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President Donald Trump steps off of Air Force One at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport as he is greeted by, from left to right, U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and U.S. Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, Monday. President Trump visited New Orleans to deliver a speech at the Farm Bureau convention.

With the greetings, if not fawnings, of Louisiana’s Republican elite, Donald J. Trump arrived at Louis Armstrong International Airport trailing clouds of glory.

There’s nothing wrong with insincerity deployed in the state’s interest, but some of the commentary from supposedly independent elected officials was ridiculous.

As a sample, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LaLaLand: “He’s a strong ally to our farmers, anglers, energy producers and port workers, and together we’re holding China accountable for its unfair trade practices.”

As Trump was there for his own purposes, addressing the 100th Farm Bureau Convention, it was gratuitous to add: “I thank the president for his visit today, and for fighting to secure our border and protect Americans from drugs, crime and illegal immigration.”

A glorious record. If true.

Donald Trump greeted with king cake upon New Orleans arrival, and, yes, it had filling

Perhaps Cassidy’s performance was outdone by another Baton Rouge member of Congress, Garret Graves, who brought a gift, like a supplicant in a medieval court. The king cake was certainly appropriate for Trump, who sacks genuine public servants and generals with the aplomb of a Ruritanian monarch.

These two are smart men, the senator a physician after all, but he and Graves are easily mocked in this unbecoming behavior. But the underlying political bind that they are in is anything but polite.

The Republican Party has a president who is very unpopular with the country at large, but quite popular with his followers. The problem is he is not adding to his base. He is a minority president, and not just because he got almost 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016. He seems positively oblivious to Richard M. Nixon’s advice to run for the center in national elections.

In a speech to the Council for a Better Louisiana, political analyst and Louisiana native Charlie Cook outlined the way in which Trump has held on to his base voters, particularly among evangelical women. The latter seem unperturbed by his infidelities and general crass behavior.

This was demonstrated anew when the president was greeted by cheers at the Farm Bureau on Monday in New Orleans. Even as soybean farmers in Louisiana and across the nation are hammered by Trump’s needless and damaging tariff wars, farmers indicated they remain a rural bloc for this “Green Acres” poseur. One wonders if he would lose their votes if he sowed salt in the fields.

“Holding China accountable,” indeed.

If the nation, by Cook’s deep analysis of the polls, appears unpersuaded, Louisiana is still in the president’s column. That is unlikely to change in 2020, barring some disastrous collapse politically.

For Cassidy and Graves, both again facing Louisiana voters in 2020, that is the overriding factor. 

But for smart men, and there are more than a few on Capitol Hill among the overwhelmingly male GOP, what is the Republican future at large if things go badly sometime soon?

What form that could take is not easily predicted, but one thing is certain: Today’s courtiers on the tarmac view politics through a prism of self-interest, and one should not be surprised if there are quiet thoughts about how to distance oneself, very carefully, from the consequences of an administration totally off the rails.

Email Lanny Keller at lkeller@theadvocate.com.

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