What’s worrying isn’t that Donald Trump is now getting advice about public policy from fanatics such as John Bolton and Lawrence Kudlow. Trump has never cared about public policy.
The real worry is that with special counsel Robert Mueller breathing down Trump’s neck, and with several special elections suggesting a giant “blue wave” in November, Trump is getting ready to do whatever it takes to win, even if that requires fanatical policy.
Trump’s presidency has been, first and foremost, about marketing Trump. It’s what Trump has done his entire adult life. He doesn’t know how to do anything else, nor is he interested in doing anything else.
Now that he’s being pushed into a corner, he’s reorganizing his team for an epic marketing battle. This requires purging naysayers from his Cabinet and White House staff, because naysayers are terrible at marketing, and replacing them with tried-and-true salespeople such as Bolton and Kudlow.
Fox News is being reorganized for the same battle and has made a parallel purge, removing Trump critics such as George Will, Megyn Kelly and Rich Lowry, and installing Trump marketers such Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Sebastian Gorka.
Trump and Fox News are pushing the same story line — designed to win the marketing war and boost their own ratings the same way.
Some of the story is by now familiar: Liberals have opened America to hostile forces — unauthorized immigrants, Muslims, Chinese traders, criminal gangs, drug dealers, government bureaucrats, coastal elites (Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi), North Korea, Iran and “political correctness” in all its forms.
Trump intends to protect America from these forces.
The new twist to the story — requiring the recent purges and a united front — is that these forces are conspiring with the FBI to oust Trump from the presidency.
The membrane separating Trump’s brain from Fox News has always been thin, but in the coming battle it’s likely to disappear entirely.
Trump has made Bolton his national security adviser not because Bolton has valuable insights about foreign affairs, but because Bolton — for years an on-air fixture at Fox News — is a showman who knows how to sell big lies and crazy ideas, and can thereby help Trump in the looming battle.
As undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in the George W. Bush administration, Bolton did more than anyone else to market the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. During his year-and-a-half at the United Nations, Bolton was so outspokenly critical of the organization that he gained the devotion of xenophobic conservatives.
Even before Trump became president, he was so pleased with Bolton’s performance on Fox News that he named Bolton one of his sources for national security advice.
It hasn’t hurt that Bolton has sucked up to Trump since then. Describing Trump’s address to the United Nations last year, Bolton swooned that “in the entire history of the United Nations, there has never been a more straightforward criticism of the unacceptable behavior of other member states.”
Kudlow isn’t a Fox News pundit, but he’s been the next-best thing: a right-wing CNBC contributor known for his sharp wit, salesmanship and simplistic “trickle-down” economic views.
How can a television presidency be dangerous? Because it is solely about marketing Trump. Its only goal is to win. It is unconstrained by truth, reason or the Constitution. It doesn’t give a fig about the public.
When the occupant of the White House and the sycophants surrounding him are prepared to use anything, including real-world battles — trade wars and hot wars — to win a political battle at home, nothing and no one is safe.