Analysis: Trump's golf vacation drives wedge within GOP

This is a new phase in a relationship that has been tenuous from the start.

ByABC News
August 18, 2017, 6:22 PM
President Donald Trump walks across the tarmac before boarding Air Force One at Hagerstown Regional Airport, Aug. 18, 2017, in Hagerstown, Md.
President Donald Trump walks across the tarmac before boarding Air Force One at Hagerstown Regional Airport, Aug. 18, 2017, in Hagerstown, Md.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

— -- The political damage President Trump has managed to inflict with Senate Republicans this month is astounding, and the growing divide between the two Republican-controlled branches of government can't be overstated.

A new phase in a relationship that has been tenuous from the start has begun -- Republicans are now striking out at the president in a public war of words, unlike anything we have seen in the past eight months. The backlash this week was visceral.

Here’s what we’ve heard in the last 24 hours from GOP senators:

• The president hasn’t demonstrated “stability” and “competency” – Sen. Bob Corker
• The president has "compromised" his moral authority – Sen. Tim Scott
• The president “muddies the water” by equating white nationalists with other groups with his inconsistent statements – Sen. James Lankford
• Mr. President, for the sake of our nation, “please fix this” – Sen. Lindsey Graham
• And if you read between the lines of this tweet: “Fools take no delight in understanding, but only in displaying what they think. Proverbs 18:2” – Sen. Marco Rubio

It's by no means one sided -- just look at the attacks Trump has launched this month against the Republicans in Congress he needs to push his agenda:

• Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
• Sen. Jeff Flake
• Sen. Lindsay Graham
• Sen. John McCain

What's more, there are growing fears among aides and senators that Trump has lit a fire to the GOP’s political capital by tainting the party’s brand.

At least 10 out of 52 Republican senators have publicly admonished the president this week for his seemingly unforgivable bungled response to the hate and vitriol peddled by white supremacists in Charlottesville last weekend. It’s also notable that most of these outspoken senators hail from states in the Deep South.

All the while, Trump continuously buries himself deeper into an unwinnable race and culture war. On Friday, for the first time, a member of the Senate GOP leadership is calling him out.

"I think the president had an opportunity to send a message that would unite America behind our common resolve to heal those wounds and unite our country, and unfortunately I don't think he did that,” Sen. John Cornyn said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle.

Let’s not forget -- there are only 12 working days in September for Congress to raise the debt ceiling ahead of a looming deadline to avoid a first-ever default on the country's loan payments.

In addition to raising the debt ceiling, Congress must pass a government spending bill by the end of September, or face a government shutdown.

These deadlines will no doubt be marred by major haggling between moderate and conservative Republicans, and they can’t get anything done without Democratic support.

Any hope of marking a legislative victory when Congress returns in September is growing dimmer by the minute.

On Capitol Hill on Friday, Lankford admitted that Trump’s words will be a distraction for the Senate come September.

“I fully expect this conversation in the hallway to dominate,” Lankford said.

And Trump’s words may end up tarnishing the legacy of the Republican Party.

“I think time will tell,’ Lankford said. “The party of Lincoln has stood from the very beginning against racism…”

And this frustration and fear comes amid Trump’s attacks on Sen. Jeff Flake, a well-respected senator from Arizona who’s up for reelection in 2018. Several Republicans, including the majority leader, have released statements in support of Flake.

"What the president is missing is that when get gets into a fight with the very people he's depending on to get his legislative agenda passed, it's not constructive,” Cornyn said.

“It's the opposite," he added.

In the end, what was originally billed as a working vacation for the Senate and the White House instead turned into a folly of self-inflicted errors by the president.

August is a month of red lines-- there is no guarantee of a safe return in September.

Related Topics