Opinion writer

We’ve seen this movie before. A top administration official in a fit of pique insults the president, revealing his contempt for the mental and temperamental fitness of the commander in chief. The official is outed, embarrassed and compelled to deny the incident. The president denies that there is a problem, and eventually things return to “normal” — or in the case of the Trump administration, the predictable level of incoherence, inconsistency and corruption (financial and intellectual). Secretary of State Rex Tillerson survived, but likely not for long.

Now, according to BuzzFeed, national security adviser H.R. McMaster also has spoken about President Trump in derogatory terms:

Over a July dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz — who has been mentioned as a candidate for several potential administration jobs — McMaster bluntly trashed his boss, said the sources, four of whom told BuzzFeed News they heard about the exchange directly from Catz. The top national security official dismissed the president variously as an “idiot” and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner,” the sources said.

A sixth source who was not familiar with the details of the dinner told BuzzFeed News that McMaster had made similarly derogatory comments about Trump’s intelligence to him in private, including that the president lacked the necessary brainpower to understand the matters before the National Security Council.

Both Oracle and the Trump administration heatedly denied the comments that Catz later recounted.

In all likelihood, McMaster and Trump will revisit the “fake news” defense. McMaster will continue on, in no small part because his dismissal would confirm criticisms that the administration is dysfunctional in the extreme.

The Tillerson and McMaster episodes, unless one is to disbelieve multiple witnesses with no reason to lie, provide several takeaways.

First, these administration officials see Trump day in and day out. They see him in briefings and in meetings with foreign leaders. Who better to convey the true state of the president’s intellect and temperament? If we respect these leaders, we should respect their evaluations — and congressional leaders (especially those in charge of relevant committees) should be conferring with Tillerson and McMaster. If Trump is not capable of absorbing and processing information, it is incumbent on Congress to consider when and if the 25th Amendment and/or impeachment should be explored.

Second, if these leaders do in fact perceive Trump as a dullard, then surely foreign leaders, both friends and foes, have figured this out as well. How do they deal with him? What risks does the lack of respect by foreign leaders entail for U.S. security? One has to consider how the president may have already damaged national security and how that damage is to be mitigated. We should seriously reconsider whether foreign trips and individual meetings with foreign leaders are in the national interest.

Third, a president, even a highly deficient one, deserves loyal and discreet advisers. If they cannot mind their tongues and show respect, they should go. Such a resignation would give the president the opportunity to select people who won’t gossip behind his back. Moreover, it would free these advisers, who apparently have figured out that Trump is unfit, to warn the country.

In sum, the problem is not Trump’s advisers calling him names. The problem is that he’s unfit, his top advisers know it and collectively they are pretending that everything is fine. GOP members of Congress surely have witnessed Trump’s intellect in action. With the exception of Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), none has had the nerve to reveal his concerns to the public. They continue to shield him from scrutiny and pretend as if everything is “normal.” It’s long past the time to end this charade. If the president is too intellectually limited to perform the job, he needs to go.