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So, Donald Trump pulled it off, and though he would never, ever admit it, no one was more surprised than he to be shivering in the January cold with his hand on the Bible taking the oath of office from a grim Chief Justice Roberts. Vice-President Marco Rubio looked on, his own thoughts concealed behind the same bland smile that had been pasted on his face since the “Republican Unity Ticket” was announced in Cleveland in July. Ted Cruz, at home in Texas, was re-watching John Wayne in “The Searchers.” Sarah Palin was invited but could not make it; one of her family members had a court appearance.
The decisive defeat of Hillary Clinton in November was the greatest humiliation in a life marked by serial humiliations – failing the District of Columbia Bar Exam, being cuckolded by Bill while he was in office, losing to Barack Obama, and now being beaten by Donald Trump. She ignored her advisors at the first debate; so certain was she in her own moral and intellectual superiority that she tried to take him head-on. All America remembered about that debate was her look of utter mortification as The Donald dismissed her as a “doormat who Putin and the mullahs are gonna step all over just like Bill did.” She pulled out of the remaining debates because of his “sexism” even as she was greeted at every public campaign event (until she stopped having them) with hordes of Trump fans waving doormats with her face emblazoned upon them.
Hillary lost men by 15 points and women by 12, and the succession of rap stars and sports heroes choosing to back Trump helped him take an astonishing 40% of the minority vote. She was crushed in the Electoral College, broken and humiliated. When Barack Obama pardoned her for the classified material charges his Department of Justice had refused to bring (FBI Director James Comey’s protest resignation was another nail in her coffin), President-Elect Trump shrugged it off, noting on Twitter that, “She’s really suffered enough. She really has, especially after her terrible campaign. Needs a rest!”
Trump had to put together his administration on the fly. He picked the key positions himself, but the GOP Establishment (with Veep Rubio’s help) quickly moved to fill the invisible sub-secretarial vacancies in the federal departments and agencies with D.C. insiders who had been waiting to jump back into government for eight years. Conservatives hoped this would lead to a wholesale reversal of Obama’s rule via bureaucracy, but the Establishment types were less concerned with limiting government power than with changing the priorities of distribution to favor the donor class' interests.
The Senate and House remained strongly Republican, but they seemed to learn nothing. The promised repeal and replacement of Obamacare slipped from a Day One priority to a Day 90 priority to a “Somewhere down the road” priority. Trump also half-heartedly tried to build a wall, but then gave up, explaining, “Well, Mexico refuses to pay for it and we shouldn’t have to.” It was not long before Trump began to “grow in office,” and soon he was explaining how, “We really need these people here, these illegal people to do the dirty jobs Americans just won’t do. We need them and it would kill our economy if we stopped it.” He soon signed a comprehensive immigration law legalizing the millions of illegals already here and expanding legal immigration; there were no firm border security provisions in the bill. When confronted by a Fox News reporter at a news conference about this flip-flop, Trump responded, “That’s a very, very rude and stupid question coming from you. The voters, they understand you have to compromise and make deals and we’ve made a very strong deal. You are probably saying this because it is that time of the month and you women say crazy things then.”
He decided not to repudiate the Iran deal, claiming, “It seems to have been going very well.” The Iranians detonated a nuclear warhead in December 2017. Vladimir Putin sent his armored divisions into unoccupied Ukraine and reintegrated the country into Russia. President Trump called it, “Very disturbing, very scary, but it’s their internal business. It’s not our business, so we are staying out of it.” Trump’s 45% tariff on Chinese goods died in the House of Representatives, but only after Republicans beat back a coalition of Democrats and a few Trump-leaning Republicans.
Trump allied himself with Democrats frequently in a series of “deals” that sometimes passed, sometimes failed. For their part, the Democrats held their fire on President Trump and focused on the GOP Congress. But in the run-up to the 2018 mid-terms, the Democrats leveraged the fact that the economy was not improving and foreign policy fiascos like ISIS’ taking of all of Syria and expanding the caliphate. They turned on Donald Trump with a vengeance and re-took the Senate as well as many House seats.
The last two years of the Trump presidency were characterized by petulance from the White House and paralysis in Washington. When an ill Ruth Bader Ginsberg left the Supreme Court, Trump compromised with the Democrats and appointed Laurence Tribe, who he grew to like after Tribe gave him back-up on the ridiculous Ted Cruz birther attacks. Tribe would vote that the Second Amendment really did not provide a right to keep and bear arms, a decision Trump called, “You know, smart, because of the guns and they are killing people and we really have to do something about the guns.”
Trump’s favorability numbers dropped, though a hard core of supporters still applauded and rationalized his every act and statement, including after a live mic caught him whispering, “I have a power over these dummies and they’ll will do anything I say, anything. I could tell them to jump off the Trump Tower and they’d do it. Stupid!”
Trump announced in 2019 that he would not be running for reelection; his favorability ratings were in the mid-twenties. America’s military was in tatters, and the debt had expanded more in four years than in the eight years under Obama. At this point, Ann Coulter wrote her famous National Review cover story, “I Am So Sorry. What the Hell Was I Thinking?”
But Trump remained blissfully secure in the knowledge of his own awesomeness. Speaking to Megyn Kelly during one of the intermittent periods when he was friendly with her, Trump explained, “I am going to leave on top as one of the greatest presidents in history, which many, many brilliant professors, history professors, are saying.”