What Corker said should have Trump quaking in his boots
Senator Bob Corker (R-TX) is one of the most powerful people on Capitol Hill – arguable more powerful than inept Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Corker chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which means he has, among other powers, huge say over who would run US foreign policy should Secetary of State Rex Tillerson quit or be fired.
The last 24 hours have been among the most eventful in the career of Corker, who announced that hewill not run for reelection next year. In the early hours of the morning, bullying real estate mogul Donald Trump decided to pick a fight with Corker on Twitter. It backfired in spectacular fashion. Sometime thereafter, Corker spoke at length with The New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman in an interview which may be remembered as one of the most politically consequential of Trump’s sputtering misadministration.
Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”
In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”
“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”
[T]he [Sunday Twitter] exchange [between Trump and Corker] laid bare a deeper rift: The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business.
“I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.
The senator, who is close to Mr. Tillerson, invoked comments that the president made on Twitter last weekend in which he appeared to undercut Mr. Tillerson’s negotiations with North Korea.
“A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true,” Mr. Corker said.
Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” Mr. Corker said.
“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”
As for the tweets that set off the feud on Sunday morning, Mr. Corker expressed a measure of powerlessness.
“I don’t know why the president tweets out things that are not true,” he said. “You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does.”
“I don’t think he appreciates that when the president of the United States speaks and says the things that he does, the impact that it has around the world, especially in the region that he’s addressing,” he said. “And so, yeah, it’s concerning to me.”
The Washington Post‘s James Hohmann listed five reasons Trump is an Oval Office failure, all of which are reflected in Corker’s interview:
- Trump is unserious about passing legislation.
- Trump has alienated several Senate Republicans that he needs more than they need him.
- Trump cares more about showmanship than statesmanship.
- Trump still does not understand how government works.
- Trump’s credibility is shot in Washington.
Additionally, Corker’s comments to Haberman are without precedent since the Watergate era. It’s been nearly half a century since a Republican in either house of Congress so thoroughly criticized a sitting president of their own party. Keep in mind that Haberman observed that Corker was “speaking carefully and purposefully,” as would any skilled top-rank politician. That factor makes it all the more significant that key members of the chattering class, including Michael Smerconish – one of the most prominent figures in the sane wing of conservative punditerati – said this this morning:
“This is a top Republican who is unplugged now and saying things that people have only said off the record or whispered about in the halls of Congress,” [CNN New Day co-host and former FOX News journo Alyson] Camerota said.
Daily Beast editor John Avlon agreed, saying that Corker is using “drop the mic” terms to describe Corker’s honesty.
“This is the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Avlon continued. “When he said that President Trump is courting World War III and the White House is an adult daycare center and every day is an exercise in containment because the president treats it like a reality show — that’s not a Democrat playing partisan politics to criticize the president.”
“The lawyer in me hears something different. I’m thinking of the 25th Amendment, Section 4, which speaks to a president who is unable to discharge the powers of duties of his office,” [CNN host Michael] Smerconish said. “Let’s just reflect on some of the word choices that senator made. Post-Charlottesville, he was questioning the stability of the president. Now he’s using the word ‘reckless, chaos.’ Now he is saying ‘he concerns me.’ I think he’s planting seeds for questioning the fitness, the mental fitness of the president pursuant to the 25th Amendment to continue with his responsibilities.”
It would take a majority vote of the Cabinet to declare Trump unfit to serve under the present structure of the 25th Amendment. And it would not surprise us at this juncture if that happens.