After former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s ouster over the weekend, pundits are telling America: brace yourselves for a new phase of unrestrained Trumpism.
Fox News host Howard Kurtz weighed in on last week’s tumultuous changes at the White House, suggesting that President Trump has broken out of a “West Wing cage” and can now govern freely, while also warning that the president’s unique style may alienate some voters.
“The firing of Andrew McCabe has opened the floodgates, both for President Trump and his media and political critics,” Kurtz wrote in a Fox News column.
The “Media Buzz” host recalled last week’s firing of McCabe by Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days before he was set to retire with full benefits, along with the dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the president’s first-time naming of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a critical tweet.
The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2018
“This has spawned a broader media debate about whether Trump is now preparing to take unilateral action on a number of fronts despite the advice of top aides—and whether that could include firing Mueller,” Kurtz continued.
He described his conversations with Trump confidants for his book, “Media Madness,” and said insiders referred to the president’s penchant for pushing back at constraints as “defiance disorder.”
“The president now seems in full defiance mode as he gets rid of aides he no longer trusts and increasingly relies on his own instincts.
“He has, after all, dumped Rex Tillerson, announced a meeting with Kim Jong-un, imposed the tariffs that prompted Gary Cohn’s resignation, celebrated McCabe’s firing and started attacking Mueller by name.”
He might also have added President Trump’s call to give drug dealers the death penalty at a Monday event addressing the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Kurtz quoted New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who wrote:
“Some of Mr. Trump’s allies have said that Mr. Trump was trapped in a West Wing cage built by [Chief of Staff John] Kelly, and has finally broken loose.”
According to Haberman’s sources, the president in his first year “found himself feeling tentative and anxious,” but is now “newly emboldened to say what he really feels and to ignore the cautions of those around him.”
Kurtz agreed with the assessment:
“Given that Trump always trusts his instincts because he won a campaign that almost everyone thought he would lose, that does sound like what’s happening now.”
The Fox News host issued a warning on-air:
“The downside, the risk … is that he takes risks,” noting that “some of these could pay off,” but others might make it “harder for him to break out, make a connection with people who are at least skeptical of the president … and have deep doubts about his unorthodox, confrontational style.”
Kurtz concluded: “We will now see if this is indeed the new Trump … a president doing what he wants, doing what he promised to do during the campaign.”