Let us spare a thought for the poor, overwhelmed minders whose job it is to protect President Trump from himself. As we saw once again this week, it is nearly an impossible task, like getting a 2-year-old through a nine-hour plane flight without tantrums. During a breakfast for NATO leaders last week (see Controversy), a visibly disgusted Chief of Staff John Kelly turned his head away and looked as if he’d swallowed a live, flapping bird as his boss berated Germany for allegedly being “totally controlled by Russia.” (Pot, meet kettle.) In Helsinki, Dan Coats, Trump’s director of national intelligence, was so horrified by Trump’s submission to Putin (see Main Stories), he felt obliged to say Russia did too engage in “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton—who reportedly had urged Trump to be “tough” on Putin—fled Finland in mortified silence.
Why don’t they resign? Why did Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohen all put up with being undermined, insulted, and ignored until Trump—irritated with their incomplete submission—sent them packing? After Helsinki, there were calls for Coats, Pompeo, Kelly, and others to quit, so as to halt their “enabling” of Trump. In The Washington Post, Fred Hiatt voices an alternative view: “The adults in the room” who serve this president do so out of real fear, hoping to protect our country from his worst impulses. “Things could be worse,” Hiatt notes. Without the resistance of advisers like Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Trump might have formally withdrawn from NATO, and approved his pal Putin’s seizure of Crimea. Who knows? Perhaps he would have extradited Robert Mueller to Moscow. We won’t know what the nanny Cabinet has stopped their unruly charge from doing, until they go on to their reward—fat book contracts for telling stories that will curl everyone’s hair.