The Administration’s “Nervous Breakdown”?

The Administration’s “Nervous Breakdown”? September 6, 2018

Just what is going on in the White House?  It sounds like the administration and White House staff are in full revolt against the president who appointed them.

That’s the message of a new book by Watergate journalist Bob Woodward, and it’s the message of an extraordinary op-ed piece in the New York Times by an anonymous  “a senior official in the Trump administration.”

That official says that he and other administration officials and White House staff are so alarmed by President Trump’s behavior that they are purposefully thwarting him.  The writer says he supports the president’s tax-cuts, deregulation, and military build-ups but says that these have happened despite the president, not because of him, and are examples of the staff essentially taking over the administration from someone who does not have a clue.

Read what he says.  Here is a sample from I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration:

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

[Keep reading. . .]

Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear:  Trump in the White House makes the same claims.  Its sources are supposedly on “deep background” to protect their identities, but Woodward quotes, by name, some of the more prominent members of the administration, including chief of staff John Kelly, who calls his boss an “idiot” and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who says the president has the understanding of a “fifth- or sixth-grader.”

The sources also give examples of President Trump’s “unhinged” behavior and questionable decisions that the staff thwarted by just removing articles from his desk so that he wouldn’t see them or failing to carry out what he tells them to do.  President Trump is quoted as deriding and humiliating his advisors and cabinet members, calling Jeff Sessions “retarded” and a “dumb Southerner” and mocking his national security advisor General H. R. McMasters.

Read this account drawn from the book.

And yet now, Kelly, Mattis, and others cited in his book are denying they said what Woodward said they said.

So the question remains, what is going on in the White House?

If these accounts are true, we are having unelected officials running the Executive Branch.  If these staffers are being insubordinate, it was the president who hired them.  And it is surely a fault of his leadership if he can’t keep his own employees, as it were, in line or win their loyalty.  Not to mention the concerns raised by the substance of their accusations about the president.

If these accounts are false, how can we account for them?  There must be some sources within the White House that are either leaking these stories or making them up.

If things are really as bad as the op-ed and Woodward’s book describe, if the White House in the alleged words of John Kelly has become “Crazytown,” there is a remedy.  Not anonymous leakings to the press but the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

Were the Cabinet and Vice-President to invoke that Amendment by declaring the president to be mentally incompetent, that would not be a Constitutional crisis, as the Op-Ed writer says.  Rather, it would be following the Constitution.

If the “resistance” inside the White House is not prepared to do that, they should be quiet.  If they think they have to manage their boss, fine, but that includes covering for him if necessary.  It’s hard to see what good it will do for the country by going public like this.

If these people are really saving the country by controlling the president, as they say they are, they won’t be able to do that if they tell the president, along with the rest of the world, that this is what they are doing!

So why would they talk to the Watergate reporter and tell all about it by writing an Op-Ed in the New York Times?  This doesn’t make sense.


Photo:  Bob Woodward by Exchanges Photos (Bob Woodward and Edward R. Murrow partcipants) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons



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