The Desperate Twilight of Donald Trump

“Well OK, apart from deregulation, fuller employment, cheaper energy, return of industry, the First Step Act, standing up to China, rejection of the Paris agreement, control of illegal immigration and a Covid vaccine in record time, what has Trump ever done for us?”

“Given us peace.”

“Ah, shuddup!”

In the build-up last week to the US Presidential inauguration, Sky News (and probably others) reported that “tonight there are more troops in DC than there are in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.”

I wonder if anyone appreciated the irony of that comparison, only made possible by the fact that President Trump, in line with one of his many electoral commitments, had gradually withdrawn US troops from overseas deployment and, unlike all many of his immediate predecessors, declined to be involved in any new wars.  And he did this at the same time as he defeated ISIS and junked the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump’s record of achievement is considerable but his detractors ignore that and point to his crassness, his misogyny, his stubbornness and many other personal flaws to argue that he should never have been President. He is now accused of dividing the country by trashing sacred public institutions.  It is said he was unsuitable to hold the office because he did not act in a Presidential manner.

It’s often said that newly appointed leaders all make mistakes and have to be given some leeway to ‘grow into the role’. Unfortunately, Trump was never afforded that luxury. It was not his policies that were targeted but his very election.  He suffered unprecedented personal abuse from day one.  One of the sacred institutions of the US is the Presidency itself.  The man has always been treated with respect because of the office he holds.  Not so with Trump.  It was the Democrats who trashed that – the most vivid example of which was Nancy Pelosi standing behind the President and tearing up his State of the Union address. 

President Job might have managed it, but I imagine it was next to impossible for a man with Trump’s temperament to develop any kind of ‘Presidential manner’ in the face of this unrelenting hostility.

Getting back to recent events, it must be said that Trump miscalculated seriously his response to the ‘stolen election’. Setting aside the question of whether alleged voter fraud was sufficient to overturn the result, the real question is what are the odds there was no fraud? Miniscule, I would say, it’s very nearly an American tradition and part of every election. And if that is so, given the incessant vilification of Trump and the unconstitutional amendment of voter regulations, what are the odds the fraud went considerably beyond what one might normally expect?  Put it this way, if you believe there was no voter fraud you are living in cloud cuckoo land. And if it exists there must be evidence of it.

Trump was right to pursue his claims. The question is when should he have backed off? Trump’s tactic was not to ‘mount a coup’, as some deranged commentators have suggested. His tactic was to pursue his claims through the courts as he was perfectly entitled to do.  However, as court after court refused even to hear his evidence – thus giving legal cover to the lie that there was no evidence – Trump must have become increasingly frustrated.  His final hope was the Supreme Court but, ultimately, it failed to deliver. This was ironic since Trump’s most important legacy is the current composition of the court. It will almost certainly be his most enduring one.  Let’s look at the actions of the Supreme Court.

The State of Texas lodged a lawsuit with the Supreme Court against the States of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan on the grounds that they altered electoral rules in contravention of the Constitution, which gives legislatures the power to make electoral rules, not State judiciaries or officials. A number of other states joined the Texas action. The underlying logic of their case would be that unconstitutional actions on the part of one state, that affect the overall result of the election, have consequences for the other states. That logic seems, to me, unassailable.

In fact, this lawsuit could have been foreseen because, before to the election, the Republican Party legislators in Pennsylvania had petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the new election rules gazetted in that state on the exact same grounds argued by Texas. Justice Alito ruled that the Court would not expedite a hearing in that case but also ruled that ballots collected under the new rules were to be kept segregated. Clearly, he foresaw a post-election challenge.

The Texas case was dismissed in very short order on the grounds that Texas did not have legal standing under Article III of the US Constitution. The relevant portion of Article III is as follows:

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;—to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State;—between Citizens of different States;—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects. 

I’m not a lawyer but it would seem to me that the underlined words would have allowed the Court to find that Texas had standing – there is little scope for nuance in those words. Two dissenting judges, Alito and Thomas, obviously thought so.

