Will Trump’s Team Rein In His Worst Instincts?

Trump does not seem prepared for many future responsibilities.

A couple of months ago I tried to calm my nerves a bit by verbalizing what I thought was the most dangerous part of a Trump presidency…the unknown.

The question of character loomed large in the 2016 presidential election and the country elected the man who is unfit for office. Trump demonstrated that he is a narcissist who doesn’t really care to inform himself about facts and has no attention span for subjects when he isn’t the center of attention. He also showed himself to be a bully who assesses any threat as a question of dominating or being dominated. He harbors authoritarian instincts – as he demonstrated in the world leaders he admires.

It is the moment when the unknown happens during the next four years that Trump’s character will be on display the most. That is why it is the part of his presidency that worries me the most.

It actually helped a bit to bring that one out of the shadows and expose it to the light of day. But now Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, has stirred it all up again with this comment to Michael Crowley.

What concerns me is the things that happen every week. I don’t think people realize how many decisions the president of the United States makes about military action. The Iranians harass some vessel of ours in the Persian Gulf: What do we do in response? There’s shelling around our diplomatic facility in X Middle Eastern country. The Chinese pass too close for comfort by a U.S. Navy ship in the South China Sea. These decisions come all the time, and they’re going to come from Day One. I would be more focused on that. Because a dust-up with the Iranians or the Chinese could get out of hand very fast.

Add that to this news from Mark Landler:

The Obama administration has written 275 briefing papers for the incoming Trump administration: nearly 1,000 pages of classified material on North Korea’s nuclear program, the military campaign against the Islamic State, tensions in the South China Sea, and every other kind of threat the new team could face in its first weeks in office.

Nobody in the current administration knows whether anyone in the next has read any of it.

Less than three days before President Obama turns the keys to the White House, and the nuclear codes, over to President-elect Donald J. Trump, Mr. Trump’s transition staff has barely engaged with the National Security Council below the most senior levels…

But the chronic upheaval in Mr. Trump’s transition, a delay in appointing senior National Security Council staff members, and a dearth of people with security clearances have deprived the Trump team of weeks of prep work on some of the most complex national security issues facing the country.

The best that we can hope for in the immediate future is that nothing challenging happens until a Trump team gets up to speed. From there, we’ll have to put our confidence in the possibility that the president-elect surrounds himself with people who will rein in his worst instincts. That is a very narrow opening from which to gain much assurance.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.