"I, alone ...."
That's how this all began, with Donald Trump bragging about all the things that "I, alone" could fix. Looking down an increasingly clear road, it is also how it will end, with Donald Trump alone. From his inaugural speech onward, the man elected by a minority of American voters has done nothing to build on that fragile base. Instead he has watched, frustrated and confused, as it shrinks and shrinks and as he becomes a laughingstock.
And who is the only person to blame, Mr. President?
He can never acknowledge that, of course. It is truth, and he flees truth like a vampire flees sunlight, for much the same reason. But you can see it in the polls. Even Rasmussen, traditionally the most Republican of pollsters, put Trump's approval rating at an abysmal 40 percent this week, with 49 percent disapproving strongly. These are depths that Barack Obama never approached, and they will go lower.
This week's toll included business leaders whom Trump once bragged would be his biggest champions. In the wake of his bizarre misreading of the tragedy in Charlottesville, they withdrew from his American Manufacturing Council; they withdrew from his Strategy and Policy Council. And while Trump at first bragged that those deserting him would be easily replaced, that other corporate CEOs would line up to replace those who were cutting ties to the White House, no such line of candidates emerged.
In complete retreat, Trump chose to abolish the councils altogether.
As those business leaders noted in their exit statements, there are not "two sides" to a debate when one side is dominated by Nazis and white supremacists conducting torchlight rallies while chanting "Jews will not replace us," "Blood and Soil" and other fascist slogans. Who among the leaders in American business and politics could fail to comprehend that simple fact, Mr. President?
That's right, "I, alone ...."
As candidate and now as president, Trump had also positioned himself as a champion of the military, despite his own record of avoiding service. But even before the tragedy at Charlottesville, top active-duty military leaders had openly and directly disputed the president's order to remove transgender Americans from their ranks, describing it as disruptive. In the aftermath of Charlottesville, the chiefs of staff of each of the five branches of the military also released forthright condemnations of bigotry that stood in stark contrast to the equivocation by their commander in chief.
"Events in Charlottesville unacceptable & musnt be tolerated," tweeted Admiral John Richardson, chief of naval operations. "@USNavy forever stands against intolerance & hatred."
Military leadership almost never feels compelled to speak out on domestic issues; to the contrary, American military culture strongly discourages it, as it should. But these men lead institutions in which Americans of all creeds and colors work together in intimate quarters, in which any hint of racial discord can be destructive. They spoke out to ensure that there would be no confusion in the ranks about what was expected of them.
Trump has been unable to recruit a new White House communications director, a post that is usually highly coveted. He is openly feuding with Republican congressional leadership. Even some supporters at Fox News have become critical, and those who still keep the faith are reduced to absurdities in trying to defend him. Everything, everything is subtraction, and it ends with "I, alone ...."