So why didn’t the remaining conservative judges, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett, agree? These are the three appointed by Trump, to his great credit. Now I’m not saying that because they owed their appointment to Trump that they were obliged to demonstrate judicial loyalty. We would expect them to rule objectively according to the letter of the law, particularly Coney Barrett as she made such a point of this in her confirmation hearings. In fact, as far they are concerned, secure on the Court for life, I’m sure they believe Trump’s work is done.

But, on the other hand, it would be unconscionable if they were to rule against Trump simply on the grounds that it would give an impression of favouritism or gratitude. To avoid that charge they could have recused themselves, which would have resulted in a ruling of four to two against hearing the case. That would have put a much more acceptable face on the defeat for the Trump rather than the humiliation that seven to two inflicted.

But that is not what I think happened . I think the Court is conscious that if anything were to occur that would overturn the putative result, all hell would break out in the States, the likes of which would put this year’s BLM riots in the shade.

The Supreme Court would, understandably, not wish to be saddled with the opprobrium that would attend such a result and would fear that the status or standing of the Court could be brought into disrepute. Perhaps they chose not to hear the case because they were afraid they would have to find in favour of Texas. On the other hand, they know the vast majority of Trump supporters will cop it on the chin.

But if that is what has occurred, and the cynic (realist) in me cannot shake off the feeling that it is, then the Supreme Court would have set itself up as a ‘kingmaker’ – surely anathema to any self-respecting US citizen – and, in doing so, set a very dangerous precedent.

Nonetheless, it was at that point that Trump should have realized it was over. He was never going to concede the election graciously.  You will note, I did not say ‘concede defeat’ and that is critical to understanding his recent actions.  Trump will never concede the election but he has now conceded defeat.

Had he done that after the Supreme Court did its shameful Pontius Pilate impersonation, his presidency would have remained untarnished.

You can order the new edition of Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest by clicking here

29 thoughts on “The Desperate Twilight of Donald Trump

  • pgang says:

    And yet his presidency remains untarnished.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    I agree, pgang. For all his faults, Trump’s positive legacy is stellar compared with those of at least the last four of his predecessors. In particular, he should be given credit for two major achievements far more significant than merely bringing peace to the Middle East. I think God should reserve a special place in heaven for him as the one most responsible for destroying the Clinton dynasty. And, from our point of view, I think history will applaud him for demonstrating once and for all that the American example of an elected Presidency is the very worst model for an Australian republic. It’s merely incidental that he has provided the opportunity for the world to see that Democratic Party is unfit to govern at any level of a self-respecting polity.

  • Peter Smith says:

    Yes, Peter, it seems clear enough that most of the conservative judges on the Supreme Court wimped out of hearing the Texas case for fear of the mob. There were reports that Roberts had made that point in a shouting manner to the ‘new’ judges. Whether that is true I don’t know, but it seems fairly evident that fear of consequences drove the decision. Sad day for the Court’s objectivity and courage. As to Trump giving up at that point you are probably right, he should have done; particularly in light of the Capitol melee – though on that, hindsight is a wonderful thing. On the other hand, often I have thought Trump shouldn’t have said this or that or done this or that; and I have had to remind myself that he’s Trump. He wouldn’t be Trump if he were conventional. He wouldn’t have been able to do the great things he has done in face of unremitting bombardment and sniping if he were conventional. He’s a one-off. No-one but him ( him and his personality) could have withstood the onslaught.

  • Necessityofchoice says:

    Victor Davis Hanson has always seen Trump as an ultimately tragic figure who would never be given credit for all he achieved. In the Hollywood genre, he compared him to Gary Cooper in ‘High Noon’ and so it has proved to be.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    “And yet his presidency remains untarnished.” Not quite – his treatment of Mike Pence, as a direct result of his tactics after it was obvious he was finished, is a blemish.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Peter Smith, you are spot on. We got Trump’s achievements because of his ‘warts and all’ character not despite it. And to put it in perspective, Trump has never bothered to conceal his warts, unlike most other politicians – many of whom infest our polity.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Watch the short impromptu speech Trump gave to a small crowd at the High Noon border town of Alamo, Texas, and you will see another side of him. Surprisingly calm and “presidential”, given events of the previous week in Washington.

