This isn’t about Trump telling Ukraine “nice country you’ve got there…” This is about the White House protecting Trump from himself (and not incidentally protecting the country from Trump); that protection is breaking down.
Russ Douthat (yeah, I know, not a favorite around here) published an op-ed in the NY Times today:
His theme is that WH staff have been using various strategies to keep Trump from actually acting on his worst impulses:
But alligator mississippiensis is also a useful condensed symbol of how the Trump administration has survived Trump’s own deeply unpresidential conduct: Because most of the time, when the president asks for an alligator, the people around him figure out a way to make sure the sharp-toothed reptile doesn’t actually show up.
These strategies include: ignoring him, pretending to agree with him and doing nothing, using delay tactics like a “study,” giving him something that “looks like” what he wants (the NAFTA substitute).
But it didn’t work with this time, because Giuliani did an end run around the White House Protection Racket (WHPR). (Yes, Fox News does the same all the time, but Trump can’t send Hannity to Kyiv the way he can send Giuliani.)
Now, Washington is the gossip mill to end all gossip mills, so everyone knew what the WHPR was doing — and wrap that around your head for a minute: All of official Washington has always known that Trump is an incompetent, impulsive, narcissistic idiot who has no idea what he’s doing, but even if he’s gotten rid of all the adults in the Cabinet, there are are still a few on the staff who could be counted on to keep him from getting out of hand.
But they didn’t reckon on Giuliani.
Speaker Pelosi always knew it was only a matter of time before the “self-impeacher” did something so outrageous, so clearly abusive, and — most important — so easy to explain that he would impeach himself. And that’s what he’s done.
Because of Giuliani.
Now the Republican senators Trump was counting on to save him are paralyzed as they try desperately to figure out which to jump — and IMO whether they should to support a man who has done nothing but bully them, threaten them, cut their legislative strategies out from under them, and destroyed America’s standing (meaning, for them, their own prestige) in the world.
But the front line of any presidential defense is the White House staff. We have lost count of the number of chiefs of staff, national security advisers, press secretaries (the current one doesn’t even try to do the job), etc. And it very much looks like the lower level staff have had enough; they’re the ones who talked to the first whistleblower. I think that, for all their angst, they had seen themselves as serving the president by protecting him.
So the WHPR has thrown in the towel and is letting Trump hang himself. The Senate is thinking about doing the same.
Trump sure knows how to pick them, doesn’t he?