The Return of McCarthyism

When I was in college and, later, as a young diplomat, I’d meet State Department old timers who related horrifying tales of the communist witch-hunt era of the 1950s, when Joseph McCarthy, an amoral and alcohol-sodden senator, rode a wave of nationwide anti-communist hysteria to root out mythical “traitors” inside the federal government. Prized on his hit list were career diplomats. As a compliant Congress stood by, the best of the State Department’s China hands were purged for allegedly having “lost China” to Mao Zedong’s communist forces. Their careers were destroyed, leaving a huge talent gap as well as a years-long fear among diplomats to stick their necks out.

Their real crime? Speaking truth to power in their honest reporting from the field. It took many years for the department to recover.

I fear our intelligence agencies may become the next targets of a political witch-hunt, stoked by another amoral politician: President Donald Trump. The attacks by Trump and his surrogates against the intelligence community (IC) have been frequent and harsh, echoing the baseless tirades during the McCarthy era.

“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!” tweeted the president following Gen. Michael Flynn’s dismissal as national security advisor. The term “un-American” suffused Joe McCarthy’s verbal attacks against his targets in the ‘50s. Perhaps no other politician today so closely channels McCarthy as Congressman Steve King, the firebrand Trump loyalist who has urged the president to “purge Leftists from the executive branch before disloyal, illegal and treasonist (sic) acts sink us.” He added, “People there (IC) need to be rooted out.”

What’s especially mysterious, as well as troubling, is why Trump has it out for the intelligence community, a constellation of 17 agencies that serves as a linchpin in the nation’s defense. He has repeatedly blamed the intelligence agencies for leaks, and even likened the IC to Nazis. In a previous article, I speculated whether Donald Trump actually might be either a witting or unwitting Russian intel asset; his erratic actions and bromance with Vladimir Putin put the nation’s security at grave risk.

Reports circulated recently that President Trump planned to name a Wall Street crony, Stephen Feinberg, to “review” the intelligence community. Many feared this was a euphemism for acting as a hatchet man against the CIA and the other intelligence agencies of the U.S. government. After pushback from intelligence officials, the president has since stepped back from this plan, which he conjured up even before Senator Dan Coats was confirmed as director of national intelligence, the position created after 9/11 to oversee and coordinate all intelligence agencies. What is going on?

Some pundits surmise Trump hates the intelligence agencies for the same reason he detests the news media: they are purveyors of the truth, something a pathological liar like Trump just can’t tolerate.

I believe it goes deeper than this. I believe Trump has something to hide — specifically, yet-to-be revealed ties to the Russian government. Be they financial transactions going back years, or collusion between Trump campaign staff and Putin’s intelligence services, or a deep-seated paranoia that the nation’s intelligence agencies are out to delegitimize his presidency, or a combination of these, our president demonstrably has it as his mission to undercut and damage these agencies. Steve Bannon, his personal Rasputin, feeds the president’s paranoia about a mythical “deep state” embedded in the IC bent on undercutting the White House. In none of the political thrillers I’ve written have I conjured up such an almost inconceivable plot scenario. But truth indeed is sometimes stranger than fiction.

“Trump fears the IC because their findings have the greatest potential for delegitimizing his election victory. This accounts for his knee-jerk attacks against the IC,” Steven Hall, a thirty-year veteran CIA operations officer, told me. Should ongoing investigations reveal involvement by any of Trump’s operatives in Moscow’s scheme, the validity of his presidency could be called into question.

“Part of maintaining control is controlling the narrative,” said another former officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations. “In such a scenario, facts can be dangerous. It is in the White House’s interest to get Breitbart and InfoWars to present whatever narrative it wants, rather than let real verified facts from the IC shape a different narrative that may be at odds with the president’s agenda,” she added. The intel community therefore is seen as a threat.

Relations between the White House and the IC hinge upon the findings of the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.Former intelligence officers have told me one of their top fears is that Trump and his team will use the pretense of leak investigations to launch attacks against and weaken the IC. “As the Russia story heats up, they will attack these agencies even more,” said the former CIA operations directorate officer. “The erosion to institutions can do real long-term damage,” and undercut public trust in them, she said. A senior ex-NSA official added, “basic paranoia feeds Trump’s hostility. His advisors need to bring in experts who can explain what the IC does and its value.” He noted that “most IC employees are concerned because of Trump’s unpredictable actions. CIA has the most to be concerned about.”