    Behind him is part of the massive 450 mile wall, an excavator and border police vehicle with two armed men on top of it.

    Trump also said something at the beginning that could have come from a Gary Cooper type on screen.

    “The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me, but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration. As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for.”

    Mr. Trump’s visit to Alamo took local officials by surprise. The city manager put out a release Monday afternoon saying the administration “had not been officially contacted regarding this visit and therefore, have NO DETAILS regarding his itinerary.”

  • Simon says:

    “Nonetheless, it was at that point that Trump should have realized it was over.”

    -Yes, there was no other recourse open to him at that point. But whether the Dumbocrat hyenas, like Pelosi, would have let him ride off into sunset even if he had conceded then is moot.

    And whatever his legacy, will his 75m followers accept the cowardice of the Supreme Court, along with their disenfranchisement, lying down?

    I think there’s some way to go before the Trump dust settles.

  • J Vernau says:

    I’m not so sure that the Texas Supreme Court case against several swing states should have been granted standing to proceed. Article 2, section 1, clause 2 of the US Constitution says:
    “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.”
    There is no constitutional requirement that any state hold a popular election for their College. Michigan, for example, would be entitled to legislate that its College Electors be chosen by raffle, or a rap competition. The point being that it’s none of Texas’s business how it’s done.
    If a state’s procedure is thought faulty it’s a matter for the courts of that state. And we know how that goes—the bench are generally elected along party lines.
    Trump’s been outfrauded with the help of that pesky virus. I fear for America. I have a brother who has lived there for many years. I’m trying to convince him to come back before it’s too late.

  • pgang says:

    Or perhaps it was Pence’s treatment of Trump that is a blemish on Pence’s record.
    Trump’s supporters understand what has happened here. A coup has taken place and the future of the USA is looking very grim. And we’re criticising the niceties of the political mores of the victims? Let’s examine our navels while Rome burns.
    Pence and SCOTUS were called to defend our civilisation and they shirked it, both of them to avoid perceived scandal. In doing so they conveniently ignored the true scandal. Anyway the left don’t give a damn about scandal.
    I agree with your overall opinion on this disaster Peter O, but in this matter you are singing to their tune. Trump’s response throughout was more mature and measured than you give him credit for.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    J Vernau, the Texas case had nothing to do with the Electoral College. It was to with the rules governing the casting of ballots.

  • rod.stuart says:

    Consider the mobilisation of troops in a nearly vacant National Capitol.
    Do you suppose they are there in the event of another demostration of support for the White Hats? Or do you suppose their purpoe lies elsewhere?
    Nothing can stop what is coming.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    pgang, Pence made the decision Trump should have – a tactical withdrawal.

  • dtu31393 says:

    The election was stolen in plain sight from Trump. He was elected to fight and that is what he did. He should never concede that Biden won, because he didn’t.

  • Patrick McCauley says:

    Brilliant Peter O’B … in this poem I saw him as Elvis while singing to his people at one of those fantastic late election rallies …

    Elvis has left the building

    If anyone should have ever won anything
    it was the Trumpian effort
    and bodily marathon,
    the spiritual triumph
    of the man
    without a guitar and stricken with plague
    crooned to his hundreds of thousands
    three and four and five times every day
    like Elvis Presley (without hair)
    to the dying of America.

    He, who crooned to the hundreds of thousands
    begging them to love him
    in all his ugliness, he was American made.
    He sang to them,
    the dying Americans
    for hours, like a superhero
    he sang them the blues
    willed them to a new vision
    Revealing the swamp as the ruling class
    the journalists as fake news
    the universities telling lies
    the new and secret and invisible
    enemies of the people.

    While the media looked the other way
    the eyes and the ears of the world
    claimed that there was nothing here.
    The swamp over flowed
    when the levy was dry
    and it was the day before
    the day
    America died.

    Trump was made in the USA
    from his long feet to his small hands.
    If you gave him a guitar, he was Elvis
    and he sang to the people
    begging to be loved.
    begging to be forgiven.
    He was so lonely
    he wanted everyone.

