The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion A frightful portrait of a president out of control

President Trump at the White House on Tuesday. (Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg)
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The Post reports:

During his 43-hour stay in Paris, [President] Trump brooded over the Florida recount and sulked over other key races being called for Democrats in the midterm elections that he had claimed as a “big victory.” He erupted at his staff over media coverage of his decision to skip a ceremony honoring the military sacrifice of World War I.
The president also was angry and resentful over French President Emmanuel Macron’s public rebuke of rising nationalism, which Trump considered a personal attack. And that was after his difficult meeting with Macron, where officials said little progress was made as Trump again brought up his frustrations over trade and Iran.

Trump hollered at British Prime Minister Theresa May in a phone call, berated aides and insisted on personnel changes likely to worsen morale in an already besieged White House. It is this ongoing funk that may explain his baseless attacks on the voting recount in Florida and his lashing out at CNN reporter Abby Phillip. (“Trump sent political aides in Washington scrambling to prepare detailed briefings for him on the still-to-be-called races. He aired baseless allegations of voter irregularities on Twitter. . . . Still, the president told aides he felt disconnected from the action in his suite at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris — even as he consumed countless hours of television news on the trip.”)

In other words, as bad a Trump’s public outbursts may be, he is even less composed, rational and stable behind closed doors. Once more — as we saw with Bob Woodward’s book, the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, Michael Wolff’s book, Omarosa Manigault Newman’s tell-all, and countless news reports — the people who work most closely with Trump know best how emotionally, intellectually and temperamentally unfit he is for the job. And yet, they continue to mislead the public, and remain silent after leaving, as to the president’s ability to carry out his duties.

Trump apologists, as they habitually do, will deny and disbelieve reporting. But foreign leaders, outside friends, members of Congress and others who observe him on a daily basis now spill their guts to the media, perhaps to distance themselves from the White House’s downward spiral.

President Trump has irreversibly changed the Republican Party. The upheaval might seem unusual, but political transformations crop up throughout U.S. history. (Video: Adriana Usero, Danielle Kunitz, Robert Gebelhoff/The Washington Post)

There are several takeaways from all of this.

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First, Trump will get worse under pressure. If he is this bad now, imagine what he’ll be like if more associates are indicted, the economy goes to seed or the subpoenas start flying. At some point, unless Trump has him fired, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will issue his report. Unless it miraculously exonerates him, the president may have a meltdown that will make his trip to France look like a picnic.

Second, self-described saviors of the country, such as the anonymous op-ed writer, are deluding themselves if they believe they are preventing the president from harming the country. Daily, he threatens democratic norms, blemishes the United States’ reputation around the world and makes worse and worse personnel decisions in an effort to surround himself with more compliant aides. If Trump fires Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, it is not clear how many more erratic decisions will be made or how serious the ramifications may be.

Third, all of this points to the gross irresponsibility of Republicans who, for two years, refused to exercise any oversight and continue to spin on his behalf. They would rather excuse the conduct of an unbalanced and hysterical commander in chief then move to limit his powers (e.g., reassert that a first strike is an act of war requiring congressional authorization, claw back power to enact tariffs). They likely will continue to rubber-stamp his executive branch picks, no matter how unprepared and temperamentally unfit they may be. Even more reprehensible, they will heartily endorse him for reelection while maligning his challengers. Maybe if they see control of the Senate slipping away, they will finally cut him loose.

All of this reminds us that Democratic control of the House is only a halfway measure. Unless and until Trump is out of office, the country, our democracy and our security remain at risk.

Read more:

What’s a defeated or retired Republican to do?

Trump’s era of hate

The Republican Party has a woman problem

The world is moving on from Trump. And others are stepping forward.

Trump says he’s ‘in no rush’ to deal with North Korea’s weapons programs. It shows.

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