Operation Contain the President

It is no longer tenable to pretend that concerns about the President's character and judgment are simply par...

Posted: Sep 6, 2018 9:07 AM
Updated: Sep 6, 2018 9:07 AM

It is no longer tenable to pretend that concerns about the President's character and judgment are simply partisan.

As Bob Woodward's new book "Fear" and a bombshell anonymous op-ed published in the New York Times make clear, the reality of the Trump presidency is even worse than it appears.

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The new developments show that there seems to be a core cadre of administration officials who are serving primarily to contain the damage created by President Donald Trump. Critics -- and Trump himself -- may call them cowardly, treasonous or opportunistic, but in this civic stress test for our nation, they may be redefining what it means to be part of the patriotic resistance.

A clear consensus view has emerged over months of reporting, interviews and simple reading of the President's own tweets: that the man is uncommonly petty, incurious and impulsive, with little to no fidelity to facts. Despite the best attempts to spin and normalize, life inside the White House seems to be best described as "crazytown" when compared to any other administration in our history.

By the Washington Post's latest careful accounting, Trump states a lie or falsehood eight times a day -- nearing 5,000 over the course of his 20 months in office. This is not in the same moral universe of past Presidents like "Honest Abe" Lincoln, or even politicians like FDR who were known to bend the truth to make a deal. Still, President Trump can state to Woodward with a straight face that his version of an accurate book would be one that shows "that nobody's ever done a better job than I'm doing as President."

"The root of the problem is the President's amorality," the anonymous, currently serving senior administration official writes in the New York Times op-ed. "Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making. ... 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. And we are trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't."

There is no clear precedent for this in American history. The 25th Amendment was designed to apply to physical incapacity, not incompetence or irresponsibility. But it confirms the urgency of the situation we find ourselves in as the longest lasting democratic republic in history. Bob Woodward's book recounts the President's former economic adviser Gary Cohn removing papers from the President's desk that would have withdrawn the United States from trade agreements with South Korea during a time of increased tension with the nuclear dictatorship in the North.

"I stole it off his desk," Cohn is quoted by an associate as saying in Woodward's book. "He's never going to see that document. Got to protect the country." Former Staff Secretary Rob Porter is quoted as estimating that he spent a third of his time trying to delay or derail "really dangerous" ideas by the President arising out of impulse rather than solid intelligence.

This also tracks with the divergence in the administration between official policy and actions -- most notably in attempts to contain Russian aggression, given the President's inexplicable reluctance to criticize Vladimir Putin, a courtesy he extends to virtually no other human, including the Pope.

There is reason to thank this largely unnamed axis of adults inside the administration for minimizing the damage to transcendent national interests in a time when we have elected a President with -- in the words of the Times piece's author -- "anti-democratic" impulses.

But there is far less cover available to the conservatives in the co-equal brand of government known as Congress who have long spoken of the erratic and irresponsible nature of President Trump in private, but have been afraid to speak that truth in public for fear of facing the wrath of their conservative populist base.

Whatever rationalizations are applied, this will ultimately be recognized for what it is: a cowardly dereliction of duty.

There are conservative policy successes from this administration -- "effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more," as the author of the op-ed states with some pride. But they are mixed in with the almost daily litany of insults and moral embarrassments from Trump himself. And these accomplishments seem to be largely the result of this group of Republicans, who can credibly claim that "this isn't the work of the so-called deep state. It's the work of the steady state."

The need for Operation Contain the President is also evidence of the dangerous game we play when we encourage demagogic forces in our politics and feel that we can channel them in constructive directions when power is achieved. The wisdom is ancient: golem always turns on its creator.

There is culpability for Republicans who enabled and encouraged Trump's rise.

Trump's base is likely to be the last to recognize reality. While he is the least popular president on record at this point in his term on a national level while presiding over a robust economy, conservatives have rallied around him and seem impervious to new information.

One of the challenges we will face is whether this Trump base will ignore the statements from the President's own senior staff in favor of their own emotions. This is not just the dark legacy of tribal politics, but also the elevation of feeling over thinking in our society.

Democracy is not a spectator sport, and we all have a responsibility as citizens in our various capacities to hand over our country to the next generation in better condition than it was handed to us. We are in danger of falling far short of that goal by giving in to our worst instincts of hyperpartisan groupthink and the elevation of greed over any concept of common good and common ground.

The first step toward solving a problem is recognizing that we have one. Operation Contain the President is preferable to the deep destabilization that would result from removing a democratically elected president absent significant new evidence to warrant it. But you do not need to be an impeachment enthusiast to recognize from this avalanche of evidence that we have a problem in the United States -- and his name is President Trump.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 65436

Reported Deaths: 1848
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5544117
DeSoto357430
Harrison240635
Madison239664
Rankin225132
Jackson222542
Jones185058
Forrest175855
Washington160640
Lauderdale139790
Lee138333
Neshoba128492
Lamar119214
Oktibbeha109638
Bolivar109333
Lowndes105837
Warren103332
Panola102612
Scott99520
Sunflower99224
Lafayette95615
Copiah94528
Leflore90762
Pike89635
Holmes87348
Grenada83821
Yazoo81512
Pontotoc8098
Lincoln79641
Leake78625
Simpson78630
Monroe76952
Wayne75321
Coahoma71511
Tate70527
Marshall6749
Marion64320
Winston61116
Adams61025
Covington61013
Union60116
George5494
Newton53711
Pearl River52937
Tallahatchie52210
Attala51525
Walthall49119
Chickasaw45019
Noxubee44811
Calhoun4079
Prentiss40310
Claiborne39813
Alcorn3975
Smith39713
Clay39214
Jasper3819
Hancock37314
Tishomingo3635
Itawamba34810
Tippah34213
Clarke32525
Tunica3226
Montgomery3153
Lawrence3127
Yalobusha31210
Humphreys28311
Carroll26011
Quitman2521
Greene23611
Jefferson Davis2286
Kemper22714
Amite2256
Webster22512
Perry2237
Wilkinson20113
Jefferson1946
Sharkey1944
Stone1864
Benton1420
Choctaw1314
Franklin1192
Issaquena251
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12743242
Mobile9565206
Montgomery6521148
Madison525030
Tuscaloosa410371
Unassigned347461
Baldwin344323
Shelby320133
Marshall309034
Lee262844
Morgan233017
Etowah207530
DeKalb177113
Calhoun170413
Elmore169438
Walker150264
Houston136412
Russell13422
Dallas131123
St. Clair131016
Limestone128413
Franklin125820
Cullman120112
Colbert115613
Lauderdale113917
Autauga106521
Escambia105416
Talladega98613
Jackson9454
Tallapoosa84979
Chambers83538
Dale82323
Blount7743
Chilton7676
Butler75935
Coffee7475
Covington72620
Pike6907
Barbour5695
Lowndes56724
Marion56724
Marengo54614
Clarke4969
Hale46726
Bullock45411
Winston44411
Perry4364
Wilcox41810
Bibb4164
Monroe4154
Randolph39410
Pickens3849
Conecuh38210
Sumter36218
Lawrence3441
Macon33213
Washington32712
Crenshaw3133
Choctaw27912
Cherokee2637
Geneva2550
Henry2523
Greene25011
Clay2495
Lamar2172
Fayette1985
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