Josh Marshall coined the phrase “dignity wraith” to describe establishment conservatives who exchanged whatever meager principles, decency, independence, credibility, etc., they possessed to align with Trump. The theory is these folks believe they’ll be able to advance their personal agenda by signing on with the vulgar conman, whom they flatter themselves they can easily control. But they soon find it’s all a dominance game with Trump. Chris Christie was an early victim.
Trump is a fool and a knave, but he understands primate dominance hierarchies at least as well as an average orangutan, so he follows the instinct to humiliate any presumptuous silverback who strategically submits to his will. Michelle Goldberg in the NYT identifies the latest victim:
Say this for Donald Trump. He may be transforming American politics into a kleptocratic fascist reality show and turning our once-great country into a global laughingstock, but at least he’s humiliating John Bolton in the process…
It’s nightmarish to live in a country where our foreign policy has been reduced to an intramural battle between Fox News reactionaries. And there’s still a danger that Bolton could outmaneuver the isolationists. But right now there is a thin, bitter consolation in knowing that he, like so many others who’ve worked for Trump, sacrificed his principles for power and will likely end up with neither.
Goldberg points out that under Trump, Bolton has thus far been thwarted in pursuing every single war he enthusiastically monged for two decades. After calling for preemptive strikes on North Korea just last year, Bolton was dispatched to Mongolia this weekend while bland-faced Javanka met with Kim Jong Un and Tucker Carlson provided justification for American rapprochement. That had to sting a bit.
I’m too old and cynical to hope that Trump will manage to transform the entire Reagan-Bush neocon-reactionary Axis of Hubris into a heap of desiccated husks that will trouble us no more. As that crew demonstrated by reclaiming their sinecures after lying us into a ruinous, deadly and pointless war, a combination of personal shamelessness and media credulity is remarkably restorative.
Moreover, it looks like some potential dignity wraiths escape their just fate, managing to tick off items on their agenda and then ducking out before being fully slimed by Trump. (I’m thinking of Don McGahn and Nikki Haley here.) The jury is still out on their fates, IMO, and much depends on how disastrously this catastrophic presidency ends.
But I’ll take my “thin, bitter consolation” where I can these days. Open thread.