Opinion writer

When the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, many big-name Hollywood stars and even his employees claimed they had no idea he had been sexually harassing and assaulting women, as alleged. In many cases, this was plausible; in others, it was a case of willful blindness at best. For Republicans — especially those who worked and still work in the White House — there can be no similar claim of ignorance as to President Trump’s mental unfitness. They knew, they saw and they did nothing.

Via Axios (which confirms its reporters have come to similar conclusions), we learn of these excerpts from Michael Wolff’s stunning book:

If a wackadoo moment occurred on the occasions … when his remarks careened in no clear direction, his staff had to go into intense method-acting response. It took absolute discipline not to acknowledge what everyone could see. … At points on the day’s spectrum of adverse political developments, he could have moments of, almost everyone would admit, irrationality. When that happened, he was alone in his anger and not approachable by anyone. … His senior staff largely dealt with these dark hours by agreeing with him, no matter what he said.

Together with other book tidbits — on Trump’s verbal repetitions, on his failure to recognize familiar friends at Mar-a-Lago — Wolff paints the picture of someone every bit as emotionally and mentally addled as his critics have claimed. (If Axios reporters had “many of the same conversations with the same sources Wolff used” — and how do they know that is true? — we need more explanation as to why only now it can be confirmed as “unambiguously true” what was previously known.)

What exactly is the excuse for senior White House aides and Vice President Pence to have allowed this situation to persist? Did they imagine they’d “be the president” because the actual one was incapable of performing his job rationally? Did they think no one would find out that Trump was more unhinged in private than in public? They talk a good game about the “will of the voters,” but the voters elected Trump, not them. We do not have a system of regency in which others manage the boy king until he reaches maturity. (For one thing, Trump seems to be declining in mental and emotional maturity.)

And then there are members of Congress. With the exception of Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Republicans — many of whom frequently interact with him — have not raised the alarm. To the contrary, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has denigrated Corker’s warnings as some kind of personal feud with the president. They need to come clean immediately on what they have witnessed.

It is no exaggeration to say that we have a constitutional crisis in the making. Generals, knowing what they do about Trump’s capacities from news accounts and from their own observations, cannot in good faith take an order, for example, to launch a first strike on North Korea as a legitimate, legal order. They’d be duty-bound to ignore it. This is a complete inversion of the principle of civilian control of the military. It makes generals the de facto commanders in chief. It is not a situation that can be allowed to persist.

We find it hard to believe that Republicans will experience a spasm of conscience and take actions to investigate, let alone remove the president, as unfit. Scary as it may seem, it might be a full year, until a new Congress takes office, before there is a realistic chance of removing a president patently incapable of performing the job.

Now consider this as an election message for Democrats: Republicans have enabled a president who at the very least has abused his power and attempted to use the Justice Department as his own law firm to protect him and his associates. Worse, they have helped conceal vital information from the American people and left in place a man unbalanced, irrational and overwhelmed by the demands of the presidency. Democrats will do whatever is needed to protect the country. Republicans will not.

We should pray that, by whatever means, Trump’s tenure is cut short before we have a national — or international — calamity.