Steven Hall, the former CIA case officer, described a wait-and-see attitude. “Agency employees are optimistic about DCI Mike Pompeo, but the juryis still out. He knows the intel business and has the political grounding to know how to work his masters,” he said. The other ex-clandestine service officer echoed this sentiment. “Officers know they must simply keep moving forward, put their heads down, and just keep plugging away. They are professionals,” she said.

Relations between the White House and the IC hinge upon the findings of the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The key question is whether connecting the dots will reveal collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to steer the electoral results in the president’s favor. Pundits such as Rachel Maddow are spinning webs of possible complex connections involving Russian oligarchs, Putin’s intelligence services and the Trump camp. No solid evidence has yet turned up; the FBI’s examination of Trump’s computer server has yielded no red flags.

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff told NBC’s Chuck Todd, “There is circumstantial evidence of collusion. There is direct evidence, I think, of deception.” FBI Director James Comey walks a political tightrope as he briefs Congress on his bureau’s ongoing investigation.

Looking at the worst-case scenario, which actors are in the best position to blunt an all-out political and bureaucratic war against this country’s intelligence agencies by the president of the United States?

It is questionable whether Congress would intervene. The Republican majorities in both houses thus far have shielded Trump from fallout resulting from his own political shenanigans. House Republicans have sought to keep the investigative focus on government leaks while the Democrats try to steer such efforts toward possible Russian-Trump collusion. The House committee’s investigation is now stalled over partisan differences. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and ranking Democrat Mark Warner pledged at a joint news conference this week that they would cooperate in their investigation. Congress stood by for years as Senator McCarthy was given free sway to pursue his damaging witch hunts. It is capable again of committing dereliction of duty.

I queried Senators Burr and Warner on what each would do in response to an attack by President Trump on the IC. Burr’s office did not respond. In his response, Warner said, “I believe that the President’s comments disparaging and denigrating the intelligence community have affected the morale of these dedicated men and women, and that those attitudes will have a real impact on recruitment and retention of talented individuals willing to serve their country.” Warner added that he wishes that the president would show “trust and respect for the intelligence community, because they do a good job for us, and we have to have their backs.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats are new in their jobs and untested in their commitment to the IC, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has so far displayed little commitment to defending the agency he runs. Pompeo’s active participation in the prolonged Benghazi inquisition in his previous role as a member of Congress furthermore has raised questions in the minds of many intelligence professionals.

This leaves the news media. Print and broadcast media did not distinguish themselves during the McCarthy years. They dwelt on the sensational, and failed to investigate the Wisconsin senator’s claimed lists of communists in government and the entertainment sector. McCarthy, moreover, was masterful in manipulating the media, much as Donald Trump has shown himself today. But the elevation of investigative reporting since Watergate and the proliferation of news organizations in the digital era enhance the fourth estate’s ability to hold politicians accountable. Major publications have been adding investigative reporters to their staffs and the range of news organizations burrowing into Trump’s past activities in business and government is impressive. What the press lacks in subpoena power, it compensates in doggedness in pursuit of the truth.

A key mentor of Donald Trump as a young, budding New York real estate mogul — as it happens — was Senator Joe McCarthy’s right-hand man, lawyer Roy Cohn, an unprincipled attack dog and relentless self-promoter, whose egregious violations of legal ethics got him disbarred shortly before his death in 1986. Cohn reportedly counseled Trump, “Never apologize, never back down, never admit you were wrong, and use every means possible toward achieving your ends.” This has proven to be Donald Trump’s creed. Such tactics may prove successful in the short run, but usually result in failure in the longer term.

The mission of our intelligence agencies is to protect the United States from its enemies. They constitute one leg in our military-diplomatic-intelligence national security apparatus. The patriotic and apolitical professionals who collect the secrets and fight the shadow wars to keep this country safe deserve our respect and support, especially as our political leadership fails us.

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Peter Greene Reviews Performance of DeVos as “Mom with an Axe”

Peter Greene watched the first full performance of Betsy DeVos playing the role of Secretary of Education and characterizes her “mom with an axe.”

The first thing he notices is the DeVos Look, which he calls “church lady smirk….like it amuses her to imagine that all those Lessers are just having fits that she is this amazing. It is the look for which ‘supercilious’ was coined, and it’s not a good look on anyone, let alone a starched white heiress. Her Trump-approved minder should really help her with that.”

