Jonathan Chiat at New York has written about what others obviously have thought (and I at least have written about here): the prospect that a cornered apprentice dictator in the White House will attempt to save himself and impose his authoritarian will by starting some sort of war.
Chiat recounts the last few weeks in which the a.d. has become more and more isolated, attacked, stymied or at least ignored (which operationally amounts to the same thing) by members of his own party, of the federal government and the military, as well as by an openly skeptical media, including its automatic and relentless fact-checking.
He sees no way that this regime can save itself--except: "There is one frightening exception. Trump could regain public standing through the rally-round-the-flag effect that usually occurs following a domestic attack or at the outset of a war."
Although this has worked in the past, Chiat argues that it need not work this time.
Trump’s authoritarian tendencies make the prospect of his rebuilding his legitimacy on the basis of security especially dangerous. The number of Republicans who see Trump as a strong leader has dropped by 22 percentage points since January. Trump’s opportunity lies in exploiting fear to demonstrate strength.
"There is an answer to this danger. It is to not simply assume Trump can — or should be allowed to — use war or terrorism to his advantage."
"The ability of a president to gain popularity by launching (or suffering) an attack is not a law of nature. It reflects, in part, choices — by the opposition to withhold criticism and by the news media to accept the administration’s framing of the facts at face value. A chaotic, still-understaffed administration led by a novice commander-in-chief who has alienated American allies deserves no benefit of the doubt. Everything from Trump’s incompetent management of the Department of Energy, which safeguards nuclear materials, to the now-skeletal State Department, to his blustering international profile has exposed the country to an elevated risk of a mass tragedy. A long-term task of the opposition is to prevent the crumbling presidency from transmuting that weakness into strength."
In other words, if he tries it, this is when the Resistance earns its name: when it's hard and potentially dangerous, and not just a matter of waving banners at big block parties in the sun.