Has Donald Trump finally undone himself, meaning that at best he will be a one-term president? His opponents and detractors pray this will happen at the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller. His supporters and advocates counter with the correct observations that Trump has suffered far worse setbacks, from the Hollywood Access tapes to allegations of sexual harassment, a brief encounter with porn actress Stormy Daniels and shutting down Trump University after settling charges of fraud, and survived.
Yet, it could be -- and the emphasis is on could be -- three actions Trump took last week might be his undoing. The first was denying direct accountability between Saudi princeling Mohammed bin Salman and the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The second was tweeting "Tariff Man " that so far has sent the Dow Jones index down about 1,000 points at the time of this writing.
Third was President George H.W. Bush's funeral in which not only did Trump look like a spoiled and intransigent child seated next to his predecessors, but the unspoken comparisons between Bush senior and the incumbent chief executive could not have been louder condemnations of Trump's performance. Driving 250 yards from the White House to Blair House to condole with the Bushes casts a further shadow on this president.
Senate reaction to the briefing on the Khashoggi killing given by CIA Director Gina Haspel was overwhelmingly critical of the president's "maybe he did, maybe he didn't" conclusion. Sen. Lindsey Graham's terse comment about a "smoking saw" was perhaps the most devastating. The market reactions to the "brilliant" trade deal with China was a second self-inflicted wound made by "Tariff Man."
All this occurred within a few weeks of the Democrats delivering a huge electoral defeat to the president and the Republicans. The Dems picked up 40 seats in the House and lost two in the Senate. However, on a state level, many gains were made particularly in important Electoral College states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania as well as inroads in deep red states such at Texas and Georgia.
Why would these missteps matter now, given Trump's uncanny Teflon-like ability to extricate himself from crises and faux pas? The reason lies in what can be called political saturation. The mistakes, offensive tweets, exaggerations, distortions and outright lies, coupled with a manner that offends rather than comforts, have reached a point where they no longer can be tolerated, ignored or excused.
Even to defenders such as Graham and others, these presidential mistakes can no longer be condoned. To many foreign leaders, why this revelation has not come earlier is mystifying. And even pro-Trump leaders, including Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Andrejz Duda of Poland, now privately express fears that the president could easily abandon them if better offers arise, including a grand bargain with Russia.
Then of course is Mueller. No one knows when the investigation will end. Nor is it clear what, if any, allegations will be levied against Trump that could force legal action. The report could exonerate the president, in which case his charges of "witch hunt," at least based on bringing Trump down, will become deafening. Or the report, having achieved convictions or indictments of the president's closest advisers and attorney, could force impeachment proceedings.
You are sitting in the Oval Office facing the harshest criticism that continues round the clock. You are despised by many Americans and silently held in contempt by others. You could see family members indicted and convicted of crimes and misdemeanors uncovered by the special counsel. And of course Democrats will pounce, perhaps slowly at first, as a barrage of House investigations and hearings get underway.
You ask whether the presidency and the verbal attacks on you and your family are worth it. As governing becomes more difficult with a divided Congress and 2020 looming, you ask again if it is worth it. And if Mueller does find reasons for legal action, are your options now becoming limited?
This may not be a Watergate moment with resignation looming. On the other hand, a primary opponent is almost certain to appear. Such opposition proved fatal to other presidents in the general election. And some in the party want to return to old GOP values that favored multilateralism and better presidential conduct.
All this is highly speculative. It is perhaps equally likely that Trump could win re-election if the economy does not tank and no real crises threaten the nation or the Oval Office. Still, it may well be that if Trump is a one-term president, his undoing began last week.
Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist. His latest book is "Anatomy of Failure: Why America Has Lost Every War It Starts." Follow him @harlankullman.