    It is not hard to see him as superman.
    With a gun he was Clint E
    with a made day.
    With a horse
    he could have played John Wayne.

    There’s something Hollywood made
    about Donald Trump
    even though they claim a hatred of him
    so deep and profound,
    he got an Oscar every single year
    he reigned.

    On his knees
    begging them to love him
    suburban women to love him
    if you love him
    he will make America
    great again.

    And he did in all the right places.
    He took America to Jerusalem
    he took Jerusalem to Kim Jong Un.
    He brought all the troops home
    made lots of jobs
    built a wall around democracy
    and freedom (of speech).
    He got the Arabs talking.
    He looked all the great Satans
    in the eye
    not once but twice and three times.
    Win or lose – this loser wins.

    A Willi Loman salesman
    could not be God
    just a flawed human being
    the ugly American

    Donald Trump was the messenger
    running through the void
    shining out a light on things
    we had not seen before.

    The message he brought
    the light he shined

  • J Vernau says:

    Thanks for the reply, Mr O’Brien.
    My point is that there is no constitutional requirement that there even be presidential ballots in the states, let alone certain rules governing them. It is a matter for each individual state.
    After all, the ballots do have *something* to do with the Electoral College insofar as they determine who each state’s College Electors are and (usually) how they will vote.
    Could the Supreme Court have heard the case? I think there’s at least an argument that it didn’t properly have jurisdiction.
    I think all we can do now is mourn the death of democracy in the US and try to keep it alive here. It won’t be easy.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    J Vernau,

    Section 4 of the US Constitution states:

    “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.”

    As I understand it, the basis of the Texas case was that these rules had been altered, in the subject States, not by the legislature but by the secretary of state or the judiciary.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good piece Peter, although I agree with the comment that his Presidency remains untarnished. That’s the only overall way of seeing it in my view, because regardless of what he did or how quiet an exit he made the left and the MSM would still abuse him & do everything they can to rubbish his Presidency. No, best to look at the overall picture and view it as not only untarnished, but still unfinished business I think. Also I’ve finished your book Bitter Harvest and well done. It should cause anyone who has so far fallen for Dark Emu to sit back and get a grip on their thinking, regarding the ridiculously childish, but sadly, politicised, fairy tale. Possibly along the lines of “hang on, of course it’s nonsense, what in heavens name could I have been thinking to fall for it”. One only has to know a little of the English villages of the 18th, 19th centuries and see them to this very day, with much still the same, to know that even though Sturt and Mitchell etc may have used the description “village” when coming upon collections of huts for shelters they were not meaning something complete with ridge-pieces, rafters, braces, purlins, queenposts, hammerbeams etc.etc., with a beautiful covering of thick tightly woven thatch on top, which is the sort of impression Pascoe gets across….and people have fallen for it ( along with the huge waving verdant fields of crops stretching as far as the eye can see I should add, again exaggeratingly described by some of the’ comforts of home ‘ starved explorers ), if the artists impressions of his mental creations I’ve seen are anything to go by. I think the belief in Dark Emu could only have occurred in this 21st century. A politically correct ‘post practically everything especially common sense’ sort of mobile phone and google type, simulated, artists impression world. Even a mere 40 years ago it would have been laughingly ridiculed I think, in fact Mr Pascoe himself would have been laughingly ridiculed I think.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Peter Marriott, thank you for your comment. And thank you for your feedback on Bitter Harvest – I am pleased you enjoyed it.

  • J Vernau says:

    Peter OBrien
    ‘Section 4 of the US Constitution states:
    “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof… “ ‘
    Yes, but the Texas Motion for Leave to File was specifically for a Bill of Complaint challenging the Defendant States’ administration of “the 2020 *presidential* election” [my emphasis], on which the Constitution is silent. If it were a Constitutional matter the Supreme Court would have original jurisdiction and may have recognised the standing of one state to challenge other state’s presidential election administration.

