Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Journalist Bob Woodward’s new book and an op-ed by an anonymous administration official portray Donald Trump as dangerously capricious and amoral, exhibiting textbook symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and behaving in ways that suggest, to some, early signs of age-related dementia.
But you knew that.
We’ve all known about Trump from the beginning. We’ve known that he was entirely unfit to hold any public office, much less wield the awesome powers of the presidency, regardless of what political views he might have. Trump demonstrates this fact literally every single day.
Wednesday afternoon, The New York Times published an extraordinary essay headlined, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” In it, an unnamed “senior official” claimed to be “working diligently from within,” in concert with “many” colleagues, “to frustrate parts of [Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations.” The author went on to describe chaos, dysfunction and a president who changes his mind “from one minute to the next.”
Even more alarming, however, was the response from retiring Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, one of the few Republican officials who ever dare to criticize Trump, even mildly: “This is what all of us have understood to be the situation from day one.”
Trump’s enablers in Congress have all been lying to us. They pretend there is a normal president in the White House instead of, let’s be honest, a maniac. They know the risk the nation is running. They have the power to alleviate that risk but they do nothing, instead counting on “mature adults” in the administration to keep Trump from plunging the nation off some cliff.
According to Woodward’s book “Fear,” Trump was going to pull the United States out of a trade agreement with South Korea, but former economic adviser Gary Cohn, who saw the move as unthinkable, simply swiped the order from Trump’s desk before he could sign it. At another point, the book reports, Trump phoned Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and commanded him to assassinate Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. According to Woodward, Mattis played along, hung up the phone, and told an aide, “We’re not going to do any of that.”
It feels as if we have entered a new phase of the Trump saga. As with all the prior phases, it’s impossible to predict with confidence what will happen. But the combination of the Woodward book and the insider’s op-ed feels like an inflection point.
We learned about the insanity inside the West Wing months ago from Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” but he got enough little things wrong to cast doubt on the big things he reported. We read it all again in Omarosa’s “Unhinged,” but she was a professional minor celebrity who’d had only glowing things to say about Trump until she got fired. Woodward, to say the least, is different.
Beginning with Watergate and Deep Throat, Woodward has set the gold standard for Washington-based investigative reporting. He doesn’t just get the goods; he keeps meticulous records, including recordings of many of his interviews. You will note that the denials coming from the Trump administration are actually carefully worded non-denials that skirt, rather than confront, the specifics of what Woodward wrote.
His account supports what we’ve been told all along by award-winning White House correspondents from The Washington Post, the Times and other media organizations.
As for the anonymous “senior official” who penned the op-ed in the Times, I’m not inclined to join the chorus of commentators who say he or she is being cowardly and instead should have gone public, resigned in front of television cameras, marched up to Congress and demanded to testify and ... and then what? Exactly what would such a performance achieve?
Does anyone believe the Republican leadership in the House and Senate would actually do anything? As Corker said, Trump’s unfitness has been obvious from the beginning. Republican officials have made the conscious decision to see, hear and speak no evil. We’re probably better off with the “senior official” still in place, saving us from Trump’s destructive whims.
The whistleblower wrote that “there were early whispers within the Cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment” by which Trump could be removed, but “no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.”
After this past week, however, it’s clear that we’re already in a constitutional crisis of frightening proportions. The Cabinet will not act. Congress, under GOP control, will not act. The internal “resistance” can only do so much.
Voters are the last line of defense. You must save the day.
Eugene Robinson is a columnist for The Washington Post.