As we approach the solstice, San Francisco beaches are being hammered by 40-foot waves. It's an apt metaphor for the troubled times we are living in. Borrowing a phrase from Game of Thrones, "winter is coming;" with a vengeance. Here are some predictions for the next three months.
Trump Slithers Towards Impeachment: Dating from Watergate (1972-74), the average length of a special counsel investigation, involving a President, is 904 days. Robert Mueller's investigation has gone on 580+ days. My prediction: the Mueller inquiry will end in the Spring, around the two-year anniversary.
In the meantime, the mainstream media is going to be dominated by revelations of Trump's evil deeds -- my prediction: Trump will be implicated in dozens of felonies.
Eventually, evidence of Trump's treachery will be so overwhelming that the House of Representatives will have no choice but to initiate impeachment proceedings. Normal congressional work will halt. The U.S. will be transfixed.
The White House will stop functioning. From the beginning, the Trump White House has been dysfunctional: it's been inadequately staffed, constantly "leaked" information to the Washington media, and been unable to rein in the President. Much of this is the responsibility of Donald Trump: he's a terrible executive. Donald is not good at attracting and retaining knowledgable staff members. He's bred a toxic culture of lying, name-calling, and back-biting. He's a "maverick" in the sense that he wears his ignorance as a badge of honor; Trump won't read briefing materials and typically makes decisions impulsively, depending not on a clear-headed assessment of the facts, but rather how he happens to feel at the moment. He has no long-term vision for America beyond filling the coffers at Trump, Inc.
In 2019, under siege by the American legal establishment, the Trump White House will shut down. The Administration will be consumed by Donald's legal difficulties and, therefore unable to formulate any policy -- unable to do much of anything but Tweet.
That's a problem for two reasons. First, there's a lot of serious work to be done: fixing Obamacare, resolving immigration, and passing an infrastructure plan -- to mention only the obvious. Second, 2019 is liable to be a difficult year for the United States; my prediction: the U.S. is heading into a a big storm.
When the going gets tough, Trump will be absent -- sequestered in his White House quarters, watching Fox News while meeting with his lawyers.
"It's my (Republican) Party, and I'll cry if I want to." At the same time that "leader" Trump will disappear from public view, he will be strengthening his hold on the Republican Party. (For example, Trump has dissolved the distinction between his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee.) The result: in 2019, the GOP will have no national agenda other than "re-elect Donald."
Prediction: the Republican-controlled Senate will turn mute and the news-making initiatives will come out of the Democratically-controlled House. As a result we'll see significant legislation roll out of the House -- Obamacare improvement, immigration reforms, and common-sense gun control -- only to die in the Senate. (By-the-way: in 2019 we'll continue to see Trump's crazed tweets; they'll be countered by the calm words of Speaker Pelosi, reminding us all how grownups behave.)
2019 will see gridlock at it worst. One side of the Congress will function and the other will be quiescent.
Take Me to Your Leader. (!) Having Trump as President has always been a risky proposition. Obviously, it's dangerous having an amoral narcissist occupy the Oval Office. In 2019, that problem will be dealt with in the courts and in the impeachment process.
It's equally dangerous to have "the commander-in-chief" be someone who incapable of handling that responsibility. In his first two years in the White House, Donald Trump has not had to handle a major crisis. The closest incident has been the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi by the agents of Saudi Arabia. Trump mishandled this, saying in effect that it doesn't matter whether or not the Saudi rulers were responsible because: "The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region." (During this writing, Trump's steadiest adviser -- Secretary of Defense James Mattis -- resigned.)
What will happen if there is a major crisis? We're surrounded by signs that something cataclysmic could happen. The economy could collapse. (God forbid) there could be another terrorist attack. (More likely) there could be a horrendous series of climate change events. There likely will be a major international problem.
During the past 12 months, Foreign Policy hasn't been a major feature of the Trump Administration. Now, two of Trump's senior foreign policy advisers are gone -- Mattis and former Secretary of State Tillerson. Unfortunately, there are plenty of international hotspots that could blow up in 2019. Russia. Saudi-Arabia. China. England (Brexit). The European Union. India-Pakistan.
What's Trump going to do when Russia invades Ukraine? What's going to happen when China starts selling off its Treasury portfolio? What's going to happen when Saudi Arabia launches a nuclear attack against Iran? What's going to happen when England crashes into a "hard Brexit" on March 29?
Winter is coming and Donald Trump is a dysfunctional mess. Happy New Year!