The New York Times reports: Presidential historians found it hard to recall precedents for the combination of internal warfare and external legislative troubles. Jeffrey A. Engel, the director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, said the best examples were John Tyler and Andrew Johnson in the 19th century. Both men were serving as vice president when their bosses died in office, each during a time of great turmoil in his political party.
“In either case, we are forced to go well back over a century in the past to find an administration in such an open state of infighting coupled with legislative disarray,” he said.
Presidents can recover from a difficult first six months, as Bill Clinton did, Mr. Engel said. “But certainly, like both Tyler and Andrew Johnson, we see today a president at war with his own party, and that to my mind never turns out well,” he said.
The repeated defiance of Mr. Trump this past week indicated diminishing forbearance. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, publicly derided by Mr. Trump as “VERY weak,” refused to resign under pressure. Senate Republicans forced the president to back off his threats by warning that they would block any effort to replace Mr. Sessions, either during their recess or through the confirmation process.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees, both led by Republicans, summoned Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to Capitol Hill to explain his contacts with Russia during and after last year’s campaign. With near-unanimous, veto-proof bipartisan majorities, Congress passed legislation curtailing Mr. Trump’s power to lift sanctions against Russia, a measure the president had to swallow and agree to sign.
After Mr. Trump abruptly wrote on Twitter that he was barring transgender people from the military, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared that the policy would not change unless the president gave a proper order. The Boy Scouts of America condemned Mr. Trump’s speech to its national jamboree as overly political and apologized to scouts, while some police organizations repudiated his call to be rougher on suspects.
And a Republican senator, John McCain, repaid Mr. Trump’s 2015 insult to his war service by torpedoing the president’s health care agenda with a dramatic middle-of-the-night thumbs down vote on the Senate floor.
“Think about this week. Not once, not twice — any of these things would have been a nail in the coffin,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, a White House chief of staff under Mr. Obama and a Democratic member of the House before that. “They told the president to pound dirt. That’s an unbelievable statement on where his presidency is only six months in. And nobody fears the political repercussions.”
Indeed, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, received a call from Mr. Trump’s interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, reportedly warning of repercussions for the state after her initial vote against proceeding with the health care debate. Undeterred, she voted against the president again on a bill to repeal parts of Mr. Obama’s program. [Continue reading…]