "Don't you dare try and take away my freedoms! But I really worry about what 'they' might be doing with theirs" is an all too common American refrain, regardless of Party and/or ideology: it is in this way that such 'anti-Statism' cuts across ideological and Party lines [where liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans primarily differ is as regards just in which arenas, perhaps even private as well as public, the State might- or, for that matter, might not- legitimately act: late Colonial/early Federal period-style "localism" and "cosmopolitanism"- in, obviously, different ways- nowadays mix it up on each side of the contemporary political/ideological divide!]).
Donald Trump himself campaigned on, in no little part, getting rid of what he considers to be unnecessary governmental regulation which he claims is stifling business-related growth as well as innovation and entrepreneurship (itself a mix of "cosmopolitanism" [in the form of those businesses of scale: the corporations, many with far-ranging international reach] and "localism" [the individual innovator/entrepreneur], here applied to the economic sphere)- although some of his then-stated approaches to same were quite bizarre, most notably his 'two-for-one' plan (one new regulation, but only if two others are done away with-- as if Regulations appeared on some kind of menu of Chinese restaurant lunch specials: "one from Column A, two from Column B" [or, for that matter, that all regulations are equal-- that, for example, regulating how much pollutant can be dumped in a lake or river is, in reality, not all that different from determining where parking meters might, or might not, be located]): thus, if only at first glance, the President comes off as someone who wants to actually weaken the American 'State' (again, as defined above) even moreso (re: Bannon's notion of "deconstruct[ing] the administrative state").
Nonetheless, as we have now seen throughout this first half-year of his Presidency, Trump doesn't seem to all that much care for, let alone about, the other two elements of Governance at the Federal level- the very ones constitutionally charged with hemming his High Office in, pushing back on the Executive "sphere", on two sides: Popular Accountability through Congress (just wait until congressional investigations of various and sundry activities of the Trump Administration really get underway [Russia or no, they're coming!] as Congress- no less than Media- attempts to keep pace with the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller [who, or so it appears, remains ever ahead of both]) and (which we have already seen, as regards- for one- the continuing State-originated lawsuits against his 'Travel Ban' Executive Orders) Rule of Law via Jurisprudence in the Federal Courts...
and the President himself has often expressed (more usually via Twitter) his seeming disdain for those Federal judges who might, however constitutionally, disagree with him (a sentiment which itself very often borders on overall disdain for the Judiciary as a whole which, in and of itself, is rather strange, considering that the President's own sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, is a Federal judge [she is currently "inactive" as a senior Circuit Court of Appeals judge, although- having been appointed for life during good behavior- she remains potentially available to handle cases in a pinch]); in addition, as this very piece is now going to post, we have reports of the President having expressed, in a press interview, his disappointment with his own Attorney General (Jeff Sessions) having- "unfair[ly] to the President"- recused himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign related to Russia (of which more below). All of these things are clear swipes at the very notion of Rule of Law.
Therefore, the very source of 'Trumpism' within the Government nowadays has (at least so far) solely been, in fact, Administration of the State at the Federal level (that is: within the Executive Branch itself).
So, is President Trump (Bannon's comment re: "deconstruction" notwithstanding) much better seen, then, as a State-builder?...
well... not really (just listen out for the increasing number of crickets chirping within an ever-diminishing US State Department, for one).
