PAUL WALDMAN. There are no heroes in the Trump Administration.(Washington Post 18.1.2020)

There will be hundreds of books written about this dreadful period in our history, and one of the questions we’ll have to grapple with is this: How should we judge those around President Trump? The ones who helped him, who enabled him, or even just failed to stand up to him?

In their new book “A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America,” Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker take us behind the scenes of the Trump presidency, where we learn that the private Trump is — if you can believe it — even worse than what you see every day.

And one thing their account makes clear is that there are only two kinds of people in Trump’s orbit: the utterly morally compromised, and the slightly less but still profoundly morally compromised.

Let’s consider this absolutely horrifying story that Leonnig and Rucker tell from early in Trump’s term. Concerned about Trump’s shocking ignorance and repugnant ideas about how the United States should conduct itself in the world, a group of his chief advisers — including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — brought Trump to a secure room inside the Pentagon known as “the Tank.”

A group of military officials in attendance then attempted to give the president a tutorial on things such as the role of NATO and the function of overseas military bases.

Characteristically inattentive and resentful, Trump grew increasingly agitated, complaining that allies weren’t paying us enough for their security, that we hadn’t looted Iraq’s oil, and that the Afghanistan war was still going on. “You’re all losers,” he said. Things only got worse:

Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn’t taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.
“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump told the assembled brass.
Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”

One person eventually decided to stand up to Trump. “The men and women who put on a uniform don’t do it to become soldiers of fortune,” said Tillerson. “That’s not why they put on a uniform and go out and die. . . . They do it to protect our freedom.”

It was after Trump departed that Tillerson, during a conversation with other officials, called the president “a f—ing moron.”

Reading this account, one is tempted to honor Tillerson for his courage in standing up to the president. The story recounts that others thanked the secretary of state for doing so, and he did it again at a subsequent meeting.

But here’s what Tillerson didn’t do. He didn’t call a news conference to announce that he was resigning and explain that he could not in good conscience work for a president who had such dangerous ideas about how to wield power and held the military in such contempt. Instead, he stayed on the job for another eight months — until Trump fired him.

And ever since, Tillerson has been practically silent. So too has Mattis, who stayed in Trump’s employ for nearly two years, then resigned and sealed his lips shut. We’ve heard stories about how Mattis tried to calm Trump down or, at times, simply ignored the president’s more erratic orders, such as the timeTrump called him after Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack and said “Let’s f—ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f—ing lot of them.”

Mattis could provide as much detail as anyone about how dangerous Trump is, and anything he had to say would be front-page news. He could do an extraordinary amount to educate the public about the nature of this president, but he doesn’t. Neither does Tillerson.

So even if Mattis and Tillerson might have acted to restrain Trump’s worst impulses while they served in the Trump administration, they have two indelible marks against them: Not only have they remained shamefully silent since they left, but perhaps more importantly, they went to work for Trump in the first place.
As one Republican who served in the George W. Bush administration tells me, “The vast majority of Republicans I know — the foreign policy specialists — are incredibly depressed and a little embarrassed. Most of all, we’re concerned about what a Trump administration would mean for U.S. interests and the security of our nation. I have not yet met a Republican who says they would work for a Trump administration.”

But with only a small number of exceptions, they decided to work for him after all.

So yes, we very much need to know about the catastrophes that were averted, the ways Trump has attempted to poison American institutions, and what those around him have done to mitigate the damage.

But let’s be clear: There are no heroes in Donald Trump’s employ. The moment they went to work for him they forfeited any claim that their integrity is intact.

And I’ll bet every last one of them knows it.

Paul Waldman,Opinion Writer, Washington Post

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9 Responses to PAUL WALDMAN. There are no heroes in the Trump Administration.(Washington Post 18.1.2020)

  1. malcolm harrison says:

    Paul Waldman’s comments may have been deeply felt, but that doesnt mean they were sincere. To me this reads like a hatchet job inserted into the now hotting up campaign. And there will be many more to follow. But all attacking Trump has ever done is consolidate his support. However, I guess it buoys up the spirits of those who despise Trump and wish for his good riddance. All the signs and omens, though, suggest he will be with us for another four years. Late last year, Moody’s rated Trump as easily winning re-election. Sanders seems like the only real threat, and it is well known the Democrat Party establishment opposes his nomination. But that could work more in his favour than not with potential voters. And maybe the establishment will have to change their minds. Should be an interesting year.

  2. Charles Lowe says:

    I’m guessing here. My suspicion is that those elements of their personalities which enabled them to accept positions within the Trump administration are just those elements of their personalities which stop them from asserting their personal honour.

    I am naive enough to trust that Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy will thereby be successful.

    I work hard to advance that prospect.

  3. Kien Choong says:

    We might also reflect on the silence among the Western alliance. Had China acted unilaterally in the way that the US has done (e.g., pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, sabotaging the WTO, striking at enemies in Iraq, appointing as the head of the CIA a person complicit in torture), I dare say Western countries would speak up more clearly.

    It puzzles me that Western countries do not do more to hold a rouge US administration to account, especially if they believe that the current administration is an aberration. Why not speak up more clearly? Even if the current administration is offended, it would not harm long-term relations with the US.

  4. Allan Kessing says:

    It has long been recognised, that autocrats are not 20ft tall wielding telephone poles as clubs – their powerf comes from the multitudes of enablers, usually inadequate types, viz Hannah Arendt, whom Good Soldier Schweik wouldn’t have employed as his civvy street offsider.
    That Mattis, Tillerson et al have not gone public shows that for evil to prevail it is only necessary that the good remain silent.
    In corridors of power everywhere.

  5. Geoff Miller says:

    Paul Waldman’s comments are clearly deeply felt, but they are not the only line that can be taken on Tillerman and Mattis. I’m sure we all remember the articles early in the Trump Administration grateful that there were “adults in the room”. They may well have felt that they should stay to try to promote good policies and stop or modify bad ones. And, having left or been sacked, they may well feel that it would go against proper public service practice to turn publicly on the person who, after all, had given them their jobs in the first place.

  6. Jim KABLE says:

    And except for the fact that Bashar al-Assad did NOT as Paul Waldman states without explanation: “such as the timeTrump called him after Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad LAUNCHED A CHEMICAL ATTACK (emphasis mine – JK) and said “Let’s f—ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f—ing lot of them.”” – yes, I would agree with the thesis. Although by continuing that claim about Assad it actually makes the whole scenario even worse – suggesting that the US military/CIA is keeping facts from Trump and feeding him “false flag” scenarios so that he becomes a raging maniac wanting to “nuke”/kill everyone (or rants to similar effect).

    • Allan Kessing says:

      That calumny persists and is repeated by Woodward in his account of a mad White House “FEAR“.
      Like “pink batts” and “debt & deficit disaster”, once in the public mind and repeated so frequently they become idée fixe and, unfortunately, such misapprehensions then become grounds for future action.

  7. Mike Yewdall says:

    This support for someone they know to be dangerous or even unhinged is as old as time. All the famous dictators/czars/ moguls through time have survived due to the support of such men.There are always those seduced by power or to the proximity of power. Ego eases the way , the perks ease their way. Somewhere along the way their limit is reached however as the article says, the damage is already done

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