Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) appeared on Hugh Hewitt's radio show this morning, and not surprisingly, the two conservatives were eager to talk about the anonymously written New York Times op-ed from a senior official in the Trump administration. Asked for his reaction, the Nebraska Republican said the criticisms of the president in the piece are "similar to what so many of us hear from senior people around the White House, you know, three times a week."
This was not at all reassuring. On the contrary, it suggests members of Congress routinely hear from people in Donald Trump's orbit that the president appears unfit for office -- and yet, Congress chooses to do nothing in response to that information.
But Sasse went on to express a degree of comfort with knowing that the president has people around him who prevent Trump from making catastrophically bad decisions.
"...I think there are lots of really, really good people around the president who are trying to restrain his impulsiveness and his just regular lack of reflection on the long-term implications of different issues. And so I think it's a very moral act to love your country, and frankly try to care about Donald Trump with all the challenges that every human has, but his are kind of unique."I think it's a good way to serve your neighbor to stay in the administration even when you're worried."
This is certainly consistent with how the author of the op-ed sees himself or herself.
"The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren't for unsung heroes in and around the White House," the senior official wrote. "Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained.... 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."
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a frequent Trump critic, told reporters yesterday, "I think all of us encourage the good people around the president to stay."
I understand the argument, and I wish it were sound, but it's not.
The idea, in effect, is that Trump is surrounded by a safety net that he can't see. The president -- unstable, ignorant, unprincipled, and unfocused -- may throw all kinds of radical and dangerous ideas from his desk in the Oval Office, but the safety net is there to contain Trump's worst impulses, saving his own interests and ours.
To hear the unnamed senior official tell it, we should be thankful to the "heroes" who keep the safety net in place. After all, it's hard work containing an unfit president. We should, the argument goes, recognize their innate patriotism.
But is there nobility in covering for a leader who's unfit for his office? Is it really patriotic to enable a president who's incapable of doing the job?
Is there honor in having unelected officials, accountable to no one but each other, circumventing and undermining a president whose bizarre impulses would be dangerous if implemented?
There is a process in place, under the American rule of law, to remove an unfit president from office. That process, at least for now, is being ignored by people who are instead trying to accommodate this president's many deficiencies in secret.
A variety of words come to mind to describe this dynamic, but heroism isn't one of them.