President TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE could hardly do any more damage to the United States even if Vladimir Putin wanted him to do so.
Having undermined trust in major American institutions, from the CIA to the FBI, last week Trump stuck a knife in the heart of the public’s trust in the Supreme Court.
After a series of polarizing confirmation hearings for a nominee whom polls show to be broadly unpopular, the president staged a crass political rally at the White House, including a superfluous swearing-in ceremony for Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughLocked and Loaded: Supreme Court is ready for a showdown on the Second Amendment Why Latinos need Supreme Court reform Feehery: A Republican Congress is needed to fight left's slide to autocracy MORE.
Incredibly, the justices of the highest court allowed themselves to be used as front-row props for the cameras while Trump took credit for crushing Democrats.
Victorious Senate Republicans patted each other on the back at this East Room hootenanny while sharing laughs with conservative ideologues from the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.
In an era of extreme political division, the cynics have been proven right: The Supreme Court has become just another partisan arm of government, a rubber stamp for whichever party has the power to force its allies into the majority.
The Supreme Court is supposed to be an independent branch of government, equal to the Congress and the executive branch. The justices are given lifetime seats on the court as a buffer from political pressures.
Trump took a hammer to all that pretense.
He began by apologizing to Kavanaugh “on behalf of the nation,” ignoring the plurality of Americans still opposed to having him on the bench. Then he falsely claimed that Kavanaugh had been “proven innocent.”
There was not one word of sympathy for Christine Blasey Ford or any other American woman living with the trauma of sexual assault. Keep in mind that Trump said he found Ford’s testimony “compelling,” before later mocking her at one of his rallies.
Kavanaugh was no better. He used his time at the White House to heap thanks on Trump and Senate Republicans — by name.
Such a submissive show of political allegiance invites doubt about Kavanaugh’s ability to be impartial when a case comes before him with Trump as a named litigant.
The complete lack of grace also cements the current Supreme Court’s reputation as Trump’s rubber stamp on the most contentious issues of the day – from abortion to immigration to voting rights to his right to refuse subpoenas and stop the Russia probe.
Trump and Kavanaugh’s pitiful performance stands in contrast to the calls for reconciliation by another Republican president and a newly-confirmed conservative Supreme Court Justice 27 years ago.
Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings were every bit as divisive as Justice Kavanaugh’s hearings.
The difference is that President George H.W. Bush and Thomas understood the importance of preserving trust in the court.
“This is more a time for healing, not a time for anger or animus or animosity. We have to put these things behind us and go forward," Justice Thomas said outside his suburban house after being confirmed in 1991.
Thomas and Bush did not spike the football. They did not turn the hearings into a political weapon and brandish it to excite their conservative base.
Trump’s damage to the court fits with the damage he has done to the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department and the House Intelligence Committee under Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesThree key behind-the-scenes figures in Jan. 6 probe Pentagon watchdog finds NSA properly sidelined GOP operative hired as top lawyer News organizations, journalists ask court to review decision on Nunes lawsuit MORE (R-Calif.).
The Trump playbook is clear — if an institution or an individual does not agree with him, it is to be dismissed as part of the “deep state” conspiracy against him.
“Law and order” now joins “free trade” and “deficit hawk” in the ash heap of once-sacred GOP slogans jettisoned by Trump.
Trump has been called the “great disruptor” but it would better to label him as the “great destroyer” of trust in government as he goes about dividing Americans from each other.
Former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell recently said this about Trump: "My favorite three words in our Constitution is the first three words: 'We the People…
"But recently it's become, 'Me the president,' as opposed to, 'We the People.' And you see things that should not be happening…
"I hope the president can come to the realization that he should really stop insulting people. ... I don't think that's what should be coming out of a president of the United States," Powell added.
Sadly, Powell’s plea fell on deaf ears.
At a public rally after Kavanaugh was confirmed, Trump led the crowd in a familiar chant of “Lock her up!” — this time directed at the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel Feinstein Ban on new offshore drilling must stay in the Build Back Better Act Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Jane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California MORE (D-Calif.).
He accuses the Democrats of being an “angry mob.” But faced with a real and menacing mob in Charlottesville, Va., last year he backed the white nationalists by saying they were “fine people.”
In the classic 1962 movie The Manchurian Candidate, a fictional senator warned against ignoring a politician who finds political advantage in falsely charging other Americans with being communists and socialists.
He explained the damage to America: “I think, if John Iselin were a paid Soviet agent, he could not do more to harm this country than he’s doing now.”
Well, if Trump were a paid Soviet agent, he could not do more harm to this country than he did last week.
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, "'What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?' — Trump's War on Civil Rights" is out now, published by Public Affairs Books.