Just How Insecure is Donald Trump?

It’s a busy Sunday holiday morning here in the Atkins household, so apologies in advance for a brief return to the informal blog stylings of olden days, but this needs to said:

Just how insecure is the man in the Oval Office? First he fires Mattis early in a fit of pique:

President Trump, who aides said has been seething about news coverage of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s scathing resignation letter, abruptly announced Sunday that he was removing Mattis two months before his planned departure and installing Patrick Shanahan as acting defense secretary.

Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who has been Mattis’s deputy at the Pentagon, will assume the top job on an acting capacity beginning Jan. 1, Trump said. The president made the decision hastily in reaction to negative news coverage, according to senior administration officials, one of whom said Trump was eager to retaliate against Mattis and show up the widely respected former general.

Unlike Mattis, Shanahan has not served in the military and has little foreign policy or government experience. Trump plans to conduct a wide-ranging search for a permanent replacement and is interested in candidates from outside the administration, one official said.

Then he tries to humiliate Bob Corker on Twitter for having the gall to offend him:

We can argue to the end of time about the relative merits of staying or leaving in Syria and Afghanistan. But what isn’t in question is that the way Trump is going about it is ill-considered, offensive to almost everyone and leaving allies stranded with no recourse. It also looks to all the world like Trump is handing gift-wrapped presents to Erdogan and Putin without a coherent plan for preventing genocide and calamity from befalling the Kurds, the Hazara and other minority groups in the region.

It’s OK to buck conventional wisdom for the right reasons. But it’s important if you do so to be gracious and appreciative but firm. It’s also important to be as transparent as possible in explaining the reasons for your actions, and to address the concerns that others express. At no point has Trump explained how the Kurds would be protected, or how we would ensure that the Taliban do not overrun Kabul. These things are important, even if the goal of withdrawing military forces from the region is a good one.

Instead of being the bigger man (to use slightly sexist parlance), Trump is proving himself an insecure weakling and coward: lashing out at his subordinates, bullying Senators, refusing to explain his decision process, refusing to address the serious concerns raised, and appearing mercurial at best in his decisions.

The White House appears to be unraveling from all sides. That’s one thing for the country to deal with as a matter of domestic political turmoil. But it’s quite another when an intemperate and insecure commander-in-chief is making dramatic and enormously consequential decisions for what can only be assumed to be the worst of reasons.

 

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David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.