She pushes the idea that while other people believe in institutions and buildings, she believes in children! Got that, you building-huggers? Anyone who disagrees with her is promoting adult concerns, while she on the other hand, cares for children, in her selfless way. If only everyone chooses, without any regulation or oversight, everything will turn out for the best. It worked for her.

It won’t do to fix the schools we have, because Obama tried, he failed, and there’s no point throwing money at them. Ah, says Peter, strange to hear from a woman who throws millions at the schools and causes she does like.

When she and Whitehurst get to the question and answer, he asks some normal questions like, how do you measure the success of your policy of full frontal choice, and she coyly responds that she is not “a numbers person.” As long as parents have many choices, and they are free to choose, things will go swimmingly. Whitehurst asks, but what if academic outcomes get worse under your plan, and she answers, things are so terrible now that they can’t get worse.

Now, questions from the audience. Won’t unfettered choice promote segregation? Answer, of course not. Question, what if parents make bad choices, doesn’t the government have a role to protect them? Answer, parents don’t make bad choices. The free market always works. If parents choose a school, it must be good.

“This is another DeVosian mystery– the implication that public schools are operated by a bunch of lying liars, but charter and private school operators are somehow more virtuous? Or is the belief here that the Free Market somehow forces people to be honest or else they’ll be deselected. Does she believe that people won’t choose you if you’re a big fat liar, because I’m pretty sure DeVos is serving at the pleasure of the living embodiment, the walking proof that lying can actually be a great way to succeed in the Free Market.”

Performance over, curtain falls.

Something tells me this line of thought–if that’s what it is–will be repeated again and again, with an occasional new anecdote about a student who was saved by a voucher or whose life was blighted by a terrible public school.

As the Warner Brothers cartoon series “Looney Tunes” used to say at the end, “That’s all there is, folks.” Was that Daffy Duck or Porky Pig or Bugs Bunny?

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Quick Takes: No Woman Allowed

* You might remember that during the Republican negotiations over excluding things like maternity care from the essential benefits required under Obamacare, this picture surfaced of a group of white men at the table making that call.

Appreciated joining @POTUS for meeting with the Freedom Caucus again today. This is it. #PassTheBill

— Vice President Pence (@VP) March 23, 2017

But according to Sarah Mimms, some Republican legislators have another way of excluding women from the conversation.

It’s no secret that Congress is dominated by men, but as women work to make inroads in the congressional boys club, some female staffers face a huge impediment to moving up: They’re not allowed to spend one-on-one time with their male bosses.

In an anonymous survey of female staffers conducted by National Journal in order to gather information on the difficulties they face in a male-dominated industry, several female aides reported that they have been barred from staffing their male bosses at evening events, driving alone with their congressman or senator, or even sitting down one-on-one in his office for fear that others would get the wrong impression.

Apparently VP Pence is one of those politicians who excludes women.

VP Mike Pence’s ‘conservative Christian’ faith is the explanation given for why he won’t be in a room alone with a female who’s not his wife

— Xeni Jardin (@xeni) March 29, 2017

I’m going to give Mrs. Betty Bowers the last word on this.

Mike Pence won’t eat with women who aren’t his wife? Funny, I thought Trump fans were against the encroachment of #Sharia law in America.

— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@BettyBowers) March 30, 2017

* I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that this policy lines up with exactly what Vladimir Putin wants.

The United States is no longer making removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a focus of its policy in the war-torn country, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Thursday.

“Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out,” Ambassador Nikki Haley told a small group of reporters.

* I included this in an update earlier. But just in case you missed it, here is another example of Trump abandoning his so-called “populism.”

The Trump administration is signaling to Congress it would seek mostly modest changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement in upcoming negotiations with Mexico and Canada, a deal President Donald Trump called a “disaster” during the campaign…

…Jeffrey Schott, a trade scholar at the Peterson Institute for International Economics…noted that a number of the proposed negotiating objectives echo provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade pact among Pacific Rim countries. Mr. Trump campaigned heavily against the TPP.