Back in the early 1930s- as what became the Great Depression deepened worldwide- the various and sundry 'Great Powers' took pains to isolate themselves from a global economy in crisis in order to best preserve their own, respective economic positions. They each turned to 'State-building': not just such authoritarian polities as Nazi Germany (Hitler first took power in January 1933 and, within months thereafter, consolidated it on the ashes of the 'Weimar Republic' as Fuehrer the following year), the Soviet Union (Stalin had cut off all major economic ties to the West upon the end of his Five-Year Plan in 1932), and militaristic Japan (yes, invading and occupying Manchuria in 1931-32, while already planning further expansion into its 'East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere': but this Japanese-dominated economic 'empire' was intended to be one closed to outsiders)- but also Britain (which abandoned Free Trade as it also took its Pound Sterling off the Gold Standard) and the United States (while Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized Hitler as a potential threat to 'Western'- thereby, also American- interests from pretty much the moment he first took office in early March 1933, he also recognized that he was- at least at the start [as well as for the foreseeable duration]- leading a fearful [remember, "the only thing we have to fear is Fear itself"] and, indeed, neo-isolationist polity far more concerned with internal economic strife than anything else: FDR simply hoped to be able to 'buy time' before the eruption of what he saw as the inevitable confrontation with Nazism [for his own part- as recounted in what is now known as Hitler's 'Second Book' supplemental to Mein Kampf- the Fuehrer himself saw German conflict with what he called 'the American Union' equally inevitable (in essence, both men- FDR and Hitler- long saw the First World War as having devolved into a conflict between two emergent federated Powers, Germany and the United States [each then seemingly on the verge of World Leadership]- a conflict that had been merely paused by the Armistice of 1918 and would, one day soon, resume)]).
I want it to be most clear here that I am not at all comparing President Trump and his Administration to the regimes of either Hitler or Stalin (for, as noted in the preceding paragraph, pretty much the same approach also drove FDR and interwar Britain [although these same Brits- much to the chagrin of Winston Churchill- didn't see Hitler the way FDR did until it was already too late!]) when I now note that a leading, current historian has stated (of these many State-builders of the 1930s, whether Totalitarian or not) that they all found that they could harness the fear of the foreign to strengthen their claim to patriotic obedience (yes-- even, as much as FDR counseled against 'Fear itself', the efficacy of his own New Deal rested upon an historic American cultural sense of Exceptionalism [thrown for something of the proverbial "loop" by the Crash of '29 and its aftermath] restored [however eventually] by American will and [ultimately] might: meanwhile, the then-gathering war-clouds in Europe were, at the time, presented publicly on the part of his Administration as but a distant storm on the horizon ever expected to pass to one side of the United States without bringing all that much 'rain and wind' to the homeland [although FDR himself knew much better: the domestic "political winds" were simply not in his own favor in this regard-- that is, until Pearl Harbor!]).
Likewise, it is most clear that Trump- along with many, if not most, of those around him- have seemingly determined that fear (or, at the very least, wariness) of 'the Other' (whether other countries- including US allies- or other Americans, even of the same Party) is part and parcel of their own sense of "Americanism" now in the middle of the second decade of the 21st Century. Bannon himself, also before CPAC last February, stated that "[i]f you think they're going to give your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken"...
the question ever begs, however: who exactly are "they" in the above statement (and it had better not include me!)?
First off, this very statement brings to my own mind when, back in 2009, then-Congressman Michael Castle (Republican) of Delaware (who would go on to lose the 2010 GOP US Senate Primary to 'Tea Party'-favored Christine O' Donnell [who, in turn, would lose the ensuing 2010 Special Senate Election to Senator Christopher Coons (Democrat)]) faced an angry woman at a 'Town Hall' meeting waving her Birth Certificate (this indicating her belief that then-President Barack Obama was not, in fact, a natural-born American citizen) and shouting "I want my country back!": when I myself first saw tape of this on the evening news, my immediate reaction was "Back to what?!"
That very question I myself posed to the television in my den that summer night now some eight years ago begs yet again:
for 'Trumpism', truth be told, does not offer anything all that new-- no, it is not the harbinger of a new Age: rather, it is a harking back to something that cannot be said to already be long gone; in essence, on the other hand, it is but a form of neo-Puritanism, with all the flaws such 'Puritanism' ever inherently contains: a seeking to return to an American past that never ever really existed in the first place (or, as journalist/historian Herbert Agar put it more than a half century ago now: Part of the charm of the Frontier myth is its irresponsible childishness-- and Agar himself hailed from the first [sorry, Vermont] fully frontier-State in the Union: Kentucky!). "Making America Great Again", therefore, seems but a clarion call to an American 'Greatness' itself no little divorced from a something I myself like to call "Reality" (especially, albeit not exclusively, geopolitical reality).
