" So where do we go from here?
How does the US extricate itself from the puffy hands of Donald Trump? 
"
Writing something coherent about the future of Donald Trump’s presidency, as it enters its fifth month, is like guessing the ending of a newly discovered Shakespeare comedy after reading the first act. And, anyway, is it a comedy or a tragedy?

Last week I wrote that Trump was giving President Nixon a run for his money.

That was last week. This week, Trump has clearly leaped ahead of Nixon’s bad behavior. 

That hackneyed expression that grew out of Watergate: “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” With Trump, it’s quickly becoming, “It’s not the cover-up, it’s the crime.”

The Washington Post on Tuesday published a report that Trump discussed classified information with the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office. The fact that the information was classified was not what upset intelligence officials nearly so much as the likelihood that its casual revelation could help the Russians identify the agents who had passed on the information in the first place. It could not only endanger them but could make our allies hesitant to share key top-secret information with Washington in the future.

Trump then sent out his national security advisor, H. R. McMaster, who denounced the Post’s story as “false … it didn’t happen.” And 12 hours later, the ham-handed Trump is tweeting that indeed it did happen, boasting that “as President … I have the absolute right to” share classified information with Russians. And McMaster, thrown under the bus, is out there a few hours later defending Trump.

And then, just when you thought you had seen it all, there’s Trump’s Valentine’s Day meeting with Comey: Can you go easy with my buddy Michael Flynn and his Russian connections, the three-week-into-it president asks the FBI director. Of course the White House is denying it, but weighing Comey’s credibility against Trump’s is a no-brainer.

A couple of weeks ago, I quoted the conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin asking if Trump was “nuts, ill-informed, or a liar — or all three?” If we were unsure which was the answer a few weeks back, Trump is delighted to continue to steer us in the right direction: it’s all three. 

It’s long been obvious he knows little and lies about the rest, but now one can seriously begin to wonder if he’s not in the early stages of dementia. Had he forgotten, when he sent out the tweet Tuesday morning confirming he had discussed sensitive classified material with the Russian foreign minister, that the night before he had instructed his national security advisor to deny it?

Or — does this portray a kinder version of his mental situation? — was he suddenly overwhelmed with guilt about having gotten McMaster to lie to protect him?

Watergate, as we know, took months to unravel. Trump’s incompetence — and perhaps his mental instability — is unfurling before us in mere weeks.

If we had another form of government — yeah, you guessed it, time for another plug for a parliamentary system — the majority party would quickly depose the prime minister, bring on his replacement, and move on with governing the country. Or, if need be, call for new elections, which could be planned and implemented within eight to ten weeks.



But we’re stuck with a four-year presidential election cycle and the system of checks and balances that our Founding Fathers created — understandably, from the perspective of the late 18th century, more concerned about the emergence of a dictator than of a duly elected, narcissistic self-promoter gradually losing it.

So where do we go from here? How does the US extricate itself from the puffy hands of Donald Trump?

It’s all in Republican hands. As yet, only a few Republican congressmen have begun to speak up. Tennessee’s junior senator Bob Corker, referring to Trump’s “lack of discipline,” has publicly described the White House “as in a downward spiral.” Noticeably, few elected Republicans these days are speaking out in support of Trump.

But lack of support is not enough. From being disgraced to being impeached could take months, even years. With Republicans controlling Congress, no impeachment process would get off the ground until after mid-term elections 18 months down the road. Look at the damage he’s managed to do in less than four months.

The Republicans will certainly be the big losers if they keep this albatross hanging around their necks. In some of the most recent polls, Trump’s support is as low as 35%; the Russian fiasco is hardly going to raise it. And his childish tweeting — I’m the president, I can do what I damn well please — is equally unlikely to attract new support for the party of Abraham Lincoln.

H. R. McMaster was a distinguished three-star general when Trump appointed him to the national security role. Generals perhaps have been trained all too well to salute and say “yes sir”; McMaster has shown himself no different. It’s time he, and other top members of the White House staff — acknowledging the beginning of the end for the Trump presidency — resign. 

And if an increasing number of prominent Republicans, in and out of Congress, would speak out forcefully against some of the president’s most glaring strategic gaffes, even the myopic Trump would see the advantage of cutting his losses. 

Quit while you’re ahead, Donald, is no longer the appropriate argument. How about, Quit before you get further behind? And arguably, you never really wanted to be president; you simply wanted to win the election. OK, you’ve done that, Mr. President.

Beyond the damage, both short-term and long-term, his continued presidency would do to the Republican Party is the serious danger of having an increasingly discredited, angry Donald Trump remain in the Oval Office, one hand on his twitter, the other on the nuclear button.

Meanwhile, as he was recuperating from his disastrous encounter with the Russian foreign minister, he was meeting with President Erdogan of Turkey. Trump admires Russia’s Putin, but Turkey’s Erdogan is surely Trump’s true role model: he’s turned Turkey from a democracy into a budding dictatorship.