“It’s pandemonium. He literally isn’t talking to anyone. He’s canceled meetings and is on the phone calling up his friends,” one source said. Current and former staffers, meanwhile, pointed fingers in all directions as they sought to deflect blame for the damaging leaks. “I’d rather be an unapologetic defender of Donald Trump than Judas,” one West Wing official told me. …Woodward’s book isn’t officially on sale until next week, and aides fear how Trump will react as more embarrassing bits are reported. “It’s bad and it’s going to get worse,” a former West Wing staffer said. An outside adviser added, “Everybody on the inside knows it’s true. It’s just Fox News people who don’t want to admit how crazy he is.” . . . “You can normally only do 10 percent of what he tells you to do. Ninety percent is f—— crazy,” a former West Wing official said, fretting about what Trump may instruct aides to do.
Well, at least we know the main theme of the book — his senior advisers have nothing but contempt for him — is accurate.
Now get ready for the reaction when he hears about an anonymous “senior official” allowed to run an op-ed in the New York Times:
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. … Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.
One certainly can question the judgment in allowing someone without attribution to run an essentially self-serving defense claiming to effectively have bypassed our system of elected government. (We’re saving the country from worse!) It defeats the purpose of warning America that everything is fine if only the New York Times knows who is saving the country from disaster. (Maybe they could give us a hint?) One wonders if this missive is an effort to send the president completely around the bend.
The bigger issue, however, is the people who know firsthand how bad Trump is and won’t come out to warn the country and short-circuit the presidency. If things are as bad as they are portrayed, there is no excuse for failing to gather together Vice President Pence, Cabinet members and key leaders in Congress. The notion that “no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis” ignores the fact that we are having one when the elected president is mentally and emotionally incapacitated and non-elected leaders run the country.
“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening,” the anonymous adviser writes. “And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.” Well, that’s just swell, but who are they and who voted for them? It’s no comfort at all to find out that anonymous, non-elected people boast they are running the country in lieu of the addled president. In other parts of the world, that is called a coup.
Woodward’s book and the op-ed will set off another round of presidential fury and intensify the already frantic search in the White House for those who’ve been truth-telling. As we have warned since the start of the presidency, Trump can fire all the grown-ups. (My colleague Josh Rogin reports that “officials inside the White House have been actively discussing who will replace [Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis at the Pentagon” — a development that should petrify Americans, our allies and frankly the whole world.)
And then what? When Trump nominates flunkies to replace the grown-ups and a docile GOP Senate rubber-stamps his picks, perhaps the grown-ups will finally come clean, warn the country and encourage the vice president, Cabinet and Congress to do their respective jobs.