So, and again: who are "they"? Whomsoever "they" might be, these were clearly being presented by Bannon as not of "your country" (Americans or no, so is here well implied, "they" are not really "American")...
thus, among other things, the Trump Administration's veritable (and ever-ongoing) 'pissing contest' with Media.
At base, such incessant attacks on the Press seem but the stuff of mere abject political stupidity: first off, Media will continue to do that which Media does in any event-- that is: do that which a Free Press should be doing (or are those who so decry the Press also arguing that concomitant Free Speech [for these appear together, intertwined, within the First Amendment itself] is, in and of itself, not so freely speaking? 'Twould seem rather odd for many of those who so decry so-called 'Political Correctness' to also be so vehemently arguing the opposite in just such a related sphere).
But, in addition, American History itself informs us well as to the sheer vanity of just such an approach: for, say, Vice President Spiro Agnew's [in]famous description- back in the Fall of 1970- of editorial detractors of the Nixon Administration as "nattering nabobs of negativism" did not at all prevent the publication of the 'Pentagon Papers' the following year; nor did it do anything to dissuade the even later journalistic work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, itself a key component of the very chain of events that would themselves lead to the fall of President Nixon himself.
Again (to here quote Nixon mere hours before his resignation): Others may hate you-- but those who hate you don't win, unless you hate them: and then you destroy yourself.
For all Presidents have had adversarial relationships with Media, but primarily because the inherent (professional) relationship is-- well-- adversarial!...
but it is, in the main, no more adversarial than those relationships Media might have in many other spheres: with members of Congress, or State officials and legislators, or a large-city (or, for that matter, small-town) Mayor; the criminal defense attorney who publicly insists that, despite a 'rap sheet' nearly a mile long, his client now facing serious charges "has always been a good person: just ask his [or her] mom"; the Pop star or other like celebrities, etc. etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
We are here well within the realm of that which I myself wrote about in that commentary of mine from this past 19 January, where I noted that it is the President's own responsibility to maintain the legitimacy... of his own Administration. In order to so remain legitimate, the President and his Administration must themselves be legitimate, for the ideal of National Unity itself engenders from the White House-- not the other way round!. I had, earlier in that same piece, purposely distinguished between differing definitions of Presidential Legitimacy, where I also said that 'Legitimacy' here has two distinct meanings: the first... involves the mere legality of a President's election, and this is simply dealt with by noting how many Electoral Votes a presidential candidate might have received... [b]ut the term 'legitimacy' also has a second, political definition: one based on the apparent willingness (or not) of the American People to accept their President as leader of the Nation, regardless of whether or not they might have actually voted for him.
Thus, any and all questions relating to the first type of Legitimacy are so easily dispensed with: Donald Trump received 304 Electoral Votes (note: not the 306 he had apparently won as of Tuesday 8 November 2016 but, instead, the Electoral Vote as actually cast (in December) and thereafter officially counted (in January) before a Joint Session of Congress!) and 304 is, obviously, well more than the 270 nowadays needed to elect a President... case closed!
But it is the second type of Presidential Legitimacy- that which might well be best described as 'Legitimacy in the Court of Public Opinion'- which over time affects (however adversely or not), where it does not also drive, a given (numbered) Presidential Administration throughout its four-year existence and, therefore, ends up becoming the more important form of Legitimacy for which a President alone is responsible.
