Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Welcome to the Trump Zone

Trump's sycophants, enablers, and shills are desperately working to shift the blame for the longest government shutdown ever.
January 25, 2019
Welcome to the Trump Zone
(Photo illustration by Hannah Yoest / photo credits: GettyImages)

As Trump’s approval rating hits 37 percent and his voters start to realize that he may in fact be responsible for the shutdown he caused, the president finds himself relying on his media sycophants to shift the narrative for him.

It’s a difficult position for Trump, who is used to being able to dominate the news cycle under his own power. But as the shutdown continues and federal workers begin to visit food banks and sell plasma, the little platoon of Trumpian sycophants, enablers, and shills have gone into overdrive.

Fox News is home to several of these eager Trump enablers, the most sycophantic of whom—yes, this is a high bar—is Hillary Clinton’s former senate challenger, and New York’s most terrifying driver, Judge Jeanine Pirro.

The “judge”—she spent two years on the bench in Westchester County Court—has been extremely impressed because “President Trump has been at the White House virtually every day working.” Yes, this is a low bar.

Nonetheless, Judge Jeanine is convinced that the shutdown is entirely the Democrats’ fault, despite the fact that Trump said—on television!—that the shutdown would be his doing and that he “owned” it.

Her stablemate Sean Hannity—who by total coincidence was also Michael Cohen’s client—took a slightly different tack. Where Judge Jeanine wants to blame Democrats for the terrible shutdown, Hannity sought to assure his viewers that this story is all “Nancy Pelosi [pretending] that a partial shutdown is a major crisis.” So the shutdown isn’t a big deal. But if it is a big deal, it’s the Democrats’ fault.

Seems like a pretty on-brand line for Trumpism.

Then there’s the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, who mused publicly that the shutdown was a “little bit of pain” in return for “the future of our country.” It’s the sort of thing that would make Marie-Antoinette uncomfortable.

No president has had so many sycophants, enablers and shills. But then, no president has needed them more. Part of that is because Trump is so outside America’s political mainstream, that large swaths of his own party have frequently refused to defend him. This is not normal. When Charles Krauthammer and Jonah Goldberg refuse to even minimally defend a Republican president, the president will take his defenders where he can get them.

All of which is why Trump’s need for an alternative media made celebrities out of pretty much anyone who is willing to stand in the public square and defend him, full-stop, no matter what. And when you get outside the confines of Fox to the world of social media, you get to the kind of misfit toys who make Judge Jeanine look like Tim Russert.

You get Bill Mitchell, who wears—for reals—a giant, gold, Super Bowl-style  “Trump Championship Ring.” You get the 20-year-old Jacob Wohl, who is famous for exactly two things: Saying anything to support Trump and fabricating sexual-assault allegations against Robert Mueller. And then there’s Charlie Kirk, the college dropout who now lectures college students when he’s not pumping out Kremlin-grade disinformation in service of the president.

These pro-Trump Twitter celebrities have been working overtime to convince the internet that the president is just fine and that it’s those terrible, obstructionist Democrats who are not only causing all the problems, but losing the fight, too:

There’s just one problem: Reality. On the 720th day of the Trump administration, the president’s job approval rating is 37 percent, according to Gallup. If you’d like a point of comparison, at this point in his term, Jimmy Carter—hapless, malaise, attacked by bunnies—was at 50 percent.

And the president’s active disapproval number is now north of 55 percent. What’s going on here? It’s hard to say, of course. But it’s possible that the general public is becoming immunized to the propaganda Trump’s sycophants have been putting out on his behalf.

Luckily for the sycophants, though, the president is still lapping it up.

Molly Jong-Fast

Molly Jong-Fast is a contributor to The Bulwark and the author of three books. Follow her on Twitter @MollyJongFast.