Donald Trump’s escape hatch

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran an ominous commercial as part of her 2016 campaign for president. The 30-second spot, called “Silo,” features the narration of a former nuclear missile launch officer. Aired toward the end of the campaign, the commercial aimed to frighten voters into appreciating the possibility of an unstable Trump ordering a nuclear strike in a rage or on a whim. “Self-control may be all that prevents these missiles from firing,” the narrator warned. “The thought of Donald Trump with nuclear weapons scares me to death. It should scare everyone.”

For decades, Trump has frequently lost lawsuits, seen deals implode, and suffered massive losses with his investments. But he always managed to keep his con going through a unique potpourri of shady loans, questionable tax write-offs, bankruptcies, and more. While Trump’s trusty bag of tricks may have saved him as the head of the Trump Organization, he is quickly learning that there are no equivalent escape valves when you are failing at being the chief executive of the United States.

Like anyone else, Trump prefers winning over losing, but what this malignant narcissist truly cares about is the perception of winning. If Trump gets impeached but not removed from office, he will call it a win. If Trump faces the threat of removal but can negotiate a face-saving resignation, he will also say he won. The danger comes if Trump reaches a point where he cannot see a way to save himself and his reputation, given that he is not the type to even consider a quiet surrender for the good of the country.

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly said he must consider using nuclear weapons as part of his desire to being “unpredictable.” He also questioned why we would make nuclear weapons if we would never use them. This week, Trump managed to become a caricature of himself, yelling about how he is an “extremely stable genius” as he spirals further out of control, threatening full dereliction of duty unless Congress drops all investigations of him. Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton’s warning in 2016 was on the mark, gaining even more urgency in 2019. It is high time that Republican lawmakers whose names do not begin with Justin and end with Amash watch this commercial and contemplate its message carefully. Our democracy and possibly our existence depend on it.

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