It cannot be much argued against that the Trump White House has not done all that well in this regard- here putting aside the fact that, or so it seems, President Trump and/or the very people around him seem to ever provide adversarial Media with all too much "ammunition" (much of it coming to light very like the 'drip, drip, drip' of a leaky faucet and involving events and actions going well back into the days of the Trump Campaign, let alone Transition!). There is little, if any, doubt that the hardest core of Trump supporters very much enjoys the Administration's "stonewalling" the Press (President Trump 'stickin' it to Big Brother MSM', vicariously where not even directly) but, in the vast majority of cases, this White House seems to, all too often, respond to Media trumpeting its own exposing the foibles of the Administration more like a 15 year old girl ("Look at me: NO, don't look at me! Why aren't you paying attention to me?!") and President Trump's own, by now [in]famous, "Tweetstorms" merely add much fodder for the Press in this same regard.
Russia!, of course, still looms all too large within all this.
And the Trump Administration just can't seem to ever get in front of this story. In large part, this is because it is filled with people who, frankly, don't think they should even have to do so ('"They" are ever against, as well as after, us; therefore, we shouldn't give in to "them"'-- a veritable Cult of the Paranoid); it is, as of yet, not necessarily about people in and about the White House- however unwittingly or no- becoming recruited into an overall cover-up of nefarious activities (though it yet could be: Special Counsel Bob Mueller's subpoena power will, over time, end up having more to say about that-- put another way: just how many people came down to Washington this past half-year or so simply so they could end up in serious legal jeopardy? There may well come a point where middle-level White House personnel are not going to so willingly go down with- or for- President Trump, his top-level advisers or even his family: but this is all something for some future day, perhaps)...
it all reminds me of a time long ago (but, in many ways [and certainly in the context of overall American History], not so very long ago!)
To my mind (and memory), mid-July 2017 is reminding me all too much of May going into June 1973: the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (colloquially known as the 'Ervin Senate Watergate Committee' for its Chairman, Senator Sam Ervin [Democrat, North Carolina]) was up and running and hearing relevant testimony by mid-May (I still well remember getting myself ready for my first, and only, date during my teenage years- taking, yes, a 15 year old girl to my high school class's Junior Prom- while listening, via radio, to James McCord, former CIA operative and 'Watergate' burglar, testify before that committee); the then-Attorney General of the United States, Elliot Richardson, had also just appointed a Special 'Watergate' Prosecutor, Harvard law professor Archibald Cox...
this was, of course, all before one-time White House Counsel John Dean (come late June of that year) telling the aforementioned Senate committee that he had warned President Nixon "a cancer was growing on the Presidency" and- still later (mid-July 1973)- one-time White House operations chief (by the time he so testified before that same committee, Director of the Federal Aviation Administration) Alexander Butterfield informing the world that- yes, indeed- Nixon's White House had taped just about everything (causing 17 year old me, while watching this on television, to do a 'spit take' of a mouthful of cold cereal in milk while sputtering "You... you mean... there are tapes?!")...
and this mid-to-late Spring/early Summer of 1973 was all well before the 'Saturday Night Massacre' (of late October 1973: Attorney General Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, resigning rather than- as ordered by Nixon- fire Cox [Solicitor General-become acting Attorney General ended up doing so]), the US Supreme Court ruling 8-0 that Nixon must turn over the infamous tapes to criminal prosecutors and the concomitant vote (all this in late July 1974) by the House Judiciary Committee to impeach that President, and- ultimately- the revelation of the so-called 'Smoking Gun' tape (the very term thanks to then-Congressman Charles Sandman [Republican, New Jersey], who had voted against Impeachment in committee while incessantly asking "Where's the smoking gun? Where's the smoking gun?" [and I just can't help but think of this whenever I might find myself driving along what is now Sandman Blvd. taking one down to the Jersey terminal of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry]) leading to, finally, President Nixon's resignation in early August 1974.