* Of all the nutty ideas Republicans have come up with, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) might have come up with the nuttiest. He could have called it the “Let’s tax illegal immigrants to pay for Trump’s border wall” bill. Here’s how he describes it on his web page:

Remittances, or wire transfers, are commonly used by illegal immigrants to move money from the US to their home countries…

“In order to jumpstart the funding of the wall, I have introduced a bill to impose a 2% fee on remittances sent south of the border. This bill is simple – anyone who sends their money to countries that benefit from our porous borders and illegal immigration should be responsible for providing some of the funds needed to complete the wall. This bill keeps money in the American economy, and most importantly, it creates a funding stream to build the wall,” Rogers said.

* Finally, this is what I call a “slick burn.”

BREAKING: Trump announces that as soon as he’s done bringing coal jobs back, he plans to get Fotomat workers back to developing film.

— Dab Aggin (@DabAggin) March 30, 2017

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Why Did Russia Hack the Voter Rolls?

You might remember that early on when the story of Russian hacking initially broke, a big concern of the Obama administration was that they were caught hacking voter rolls. The concern was that they would try to tamper with the tallies. But according to the intelligence community, that didn’t happen.

So why did they do it in the first place? Paul Wood might have come up with the answer.

“This is a three-headed operation,” said one former official, setting out the case, based on the intelligence: Firstly, hackers steal damaging emails from senior Democrats. Secondly, the stories based on this hacked information appear on Twitter and Facebook, posted by thousands of automated “bots”, then on Russia’s English-language outlets, RT and Sputnik, then right-wing US “news” sites such as Infowars and Breitbart, then Fox and the mainstream media. Thirdly, Russia downloads the online voter rolls.

The voter rolls are said to fit into this because of “microtargeting”. Using email, Facebook and Twitter, political advertising can be tailored very precisely: individual messaging for individual voters.

“You are stealing the stuff and pushing it back into the US body politic,” said the former official, “you know where to target that stuff when you’re pushing it back.”

This would take co-operation with the Trump campaign, it is claimed.

Of course the last sentence is critical. It ties in to the testimony today of former FBI special agent Clint Watts who discussed Russia’s “active measures,” a technique “dating back to the days of the KGB and the Cold War of dispensing disinformation and propaganda in order to influence events within another country, particularly the United States.” Watts said that the reason Putin’s efforts were so prevalent and effective in the 2016 presidential election is simple – because “the Commander-in-Chief has used Russian active measures at times, against his opponents.”

Strong testimony by Clinton Watts about President Trump during the Senate’s Russia hearing. @selectedwisdom

— Daniel Lewis (@DanielLewisCNN) March 30, 2017

The distinction between what Wood reported and Watts testified is the one remaining question. It would be one thing for Trump and his associates to pick up on Russian active measures via social media and simply pass them along. But if hacked voter rolls were used in cooperation with the Trump campaign to target active measures to individual voters, we’ve reached the bar of a “high crime or misdemeanor.”

UPDATE: This questioning from Sen. Mark Warner today indicates that he might be thinking along these lines.

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How Trump’s Decision to Overrule His Appointees Is Blowing up in His Face

Well, stab me in the eye with a fork, imagine what I thought when I learned that Ezra Cohen-Watnick was one of the sources that House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes surreptitiously met with at the White House. I knew I remembered the name, and I only had to travel a little more than two weeks into the past to refresh my recollection.

President Donald Trump has overruled a decision by his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, to sideline a key intelligence operative who fell out of favor with some at the Central Intelligence Agency, two sources told POLITICO.

On Friday, McMaster told the National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence programs, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, that he would be moved to another position in the organization.

The conversation followed weeks of pressure from career officials at the CIA who had expressed reservations about the 30-year-old intelligence operative and pushed for his ouster.

But Cohen-Watnick appealed McMaster’s decision to two influential allies with whom he had forged a relationship while working on Trump’s transition team — White House advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. They brought the matter to Trump on Sunday, and the president agreed that Cohen-Watnick should remain as the NSC’s intelligence director, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.

The career professionals at the Central Intelligence Agency seem to have a lot of reservations about Team Trump, and now we can begin to see some of the reasons why. It’s also no coincidence that Devin Nunes shows up in that article about Cohen-Watnick. He’s there to bolster the case that the CIA only went after Michael Flynn and his allies, Robin Townley and Cohen-Watnick, to protect their own turf, rather than because Flynn has been the subject of a counterintelligence investigation since last July.

