While the president blusters and tweets, there’s a growing impression that Steve Bannon is running the show.
Last Saturday night, President Donald Trump attended the Red Cross Ball at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. On Sunday, he watched the Super Bowl at his West Palm Beach golf course. As he left Florida on Monday, news emerged that he will probably return this weekend for golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Two questions. Does Trump think being president is a part-time job? And is Trump the one doing the job?
There’s no clear answer to either one.
Trump OK’d the recent failed commando raid in Yemen after a dinner with national security aides. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush made such critical judgments only after intense reviews in the Situation Room.
The mission ended with children getting killed in the crossfire and the loss of one of our Navy SEALs. In apparent response to the civilian deaths, Yemen blocked further American ground missions against suspected terrorist groups. Trump’s order freezing immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, Yemen among them, may have been another factor.
Few presidential decisions have been as bizarre as Trump’s giving a permanent seat on the National Security Council to his political schemer Steve Bannon but not to his top military and intelligence advisers. After the bipartisan blowback, Trump reportedly complained to his White House staff that he had not been fully briefed on the controversial executive order. Yet he signed it.
No sane real estate developer would buy a suburban shopping strip without first knowing the particulars. And here’s Trump placing someone with almost no foreign-policy experience above the experts — and on matters of grave national security.
There are two possible explanations. One is that Trump is lazy. The other is that his “executive” faculties are not firing on all cylinders.
Either or both could explain the growing impression that Bannon is running the show. A former Goldman Sachs trader funneled through Hollywood, Bannon harbors fantasies of world domination, even taking on the pope.
Trump’s ability to perform nuanced thinking was questioned throughout the presidential campaign. Some supporters made plausible arguments that a sober Republican leadership would keep his craziness in check. But with only a few noble exceptions, Republicans have caved in the face of Trumpian aggression.
The last straw for those already doubting Trump’s mental competence was his nutty calls to foreign leaders. He hit bottom in his abusive conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. After angrily denouncing American promises to take 1,250 refugees being kept in Australian detention centers, Trump reportedly hung up on Turnbull, the leader of a very close American ally.
John R. Schindler, a former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer, is no one’s idea of a liberal. But Trump’s weird behavior on the national-security stage has Schindler calling on Congress to do its job and get Trump out of office.
“Our mission now is to put the White House back in the hands of sane people,” Schindler tweeted. “This is not about R or D, but don’t destroy the planet w yr Twitter.”
As for some extended playtime in Palm Beach, Trump explained that golf will be a better way to get to know the Japanese leader than having lunch in Washington. That’s doubtful, but if salesman Trump imagines he’s going to charm Abe into doing what Abe doesn’t want to do, just add that to the delusion pile. Abe is not one of the children Trump frolics with at home.
Republican members of Congress can start removing Trump now or wait until the eerie show goes belly up in some catastrophic way. It almost doesn’t matter whether Trump or someone else has been making the calls. Whoever’s doing it is creating a terrible mess.