I seem to have been right in thinking that it was not possible for President Trump to simply endure the steady drip, drip, … of stories about the Russia connection. But my concerns about the the risk of a violently destructive response have abated a little in light of recent developments. Lashing out with tweetstorms at scattered targets in hopes of regaining tempo and raging at his staff continues to be about the extent of his repertoire—so far. No doubt this has pretty much the desired effect with most Republicans, carpings from the likes of Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ben Sasse not withstanding.
But will it satisfy his inner needs? Perhaps, but I would guess not. I think he needs if not adulation then at least sullen submission from pretty much everyone, and that is going to take a great deal more fear than he has thus far been able generate. Many persist in seeing him as at least faintly ridiculous, and for a man too thin-skinned to face the ordeal of a White House Correspondents Dinner or Gridiron Club roast that has to be agonizing.
I can see no way in which the Russia issue can be resolved in a manner satisfactory to Mr. Trump. Indeed it’s not hard to imagine that the situation will grow worse from his perspective. I know some who believe that he will somehow crack under the pressure, but I question this. I can see no route for him to yield short of total disintegration of his fragile personality, followed presumably by suicide.
Possibly he will simply continue to insist on his version of reality and dismiss and ignore the doubters. But if the doubts come to consume his administration then the hermetic seal will become progressively more difficult to maintain.
Will he seek to take up arms against his foes by one means or another? As I’ve observed before, he has no squadristi or Sturmabteilungen ready to hand. But the military, police, and security services are the natural home of those with authoritarian personalities and President Trump’s combination of authoritarian tendencies of his own and much legitimate power are ideally calculated to appeal to them. Anyone who has spent much time around these organizations knows that their members get their information and views very largely from Fox News and right-wing talk radio.
But of course their leaders tend to have broader visions and greater circumspection. It’s also true that Mr. Trump, having successfully avoided any experience of combat, is much less hardened to violence and its risks than were men like Mussolini and especially Hitler. He is a practiced bully but at least in adulthood his bullying has been virtually all bluster.
In the meantime, my sense is that the water torture really is very slowly spreading doubts even among the faithful, undermining his potential strength. So perhaps he will hesitate to resort to force until he has too little left to resort to.
So can we hope. So had we better.