Two years of Trump-on-the-Potomac is having the effect his campaign promised to everyone who really paid attention. The key Trump pledge, which he displayed but never honestly voiced, was to bring a destructive brand of leadership that would sow dismay and despair. Evidence is now arising that suggests many are onto his game.
Even before his Veterans Day debacle, when he failed to fulfill his duty to honor fallen warriors, Trump's support among active military was slipping. His approval rating has sunk from 46.1% to 43.8%, while the number who disapprove of his performance has risen sharply from 37% to 43.1%.
Political Figures - US
Business, economy and trade
Continents and regions
Elections and campaigns
Government and public administration
Russia meddling investigation
Trade and development
This brings the armed forces closer to the public at large. A new Gallup poll out Monday shows that just 38% of Americans approve of the President -- a five-point decrease from last week's Gallup poll, with slight decreases across most demographic groups.
Perhaps the troops are noticing that Trump has never visited a combat theater and spent his Thanksgiving golfing and resting at his luxury Mar-a-Lago resort. He attacked the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals during a traditional call to the troops and when asked about what made him feel thankful, he made the answer about himself, literally, saying he's grateful "For having a great family and for having made a tremendous difference in this country. I've made a tremendous difference in the country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office that you wouldn't believe it."
A president who sings a song of himself while speaking to troops deployed in harm's way reveals that the most important job in the world is held by a child who struggles to understand that other human beings actually exist and matter.
Search for the proof that America is "so much stronger," as Trump claims, and you might land on the increased military budget and a spurt of economic growth. However, even these genuine facts, placed in a context any adult should grasp, mean much less than Trump would have us believe.
Military power deployed without regard for human values and a stable world is of little long-term use. Trump showed his disdain for decency by ignoring his own intelligence services, which reported that the Saudis murdered US-based writer Jamal Khashoggi, and doing nothing to punish the kingdom. He cited arms sales deals that are, so far, mainly fantasy as an excuse.
Surely, America's military men and women want to believe they support something other than arms sales, or the President's political display of force on the border with Mexico, and some would find Trump's policies an insult to their service.
The military's drift away from the Trump camp may be a harbinger of worse to come for the President. The mid-term election saw working-class whites, even men, move away from Trump's GOP and toward the opposition.
This data could reflect an enthusiasm gap between voters backing the two parties, but since Trump worked hard to rally his side it's still a bad sign for him. The trend was especially strong in rural areas, which were essential to Trump in 2016. These voters were promised economic gains but have not benefited much from Trump's tax cut, which favored the rich. At the same time, he has failed to deliver on his promise to sufficiently address the epidemic of drug abuse and overdoses, which have hit this segment of the population hard.
Those of us who feared the worst as he took office amid what he termed "American carnage" have seen much of what we feared come to pass. With his attacks on the press (the "enemy of the people") and the judiciary, and his emasculation of the Congress, Trump has presented himself as the first strongman president in the history of the United States.
The President's lies and misleading statements, which now number more than 5,000, according to the Washington Post, have been matched by a propaganda effort that has degraded the concepts of truth and observable reality. When a president can announce that he'll ignore the vast evidence developed by his own intelligence agencies to favor Vladimir Putin or excuse Saudi Arabia or manufacture an "invasion" on the border with Mexico, people across the country and around the world are made to feel insecure, vulnerable and disoriented.
The despair felt around the world, even among America's strongest allies, has led to a widely felt concern that the age of American-backed stability and security has been brought to an abrupt end by a president who seems wholly ignorant of how alliances and trade agreements keep the planet safe.
Analyses published recently in the Atlantic indicate that our country's friends are in mourning but also moving to create their own zones of cooperation and mutual support that will leave America on the outside looking in. Trump's tariffs and trade war talk have so alienated global economic leaders that at a recent meeting, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin was the object of intense questioning and pity.
As world leaders express dismay over Trump, the cost of his chaotic, values-free leadership is being recognized within his own party.
Although Trump's historically low approval rating threatens the GOP, two of his most ardent advocates, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, are evidencing the kind of paranoia common to partisans who have spent too much time in a bunker. In a book to be published this week, they warn of "embedded enemies" in the administration and use the word "rat" to describe witnesses who are cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related issues.
Bossie and Lewandowski remind us that in addition to the press, and the courts, Mueller's team has been pushing back against Trump excesses. With each passing day, the threat of more indictments and revelations grows more intense and the small man operating the levers of the giant edifice of lies and distractions becomes more exposed.
The fact that so many are seeing through his game, even before Mueller completes his work, suggests Trump's magical machine is more vulnerable than even the midterm election showed.