Monday, October 09, 2017


The president of the United States is a spoiled child, but you can't discipline him or compel him to behave, so what can you do? According to Politico, what you can do is this:
White House aides lean on delays and distraction to manage Trump

As White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus mused to associates that telling President Donald Trump no was usually not an effective strategy. Telling him “next week” was often the better idea.

Trump would impulsively want to fire someone like attorney general Jeff Sessions, create a new wide–ranging policy with far–flung implications like increasing tariffs on Chinese steel imports or end a decades–old deal like the North American Free Trade Agreement. Enraged with a TV segment or frustrated after a meandering meeting, the president would order it done immediately.

Delaying the decision would give Priebus and others a chance to change his mind or bring in advisers to speak with Trump – and in some cases, to ensure Trump would drop the idea altogether and move on....

Trump, several advisers and aides said, sometimes comes into the Oval Office worked into a lather from talking to friends or watching TV coverage in the morning. Sometimes, a side conversation with an aide like Stephen Miller on immigration or a TV host like Sean Hannity would set him off.

Then, staffers would step in to avert a rash decision by calming him down. At times, new information would be shared, like charts on how farmers might feel about ending the North American Free Trade Agreement – or how his base might react negatively to an idea, like the verbal deal he struck with Democrats on immigration last month.

In the first stretches of the administration, aides would ask outside figures to intervene with Trump.

Among those sometimes engaged: business figures Steven Schwarzman, Tom Barrack, Richard LeFrak or politicians he respects like Corker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, among others. One outside adviser said White House aides had called him on at least five occasions to intervene.
This is frightening. The president can barely be contained, and he has the nuclear launch codes. We're regularly told that he alone decides whether a nuclear strike is launched:
There is no failsafe. The whole point of U.S. nuclear weapons control is to make sure that the president — and only the president — can use them if and whenever he decides to do so. The one sure way to keep President Trump from launching a nuclear attack, under the system we’ve had in place since the early Cold War, would have been to elect someone else.
The procedure for ordering a nuclear attack involves more than one person: The president cannot literally press a button on his desk and start World War III. There is no “nuclear button” at all. Instead, the U.S. nuclear command-and-control system is bureaucratically and technically complex, stretching out to encompass land-based missile silos, submarine-based ballistic and cruise missiles, and weapons capable of being dropped from bombers. The chain of command as widely understood requires that the president order the secretary of defense to carry out a launch; the secretary serves as the conduit for implementation by the military.
I think Trump hasn't dropped the big one yet only because he's been talked out of doing so. I don't know whether that will continue to work. The publication of the Politico article, assuming he ever finds out about it, may tip him to the ways he's being manipulated, which may make those tricks less effective.

And then what? What if he decides to nuke Pyongyang -- or Chappaqua, for that matter -- and he can't be dissuaded?

I suspect that at least some in the chain of command would refuse to carry out truly ill-advised orders and would resign. This might not stop Trump -- it might only slow him down until someone was found who was willing to do as he ordered. Or he might want to avoid a spate of resignations and be persuaded to climb down. We can only hope.

In any case, if it's an open secret in Washington -- and even in the White House -- that Trump is a dangerous menace who must be contained, I assume there's a plan to prevent him from going nuclear in a fit of pique. At least I hope so.

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