During that brief respite, back in '73, between Nixon letting his key White House advisers Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman- along with John Dean- go at the end of April and the firestorm that began with Dean's testimony before the Senate committee a little less than two months thereafter, America was treated to that same steady leaky faucet-like 'drip, drip, drip' to which I alluded earlier. Men such as Anthony Ulascewicz ("bag man" for the 'Watergate' cover-up, an ex-NYPD officer who himself expressed surprise that he became caught up in the affair) came before the Senate committee: bits and pieces of the story were thereby publicly presented, with Nixon loyalists (and even attorneys for some of the witnesses) pushing back and/or proposing ulterior motives...
but, as yet (until, that is, John Dean's week-long appearance), there was no real cohesion (no "whole") to the story and no irrefutable direct link to Nixon's White House (although many a direct link was being suggested as witness after witness hoped to best "save his own bacon"): while the story was being more and more "outed" through most of May into June 1973, the Nixon Administration could seemingly just "ride things out" (collateral casualties re: expected punishment for misdeeds amongst one-time "Nixon's men" being merely part of the "devil's bargain" through which the Nixon Administration was, if only for a time, able to keep afloat).
All the above is but by way of my now pointing out- via historical analogy- that the political, let alone legal, adjudication of anything that might yet emerge- in this era- regarding the relationship of either President Trump or those around him (either now, or in the recent past) with operatives of, or at least those working all too closely with, people within- or working on behalf of- the government of the Russian Federation (as well as the financial wheelings and dealings of oligarchs in orbit about same) is still, most likely, far enough away in time, as of this typing, to likely have us all well pondering such things as the 2018 Midterm Election campaign first gets underway with the approach of the first Primaries thereof early next Spring.
For I do not think it at all entirely an accident of History that Richard Nixon actually resigned the Presidency (under certain threat of Impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives and subsequent Removal from Office by two-thirds vote in the United States Senate) in the mid-to late Summer of a Midterm Election year: by that time, more than half (a quick perusal of the relevant dates, combined with my own admittedly limited math skills, tells me it was actually upwards of three-fifths) of the Primary Elections in 1974 had already been held; thus, most Republican Congressmen and Senators with seats up for re-election that coming November who would have been renominated (or, perhaps, nominated for other elective office [a GOP Congressman seeking, say, a Senate seat or Governor's chair]) that year had already survived any possible challenge from within the Grand Old Party from, say, more hard-core Nixon supporters who themselves still saw the whole 'Watergate'-related investigation (both within and without Congress, not also to mention by Media) as, yes, something of a "Witch Hunt"...
simply put: most Republicans in either house of Congress could- come that first full week in August 1974- afford, when and if they felt it necessary as a matter of political survival, to turn on President Nixon like the proverbial "hungry junkyard dog" without immediate political "blowback" from within their own Grand Old Party itself: after all, with the political climate across the country, by that point, having already turned on the White House (recall that, less than two years before, Nixon had been re-elected by an Electoral College avalanche!), these politicians- in truth- had nothing much left to lose (and, in fact, many of them would lose, nonetheless, come the Midterm General Election of Tuesday 5 November 1974-- although, so it is abundantly clear from History, sticking with Nixon would not have at all saved them).
One, therefore, has to- right now, in mid-July 2017- ask oneself just where the Trump Administration might find itself, within the American political landscape, a year from now (that is: mid-July 2018!): more to the point, where will President Trump find himself among Republicans by then? A year from now, some two-thirds or more of 2018 Primaries (just a quick perusal of next year's Primary schedule here) for seats in both houses of Congress will already have been held (thanks largely to the relatively recent MOVE [Military and Overseas Empowerment] Act, the September State/local Primary Election is now but a dying institution)...
the resultant political equation is altogether uncomplicated: should the travails of President Trump and his Administration (whether actual, right now, or potential, in future) become more and more politically obnoxious (that is: should that ever-present 'Presidential Legitimacy within the Court of Public Opinion' I wrote of above in this piece be seen as the more and more lacking)-- especially to Republican officeholders (once these same will no longer have to sweat a Primary threat from hard-core Trumpites within the Grand Old Party)-- what then?
No, I am not going to here pretend to know the future (even though I do think I have a proven "track record" re: my being an at least somewhat good educated guesser who is not at all afraid to take the first guess [simply go over my many commentaries for this website over the past now 17 1/2 years]). Instead, I will, if only for now, simply close with the simple admonition:
Fasten your seat belts!