If Trump 1.0 was chaotic, just wait
Donald Trump’s allies praised him for his discipline during his announcement speech, when he mostly stuck to the script as written by his staff.
Then, within about a week, he was embroiled in an antisemitism controversy.
Could anyone be surprised?
Trump’s brief bouts of care about what he says and does, usually involving reading from a Teleprompter, are always parentheses in an ongoing story of chaos, wackiness and unnecessary firestorms.
The larger meaning of the controversy isn’t about the normalization of antisemitism. The condemnation of Trump’s instantly notorious dinner with two antisemites, one world famous (Ye, better known as Kanye West), the other obscure (Nick Fuentes, not better known as anything), has been fierce and near universal.
Instead, as my National Review colleague Philip Klein has pointed out, the dinner constitutes a preview of a Trump second term.
If the first time around seemed like a wild ride, just wait. It’ll look like the George H.W. Bush administration compared to a restoration led by an emboldened Trump who is crankier and angrier than ever.
The baseline is not one of calm deliberation and buttoned-up process to begin with. Trump 1.0 ran through six national security advisers, if you count the ones that briefly held the job on an acting basis.
Trump rebuked one while he was still serving and viciously feuded with another, beginning with a public back-and-forth about whether he was fired or resigned.
Trump insulted his first attorney general, attacked the second, and badgered the last about alleged voter fraud as his administration ground to its ignominious end.
He attacked two of his defense secretaries (in fairness, both harshly criticized him).
After everyone witnessed the humiliation of so many Trump advisers during the first term, the cadre of top talent willing to sign up for similar public abuse would be much diminished.
And he’ll surely be harder to deal with than ever.
There was a brief moment when the newly elected Trump seemed impressed by the gravity of what he was about to undertake, when he met with President Barack Obama at the White House in January 2017.
There’d be nothing like that a second time around. If Trump was not chastened by defeat in 2020, he obviously wouldn’t be chastened by victory in 2024.
Getting reelected would be the greatest imaginable vindication. It would be a victory over everyone who condemned his conduct after the 2020 election. It would show that all those politicos who said he needed to moderate his conduct didn’t know what they were talking about. It would be a rebuke to “DeSanctimonious” and “Young Kin” and everyone else people mistakenly forecast could be the future of the GOP.
In a second term, Trump wouldn’t need to worry about reelection.
Having survived two impeachments, he presumably wouldn’t have to worry much about a third — he’s an expert at Senate acquittals at this point.
His hold on the party would be stronger than ever, having defied the odds to win the presidency, not once, but twice. His control of the GOP would be extending into its second decade.
This all would be a formula for Trump being Trump, in the worst possible way. Perhaps the reaction of elected Republicans in the Senate and elsewhere would occasionally restrain him — it did in the first term. But there’d be no “Committee to Save America,” the collection of former generals and establishmentarians who tried to hold back and re-direct Trump in the first administration.
After having promoted election conspiracy theories since 2020, attacked promising next-generation Republican politicians, and generally behaved with monumental selfishness without any of it preventing him from re-taking the White House, Trump would conclude that there’s nothing he can plausibly do to alienate his supporters or disqualify himself from high office.
He’d probably not invite Ye after the Mar-a-Lago imbroglio, but he could have anyone to dinner he’d want — and that’d be the least of it.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rich Lowry is on Twitter @RichLowry.