This isn’t just long-time intelligence officers who are grumpy about being criticized. The Washington Post reported that McMaster decided to remove Cohen-Watnick at the request of Trump’s hand-picked CIA director:

McMaster had been told by CIA Director Mike Pompeo that some intelligence officials had problems with Cohen-Watnick and didn’t think he was up to the job, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter. The intelligence director provides White House interface with the intelligence community and is a filter for information to the president.

So, Cohen-Watnick stayed in place because of the intervention of Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, and then he promptly decided to use his position to create a scandal for the White House by inviting the House Intelligence chairman to visit the White House in the dead of night after switching cars and ditching his aides.

And then he let the White House and Nunes lied like hell about it:

Nunes had previously denied this, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had cast scorn on the allegation.

Last week, Nunes went to the White House grounds and reviewed intelligence documents with a source. Though he and his spokesman repeatedly vowed to never reveal any information about his source, he apparently told Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) that the information came from a “whistleblower-type person” and told Bloomberg’s Eli Lake that the source was an intelligence official but not a White House staffer. Nunes also claimed that no one at the White House knew he was there — a claim that would require shocking ineptitude on the part of the Secret Service team that clears all visits to the grounds before guests can enter.

Spicer also mocked the notion that the White House had provided the information — which Nunes then presented to President Trump before even alerting his committee.

“I don’t know what he actually briefed the president on, but I don’t know why he would come up to brief the president on something that we gave him,” Spicer told the press corp last week. “That doesn’t really seem to make a ton of sense.”

Obviously, Spicer didn’t understand the plan. Nunes was given this information, but it was never supposed to be revealed that he got it from Bannon and Kushner’s toy poodle senior director for intelligence programs on the National Security Council. Nunes even, apparently, lied to Speaker Paul Ryan about the source of his information.

I don’t know if you watch cable news, but it’s chock full of former CIA officers who are braying for blood over the whole Russian connection to the Trump administration, and also about how Nunes is handling the investigation. What we should be concerned about is whether their near-hysteria is justified or not.

When it came to Cohen-Watnick, their concern was obviously well-placed regardless of your perspective. From the Trump team’s perspective, he was a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode in their faces. From an ordinary person’s perspective, he just compromised a congressional investigation.

Cohen-Watnick worked under Michael Flynn at the Defense Intelligence Agency (before Flynn was fired and flew the coup for Moscow) and Cohen-Watnick was personally recruited by Flynn to work on the National Security Council. When Flynn turned out to be a disaster, it should have surprised no one that one of his top recruits would meet the same end.

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DeVos Thinks She is Promoting the “Common Good” by Attacking Public Schools

I am writing this post for the journalists who cover education. Please fact-check every word that DeVos says. She literally doesn’t know what she is talking about.

This is the New York Times’ report on Betsy DeVos‘ press conference at Brookings.

She claims that the Bush-Obama policies of test-and-punish failed because throwing money at the problem doesn’t work. Any teacher could have told you that NCLB and Race to the Top were failures, not because they threw money at the problems, but because they spent money on failed strategies of high-stakes testing, evaluating teachers by test scores, closing schools, and opening charters.

She is so ill-informed that she would be well advised never to speak in public.

Her comparison of selecting a public school to hailing a taxi is offensive: schooling is a right guaranteed in state constitutions, taking a cab or car service is a consumer choice. She was echoing her mentor Jeb Bush, who compared choosing a school to buying a carton of milk, when he addressed the GOP convention in 2012.

As you will see if you read the account in the story, she has the unmitigated gall to say that her crusade for consumer choice in education–whether charters, vouchers, homeschooling, cyberschooling, whatever–serves the “common good.” What an outrage! Providing a high-quality public school,in every zip code serves the common good. Tossing kids to the vagaries of the free market subverts the common good. Anyone who has been reading this blog for any period of time has learned about the entrepreneurs who open charter schools to make money, about the sham real estate deals, about the voucher schools that teach science from the Bible, about the heightened segregation that always accompanies school choice. Wherever George Wallace and his fellow defenders of racial segregation are, they are rooting for DeVos.

Furthermore, she is utterly ignorant of the large body of research showing that charters do not get better results than public schools, voucher schools get worse results, and cybercharters get abysmal results.

Then she makes a crack about how America’s scores on international couldn’t get worse. She is wrong, and Grover Whitehurst should have told her so. Our scores on the international tests have never been high. Over the past Hal century, we have usually scored in the middle of the pack. Yes, our scores could get much worse. We could follow the Swedish free-market model and see our scores tumble.

