Russia, Comey, Charlottesville, Stormy Daniels — the litany of scandals surrounding President Trump seems to grow by the week, and some are wondering whether anything is enough to bring down the man who once bragged he could shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue and not lose any supporters.
Well, history suggests that two things are, says Vanity Fair's T.A. Frank, and they don't include obstruction of justice or tales of being spanked with a copy of "Forbes" magazine. They are presiding over a recession or declaring war.
Frank sees parallels between Trump's presidency and Bill Clinton's, in which Bubba faced a constant parade of scandals, but he tried big things — banning assault weapons, healthcare reform — and the economy was good. So he was re-elected and stayed in office despite being impeached by the House over the Lewinsky affair.
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By the blue-sky, big-picture Clinton standard (ironic!), Trump's presidency isn't looking too bad. "With the assistance of some strong liquor, you might even argue that things are going O.K. for this White House," says Frank. "Trump has gotten some big tax cuts through. He has seated a Supreme Court justice. He has followed through on protectionist promises by imposing steel tariffs. He has rolled back a number of initiatives of the Obama White House that conservatives didn’t like. The economy is strong. And, most important, he has, so far, kept us out of a new war."
Some say that the longer the Mueller investigation goes on, the higher the odds are that it will come to naught of consequence for Trump's job security: "Those in the resistance faction still seem to think Trump will be undone any day by Robert Mueller, but the odds of Mueller presenting anything of great national-security consequence are lower and lower, since none of the indictments so far suggest Russian collusion in any meaningful sense of the term," says Frank. "That would leave Mueller accusing Trump of a cover-up without an underlying crime. It’s not an impossible sell to Congress—especially one in which the House is taken back by Democrats—but it’s a tough one."
The far greater threats to the Trump presidency: Economic decline and armed conflict. Entering into the second Iraq War destroyed George W. Bush's legacy; Vietnam sank LBJ. The economy ejected Carter after one term, and a combination of the Gulf War and a weak economy got George H.W. Bush. Trump continues to toy with pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and replacing national security adviser H.R. McMaster with the cartoonishly hawkish John Bolton. Military action against Iran would be disastrous for Teflon Don, alleges Frank. "If there’s a moral here, then, it’s that wars are what really do a presidency in," he says. "It’d also be what did in Trump. If there’s a second moral, it’s that perspective is very hard to keep in the face of proximity. Or of partisanship."