Photo: Mark Wilson (Getty)

Here is a good technique: anytime this or that Trump stooge or Republican or conservative (they’re all the same thing, really) makes surprising headlines, and you find yourself wondering if they might have done it for reasons you can respect or admire or at least in which you might possibly vest some hope or optimism, if for nothing else than for the existence of some recognizable human common ground between you and them, imagine what the good thing is that you hope the Trump stooge has been motivated to do. Think of an action that might be spurred on by, like, dignity or decency or conscience or whatever, and then try to imagine a set of circumstances whereby the nightmare rat-person from hell in question might stumble into briefly appearing to possess those qualities, and think about the petty self-serving purpose to which the aforementioned nightmare rat-person from hell might put that fleeting illusion. Then take for granted that whatever they’re actually up to is even smaller and worse than that.

For example, today Nikki Haley resigned from her position as the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, a post to which she’d been nominated by Donald Trump. According to pretty much all the early reports, this resignation came as a surprise to the Trump administration, and was not part of some grander dark plot on their part. Okay, fine: That’s easy enough to believe, if only because by all indications the Trump administration has never had any actual coordinated plan for anything beyond whom they’ll blame for stuff they don’t like; where there might have been a plan they have only ever had the fleeting emergent resonance between the individual grifts and scams and personal hatreds of some dismally similar goblins, plus sometimes the burbling Mephistophelian schemes of Mitch McConnell, the actual worst living thing. So of course what happened in the aftermath of this news breaking was that a million people, including a fair number of Knowers, took to Twitter to speculate that Haley’s resignation sets the stage for her to challenge Trump from within his own party in the 2020 presidential primary.

This is an appealing idea from multiple angles. For one thing, it raises the specter of an outraged, fed-up faction within the Republican establishment that is rising and ready to, like, Reclaim The Grand Old Party Of Lincoln or whatever. Which, even if you disagree with their politics, that’d be something to relate to, right? They share my horror at Trump, and like me are fired up to put a stop to all this! More even than that, it raises the possibility of Trump’s defeat—possibly even at the hands of a woman (cosmic justice!), possibly even one motivated in part by feminist solidarity in the face of the administration’s sneering hostility to sexual assault victims (mega turbo cosmic justice)! It suggests the possibility of a Republican party that a certain stripe of newly freaked-out American could go back to pretending was a sane and grown-up participant in what that same stripe of American once comfortably imagined was a sober and functional government. A Republican party ready to, like, Confront The Serious Challenges Facing Our Nation In These Uh Complicated Times. How nice that would be!

And look at that, all by yourself you have cast Nikki Haley as a vessel of optimism and hope amid the darkness. Look at her go! Ambassador Haley, welcome to the Resistance!

Okay. Now let’s apply the good technique described above. Is it possible for the United States’ U.N. ambassador to resign abruptly and without notice or immediate public explanation for reasons that are petty and shitty and gross? Of course it is! Like, for example, just speculating here, but what if she was about to come in for scrutiny for some Mnuchin-grade grifter shit and decided that her relatively bullshit job isn’t worth the hassle. Or if she knew that by resigning her post abruptly, just before the midterms, she could get people talking about a primary challenge to Trump, and then trade that brief flash of leverage for a cushier set-up in a spot less politically exposed to and exposed by Trump’s toxicity. Or what if she really had decided she wanted to become the face of an anti-Trump movement within the American right, but purely because it’s a lucrative hustle for shameless cynics like Bret Stephens, who rely on Trump for their livelihood even more than his children do. Or because she wanted to devote all of her time to slow-roasting kittens! Or for really any number of awful reasons that have nothing to do with dignity or decency or conscience.

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The next steps are: accepting that literally any of these is more plausible than any scenario that makes you feel even the briefest flicker of optimism; and that whatever the actual reason for Haley’s resignation is, it’s worse than any of these; and that the sequence of personnel moves it kicks off will without doubt make things much worse for all the same people who bear the miserable consequences of every other fucking thing in this busted and failed society. And with that in mind, congratulations to Pennywise the Dancing Clown on his new role at the United Nations.