The walls supposedly are always closing in on Donald Trump. The end is always beginning.
He’s going to quit. He’s going to be impeached and removed. He’s going to decide not to run again. Somehow or other, he’s going to relieve everybody of the responsibility of ever thinking of him again, and especially of the responsibility of defeating him in an election.
This is the perpetual backdrop to media commentary about Trump. It rocketed around the internet a couple of months ago when Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker said Trump might not serve out his term. Fake Washington Post editions recently distributed in Washington were about Trump quitting. Such scenarios are a constant topic in private conversations.
The allure of all this is obvious. It is the promise of deliverance. After tormenting his enemies for so long, Trump’s going to make it easy for them. He’s just going to go away.
It is true that the odds of Trump somehow not serving out his term are, given his erratic personality and the wild card of the Mueller investigation, higher than those for a normal president serving in normal times. But they are still slim.
Perhaps special counsel Robert Mueller’s report will send a torpedo into Trump’s bow. It seems more likely that a report will contain damaging and embarrassing revelations that, whatever the initial shock, will be quickly absorbed by the political system and especially Trump’s supporters.
The velocity of the news cycle, driven in part by the sheer volume and pace of Trump controversies, works in his favor.
Does anyone remember what it was that precipitated Toobin’s prediction, namely the revelation that talks over a Trump Tower project in Moscow went on longer than first realized? Probably not.
The resignation of Jim Mattis rocked Trump’s administration to the core — for about 36 hours.
Why would Trump ever quit? This is a man who has fought and clawed for every ounce of public attention — good or bad — he can get throughout his adult life, and now, occupying the biggest bully pulpit on the planet, he’s just going to walk away?
Despite media reports that Trump is perpetually furious and feeling besieged, he has never shown the slightest brittleness or sense of being overwhelmed in public. He’s always his same ebullient, combative, outrageous self.
He’s the least likely president to get worn down by an impeachment fight. What would discourage or deflate the normal human energizes him.
The same applies even more to his running for re-election. After enduring several years of having to govern, not his natural aptitude, why would he throw away the opportunity to campaign, which he clearly relishes?
Because he’d be convinced he’d lose? Short of a Mueller catastrophe, this doesn’t seem very likely. Remember: All sorts of people tried to convince him he’d lose last time, and they were all wrong. Having won the presidency once polling at a little over 40 percent in the RealClearPolitics average, he’d surely figure that he could do it again.
For any president, winning a second term is the highest validation. Trump, so sensitive to status, must feel this imperative more than most.
Naked self-interest also counsels against retiring to his tent. Back in New York, he’d have an enormous legal target on his back, and none of the institutional protections of the presidency. He could be indicted by the Southern District of New York over the Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal payments. Going from most powerful man in the world to a defendant in an embarrassing criminal trial would be a very unwelcome comedown.
Besides all this, no one should really hope for a premature end to the Trump presidency. Whatever the exact circumstances, it’d be a trauma to the republic and not accepted by a significant plurality of the electorate. The wish fulfillment of Trump’s critics is better directed toward the less spectacular, yet difficult-enough task of beating him in 2020.