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Thursday, October 12, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This has been a rough week or two for President Trump. Most job approval polls are plunging, his secretary of State called him a “moron,” and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman says his behavior could put the U.S. “on the path to World War III.”

A new poll from The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that a mere 32 percent of Americans say they approve of the job Mr. Trump is doing, while a hefty 67 percent disapprove.


A 67 percent majority of Republicans say they support the president, but overall only 24 percent of Americans think the country is moving in the right direction.

The numbers showed that Mr. Trump has been losing some of his Republican base. Last March, 80 percent of Republicans approved of the job Mr. Trump was doing. But now that view has fallen by 13 percent.

At a time when the president’s agenda appears to be stalled in the Republican-run Congress, he can ill-afford losing the support of a single Republican lawmaker.

But over the course of the year Mr. Trump has crossed swords with one influential Republican after another on Capitol Hill that many observers say imperils whatever remains of his agenda.

His latest feud is with Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the influential chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who was an early Trump backer.

But Mr. Corker has become alarmed by Mr. Trump’s bombastic, fiery, off-the-cuff remarks and tweets that have distracted focus from the issues that matter, like tax reform, boosting economic growth, and displaying a measured, single-minded steely resolve with a North Korean despot.

Mr. Corker had had enough of the president’s hinted nuclear gamesmanship Sunday when he raised his concerns that Mr. Trump was stumbling toward nuclear war.

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker told The New York Times. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.” Then he added, “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of [senior West Wing advisers] trying to contain him.”

The week before, Mr. Corker made national headlines when he told reporters that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”

Mr. Trump, as is his habit, fiercely struck back at his former backer, saying Mr. Corker had recently begged him for his endorsement, but didn’t get it, and then decided to retire because he “didn’t have the guts” to seek re-election next year.

In fact, the senator had announced last month that he would not run again. And his chief of staff, Todd Womack, denied Mr. Trump’s description of their conversation, saying Mr. Trump had pledged to support Mr. Corker just last week

“The president called Sen. Corker on Monday afternoon and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek reelection and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times,” Womack said in a statement.

But cooler heads prevailed in the White House this week over Mr. Tillerson’s private remark that his boss was a “moron.”

In a White House luncheon Tuesday with Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Mattis, set up by chief of staff Kelly to iron out their disagreements, Mr. Trump decided to put the matter behind him. Or at least that’s the version promoted by the White House.

“I think it’s fake news,” Mr. Trump said, “but if he did [say] that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”

“We have a very good relationship,” Mr. Trump was saying by Saturday. “We disagree on a couple of things,” he added. “Sometimes I’d like him to be tougher.”

In fact, the relationship remains what it is, two different approaches to foreign policy: Mr. Tillerson’s belief in diplomacy based on powerful alliances versus Mr. Trump’s tough guy, shoot from the lip style.

Meantime, Mr. Trump’s reliable “fake news” response to any and every attack on his integrity took a huge and perhaps fatal hit this week from Google.

The internet behemoth this week revealed that Russian operatives bought ads without Google’s knowledge, as part of a massive disinformation campaign, to influence the outcome of last year’s election.

“The goal was to influence voting behavior, in some cases by suppressing turnout,” said The Washington Post, which broke the story Tuesday.

It’s worth pointing out that this is part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into campaign collusion with Russia.

• Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.


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