Volker testifies in hindsight, he "should have recognized" that some, including Trump, saw probing Burisma "equivalent to investigating former vice president Biden." Adds, "I now understand that most of the other people didn't see this distinction. For them it was synonymous." pic.twitter.com/wXQItTseDX— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) November 19, 2019
The myth of the “adults in the room” has persisted since the beginning of the Administration, but it has never been accurate. There is no managing Donald Trump, no way to preserve one’s integrity while doing what is necessary to remain powerful in his orbit. Look at what happened to Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis and John Kelly. Trump is a government of one. He himself has said so repeatedly. Early in his Administration, under criticism for leaving key posts open at the State Department, Trump said that, when it comes to foreign policy, “I am the only one that matters.” At the time, less than a year into his presidency, perhaps that could have been dismissed as hyperbole. Certainly, it would have been surprising to hear members of Congress publicly agreeing that the entire rest of the government — themselves and their own branch included — was irrelevant. Yet that is more or less where the impeachment process has ended up.Several of the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry found that out, to their dismay. Volker is perhaps the clearest example of this. Volker thought that he could handle the problem of Trump’s attitude toward Ukraine by engaging with the source of the “negative information flow”—Giuliani. Others in the Administration considered this folly and warned him that it was not feasible to “thread the needle,” as Volker termed it in his testimony. Yet he tried, awkwardly insisting that he had no idea that Trump actually wanted Zelensky to investigate Biden, as opposed to more generic “corruption” in Ukraine. Volker said that he had been out of the loop on the key conversations that would have revealed that motive. When he met Giuliani at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for breakfast, in July, Volker acknowledged that Giuliani did bring up Biden and that Volker tried to talk him out of it. It did not work.
It boils down to two factors particular to Trump. First, I have yet to see evidence that he is interested in anything beyond himself. He has no higher purpose or ideal that interests him. There is not a lot that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) or Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) have in common, but all of them believe in something larger than themselves, and that higher sense of purpose helps to shape that worldview. If any of them asked me to serve, I would at least have to consider it seriously. Trump has demonstrated nothing remotely like that during this campaign.More importantly, advising Trump on policy would be a fruitless task, because Trump does not seem to listen to anyone.