    This is merely my unschooled opinion and I don’t claim any particular expertise. I don’t say that the Supreme Court couldn’t have entertained the case, but rather that it may have had valid reason not to.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    J Vernau,

    it seems you are right. I may have done SCOTUS a misjustice – didn’t read the fine print. However, I still believe that serious fraud occurred but that once the court system rejected Trump’s legal actions, he should have regrouped to fight another day.

  • lbloveday says:

    ” I fear for America. I have a brother who has lived there for many years. I’m trying to convince him to come back before it’s too late.”
    I more fear for Australia and rate it a good chance China will annex Australia with Trump gone. That can’t happen to the USA. I’d rather be in a civil war than marching to Xi’s drum.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    lbloveday, yes China will be emboldened by Biden’s presidency and we can expect the pressure on us to ramp up further.

  • Searcher says:

    Dear Peter O’Brien, I can’t work out what Trump ought to have done or ought yet to do. Your article doesn’t persuade me that you have done so either. As far as I can guess, the election was rigged in a truly Third World or totalitarian state way, and Trump won easily on a potential true count of legal votes. As far as I can work out, the Dems have established that they can rig elections however they please for the foreseeable future. I guess they may do so. The consequences are unpredictable, I think.

  • Farnswort says:

    Victor Davis Hanson:

    “The irony is that all these frenzied efforts to mutilate the political corpse of Trump are reviving him.

    Banning Trump from his often self-destructive Twitter addiction, smearing his supporters as racists, and bulldozing through a far-Left agenda will only ensure Trump a ninth life.

    Americans hate one thing more than a sore loser, and that is an arrogant, vindictive—and bullying—winner.

    If Trump for now can finally exit office silently, and if his enemies continue to be loud, petty, vengeful, and extremist, then the public will very soon make the necessary adjustments.”


  • bearops says:

    There has been much commentary on whether the Republican cause would have been better served if Trump had been a “ good sport”. This sporting attitude was not shown to Trump at any time by the Democrats. For me the issue is the considerable circumstantial evidence of manipulation has not been addressed. The legal challenges were rejected on technicalities and there was a general attitude to soldier on and ignore the stench of improprieties so as to preserve faith in the system. The stench of corruption will remain and haunt the Democrats and their masters. For this Trump needs to be praised rather than criticised.

  • Farnswort says:

    “Put it this way, if you believe there was no voter fraud you are living in cloud cuckoo land.”

    In ‘The Navarro Report’, Peter Navarro alleges that significant irregularities occurred across all six battleground states and across all six dimensions of election irregularities – outright fraud, ballot mishandling, contestable process fouls, equal protection clause violations, voting machine irregularities, and significant statistical anomalies.
    It’s an interesting read to say the least.

  • Farnswort says:

    This absurd, spiteful attempt to impeach Trump a second time shows that the establishment is still terrified of Trump, argues Patrick Buchanan:

    “Why then are the Democrats continuing with this exercise in vengeance?
    They want Trump convicted so that he will be prohibited from ever again holding public office. The establishment fears that Trump could make a comeback, win the Republican primaries in 2024, become the nominee, and return in triumph as president. They are determined to abort that possibility. Many openly admit it.
    What does that say about the liberal establishment’s love of democracy when they would disqualify, in advance, the largest vote-getter their opposition party ever had, out of fear he might come back to win the presidency as he did in 2016? “Trust the people!” was a campaign slogan made famous by George Wallace. Our national establishment prattles endlessly on about its devotion to democracy, but it does not trust the people.
    But the establishment is going to pay a price for trying to squeeze the last ounces of juice out of this rotting fruit. President Joe Biden’s call to unity is being drowned out by Democratic howls for a trial, conviction, and banishment. This effort to convict and disqualify Trump from running again tells us more about the people behind it than it does about Trump.”

  • Farnswort says:

    “In this context, it is important to note the closeness of the race: just 22,000 votes in three states, a total of 0.013 percent of the total votes cast nationwide, would have needed to be switched from Biden to Trump to have handed President Trump a victory. In a free and fair U.S. election, Donald Trump would have certainly been reelected, and probably reelected easily.”

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