Mess with the Bull, get the horns?

BROOKINGS – If bulky bully former President Trump were to have a gangland-type moniker, he could appropriately be called “Donny the Bull.” Portly and pugnacious, with a carefully coiffed comb-over, he’s still and always ready – in Don Vito Corleone-fashion – to make us an offer we can’t refuse. For those congressional GOP lawmakers who choose to refuse the offer, well … . Stand by for heavy rolls and look out for the horns.

In the 90 minutes of gangland parlance which he displayed at the recently concluded CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), the former president pretty much let it be known that those who messed with the bull would get the horns. (I’d phrase it a bit stronger in Navy talk, but this is a family newspaper.)

With the help of always-Trump loyalists, he’s ready to lead the GOP to its third consecutive presidential victory: he won in 2016; he won “by a lot” in 2020 (although somehow there seems to be a “radical dem” sitting in the White House, someone Fox News’ Sean Hannity advises us is “weak, frail, cognitively struggling”); and the Bull is ready to lead the charge to put a Republican in the presidency again in 2024. And if the GOP asks him nicely, he might just run again. Wait a minute, I’ve got a couple questions.

If he’s already won two terms as president, doesn’t the 23rd Amendment to the United States Constitution preclude him from serving a third term? And in 2024, won’t he be the same age as Sleepy Joe Biden is now?

Of course in the real world where the sometimes delusional Hannity lives, the 23rd Amendment would be a non-starter. He wouldn’t go there. As to age, Hannity in 2024 certainly wouldn’t infer that his portliness suffers any of the infirmities that go with being an overweight, out-of-shape near octogenarian who at times appears to be living in a self-serving fantasy world of his own making, where truth is whatever he wants it to be.

Perhaps Hannity working with fellow Foxman Mark Levin, dubbed by Hannity as “the Great One,” can re-brand Trump as “a seasoned statesman and diplomat, well rounded with a broad base.”

There’s a sadness to be seen in what has become of Trump – and to what he could become between now and the election of 2024. Perhaps he is already at where he will always be: a self-serving demagogue extremely popular with the rank and file of the GOP. And Trump uses that popularity as a threat to many of the senators and congressmen who fear that crossing the Bull could lose them the support of their rank-and-file constituents whom they need to keep them in office.

In a sort of shotgun blast attack during his CPAC speech, Trump aimed his threats at some Republican lawmakers by name: top of the list was Congresswoman Liz Cheney, already censured by the GOP in Wyoming.

Trump noted that “(H)er poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I have ever seen. Hopefully, they’ll get rid of her in the next election. Get rid of them all.”

The “all” to be gotten rid of include those few GOP lawmakers who openly backed his second impeachment; add to that hit list others who voted against his impeachment but who have exhibited less than the fealty the Bull believes he must have: enter here the RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).

Trump did note that he has no intention of starting a third party; there must be one division-free GOP with the Bull as the boss. There are Republican lawmakers like Trump ultra-loyalist Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, who might buy that pitch. And while some GOP lawmakers see the deep divisions in the Democratic Party as good news for them, they’d best not ignore the splits within their own ranks.

The next presidential election is four years off and the Bull seems to have no concrete plan of action for a path to victory. Can he continue to beat the dead horse of a “rigged and stolen election”? Enough already. You haven’t made your case. Move on.

A few Corners back I predicted that whether he won or lost the election, GOP leadership would have a come-to-Jesus meeting with Donald Trump. I was wrong; it never happened. Even in defeat, the horns of the Bull were apparently still to be feared. Are they still to be feared?

Only GOP leadership can answer that question. Now would be a golden time – albeit perhaps a risky one – for Republican lawmakers to make a case to their constituents that Donald Trump is not the man to lead their party for the next four years. There is still time for some profiles in courage.

A case in point that has made me think a lot about the Bull’s leadership is his post-election behavior. In effect his primary concern became not the state of the nation and an orderly transfer of power. De facto he forfeited the executive leadership of this nation and concentrated all his energy on doing whatever was necessary to remain in office. It all came to naught with the conflagration at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Maybe it’s time to mess with the Bull. He’s still got the horns, but they don’t look as sharp as they used to.

Have a nice day.