Donald Trump’s presidency is slipping deeper into a crisis of authority at a critical moment.Midterm elections are looming, he’s facing new questions about his fitness for office, and he’s hunting a hidden rebel within his own camp.
Typifying the sense that what would once seem absurd now counts for normality in this White House, Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday offered to take a lie detector test to prove he was not the author of an op-ed by an anonymous senior official in The New York Times that assailed Trump for “half baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless” leadership.
Pence and the President’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, tried to put the spotlight on the motives of the anonymous official, warning that there could be “criminal” dimensions to the op-ed, boosting Trump’s calls for a Justice Department investigation.
But the controversy is unlikely to ease in the week ahead. Bob Woodward’s new book — which, combined with the op-ed, sent the White House reeling — is due to be published on Tuesday, and the veteran journalist is promoting his damning account of the President’s leadership.
“People better wake up to what’s going on,” Woodward said on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” while touting “Fear: Trump in the White House” as a detailed inside account that mirrors the op-ed’s claims that a group of senior officials is working to save the nation and the world from Trump’s rash decisions.
If the version of events revealed by Woodward and the anonymous official is true, America is facing a deeply dysfunctional presidency and crisis of governance with no parallel in modern history, apart, perhaps, from the paranoid final days of the Nixon administration.
According to these accounts, the President of the United States would appear to be deeply unsuited to his responsibilities, uninterested in the details of policy, lacking knowledge, and in the words of the anonymous senior official, “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.”
Such a state of affairs would leave the country with a leadership void in the Oval Office and compromise the effectiveness of government. It would also tarnish America’s image in the world and could offer openings to adversaries if the White House is constantly distracted.