An advertisement of Trump’s precarious standing

Rich Lowry at Politico nudges us to look at the implications of Trump’s apparent inability to fire his insubordinate subordinates.

First, it was chief economic adviser Cohn saying in an interview that the administration—i.e., Donald J. Trump—must do a better job denouncing hate groups. Then, it was Secretary of State Tillerson suggesting in a stunning interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News that the rest of the government speaks for American values, but not necessarily the president. Finally, Secretary of Defense Mattis contradicted without a moment’s hesitation a Trump tweet saying we are done talking with North Korea.

In a more normal time, in a more normal administration, any of these would be a firing offense (although, in Mattis’ defense, he more accurately stated official U.S. policy than the president did). Tillerson, in particular, should have been told before he was off the set of Fox News on Sunday that he was only going to be allowed to return to the seventh floor of the State Department to clean out his desk.

The fact that this hasn’t happened is an advertisement of Trump’s precarious standing, broadcast by officials he himself selected for positions of significant power and prestige.

Well, yes. Mind you it’s also a sign of how awful he is. His own people are disavowing him, because he’s even more awful than they thought.

Trump, of course, largely brought this on himself. He is reaping the rewards of his foolish public spat with Jeff Sessions and of his woeful Charlottesville remarks.

By publicly humiliating his own attorney general, Trump seemed to want to make him quit. When Sessions stayed put, Trump didn’t take the next logical step of firing him because he didn’t want to deal with the fallout. In the implicit showdown, Sessions had won. Not only had Trump shown he was all bark and no bite, he had demonstrated his lack of loyalty to those working for him.

So all his people now know two things: he’ll trash them in public any time he feels like it, and he won’t do anything about it if they trash him back.

Sounds like a fun place to work.

Mattis and Co. obviously consider themselves the president’s minders more than his underlings. But the least they could do is not air this patronizing attitude. They are impressive and accomplished people, but no one elected any of them president of the United States. They don’t do the country any favors by highlighting Trump’s weakness and by making it obvious that the American government doesn’t speak with one voice.

Oh I don’t agree with that at all. They do the country the favor of making Trump’s removal more likely. The less support he has from his own side, the more likely it is that Congress will act.

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