Thursday, September 6, 2018

Who's Minding This Store?


Over the last couple of days, two bombshell stories, both involving Donald Trump, have rocked this administration and confirmed for those of us who have been following his antics since he was sworn in what we already knew: that this president is unfit for office.

The first was the revelation yesterday that Bob Woodward, the man who co-wrote All The President's Men with Carl Bernstein, has written a book that will officially be released next week titled, "Fear: Trump in the White House." The second was an op-ed piece in The New York Times written by an anonymous "senior official," who called Trump's behavior "amoral."

First, some thoughts on the Times piece. I am not a fan of anonymous op-eds. Whatever this person's motivation - and we can only assume that they are deeply worried about what this president could do - they should have gone on the record. I have no doubt that over the next few days he or she will go on several cable news shows to decry what happened as treasonous, just as Trump has done in one of his many unhinged tweets. If this person truly cared about this Republic, the appropriate thing would've been for him or her to resign and then gone to the Times.

That being said, I was floored by the content of the piece. The author writes that early on there were "whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment." A startling and unsettling revelation that I hinted at in a piece I wrote last year, but which I never would've guessed in a million years was even being considered among his staff. Not even Nixon's White House contemplated such a move.

But perhaps the most disturbing part of the piece had to do with containing this president's worst impulses.
The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.
In Woodward's Fear, he documents similar actions by members of Trump's cabinet. In one excerpt, Gary Cohn, the former chief economic advisor to Trump, went so far as to remove two letters from his desk that, had they been signed, would've formally withdrawn the U.S. from two trade agreements: one involving South Korea, the other NAFTA.

In another excerpt, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, upon hearing Trump wanted to assassinate Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for launching a chemical attack against his own people, actually countermanded the order. He told a senior aid that the response would be "much more measured."

The common thread between the anonymous op-ed piece and Woodward's book appears to be this: If you think what you've seen is bad, trust me, it could've been much, much worse. Well, I feel a whole lot better, don't you?

I literally am at a loss for words to describe what's going on here. Somehow "unprecedented" doesn't quite capture it. Even the old standby "uncharted waters" falls short. This entire administration has been one gigantic voyage through unchartered waters. We are supposed to believe that a duly elected president has been kept from destroying the country by a few brave adults, one of whom summoned just enough "courage" to pen an anonymous op-ed to inform us that his boss is nuts? With all due respect to the author, any reasonably objective person and first year med student could've arrived at that conclusion months ago.

Personally, I don't give a rat's ass how many adults are in this administration; the overriding problem for the nation and for the world is that none of them have the authority under the Constitution to prevent this maniac from following through on any or all of his dangerous impulses. So what if Cohn hid a couple of pieces of paper? Who's to say next time Trump won't simply tweet that he is pulling out of NATO? Or what if that warped brain of his decides tomorrow to call up the Pentagon and order a strike on Assad? Or worse, North Korea?

What are these "adults" going to do, tackle him in the Oval Office? With the Secret Service protecting him? Right, sure they are. The same adults who hide behind anonymity yet publicly praise him as the most successful first-term president of all time are nothing more than cowards. Had they any real courage or integrity they would've resigned months ago.

Bob Corker said there was nothing in the op-ed piece or Woodward's book that he didn't already know. I have two questions for the senator. Why, if you knew this president was unfit, didn't you take active measures towards removing him from office? And why are you leaving at a time when your country needs you most?

Men and women of courage do not shirk their responsibilities; nor do they hide out in the shadows. They draw a line in the sand and stand their ground. How many times have we uttered the words "Constitutional crisis," knowing full well we hadn't yet arrived at that point? Well, guess what, folks, we're now at that point.

In a tweet, Trump demanded that the source of the op-ed piece be turned over to him to be punished. Let me repeat that: the President of the United States is threatening retribution against the person who criticized him in writing. Only the other day, he tweeted that his own Attorney General should not have indicted two Republican congressmen so close to the midterms. The man who worships dictators is acting just like one right in front of our very eyes.

In the early days of Adolf Hitler's reign, before he consolidated his power, there were many opportunities to stop him in his tracks. But his opponents either did not take him seriously or lacked the will to take effective measures. And the result was a World War that cost millions of lives, including six million Jews. How many millions more might die if Trump goes full bore berserk?

Harry Truman used to say we get the government we deserve. For the sake of the Republic, I pray that, in this instance, he is wrong.

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