Grrr. It is frustrating to see this kind of ignorance expressed by the Secretary of Education, although Arne Duncan should have lowered our expectations.

Please read “Reign of Error” and learn that test scores are the highest ever for whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians (although they went flat from 2013-2015, probably in response to the disruptions caused by Common Core); graduation rates are the highest ever; dropout rates are the lowest ever. When our students took the first international test in 1964, we came in last in one grade, and next to last in the other. But in the years since, our economy has surpassed all the other nations with higher scores. The test scores of 15-year-olds do not predict the future of the nation.

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The 25th Amendment is Not a Fantasy

I enjoyed reading Jeff Greenfield’s little history of the 25th Amendment, but his editor should have told him that the fact that in 1970 Richard Nixon “was often abusing alcohol and prescription drugs, leading to stretches of incoherence and irrationality” didn’t exactly distinguish him from other politicians or businessmen of the time. If we didn’t live through it, we’ve surely seen a few episodes of Mad Men. In any case, you can listen to the White House tapes of Nixon having conversations with Henry Kissinger and his top aides, Erlichman, Haldeman, Colson, and Dean. They were a den of amoral scoundrels, but they didn’t appear to be high out of their tree. Other than occasional glitches, especially once he knew his presidency was doomed, Nixon’s problem wasn’t incapacity.

For Greenfield, the arguments against removing Trump from power using the 25th Amendment are threefold. First, there’s the aforementioned case that we’ve allowed incapacitated presidents to serve before so what’s the problem with letting Trump serve now?

The second is that the 25th Amendment wasn’t enacted for the purpose of removing a president so much as it was enacted to help select a vice-president when a vacancy occurs. This obviously happened when Agnew had to resign and also when Ford became president. This part of his argument isn’t persuasive because it doesn’t matter what an amendment was primarily meant to address so long as the amendment also addresses what we’re concerned with here, which is a Birther president who is manifestly unfit to safely run our government and handle things like a looming crisis on the Korean peninsula.

The third is that, well, it won’t happen so why talk about it?

The notion that Pence and a Cabinet majority will look at Trump’s next tweets or telephonic fulminations and decide he’s not fit for the job is beyond absurdity.

On this last point, I am not going to argue as a predictive analyst that Greenfield is wrong. If you want to place bets, I’d advise you to listen to Greenfield on this subject. On the other hand, the central thing that is absurd is that Donald Trump is the president of the United States. It is a full blown crisis. You can go around pretending that Trump is fully dressed if you want, but he’s not. If you discovered that your child’s school bus driver had taken to wearing a blindfold, you wouldn’t say that it’s absurd to have him removed from his job. And if he managed to successfully navigate the bus route for a few days despite his self-imposed disability, your comfort level would not grow.

The people who are most acutely aware of Trump’s mental deficiencies and titanic character flaws are those who have to deal with him every day, and they’re the only ones who can conceivably go to a Republican Congress and convince them that it’s just not safe to leave Trump behind the wheel.

Trump’s tweets are only a small part of the problem, but they’ve already caused problems with allies like Australia, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom. His policies and offhand remarks have created unnecessary tensions in places as diverse as Taiwan and Iraq.

So, the solitary point here is that the 25th Amendment is an option and the members of Trump’s cabinet can’t pretend that they don’t have ability to do something to save the country. They have the tool they need, and if the majority of Trump’s cabinet ever goes to Congress and tells them that the president isn’t fit to serve, they’ll only be telling Congress what the Democrats, the Intelligence Community, our allies, and every newspaper editorial board in the country has been telling them.

If they were ever to take that step, they’d have massive support. And, I believe, if James Mattis and a majority of the cabinet went to the Republicans in Congress and said that Trump cannot continue to be our president, that they’d have to listen.

In any case, they’d be much more likely to respond to an invocation of the 25th Amendment than they would be to impeach and convict the president on their own initiative.

This isn’t about what is likely to happen, or some fantasy. The fantasy is that Trump will become saner and more stable, or that he’ll somehow grow into the job.

To be clear, I’m not saying Trump has reached a tipping point yet where his cabinet should feel fully justified in removing him from power. I’m saying that that point will surely come, and his cabinet should be high alert to assure that we’re not having a nuclear exchange near Seoul before they’ve decided to act.

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