John Kerry on NYT op-ed: What it means is that we don't have a president right now

My gut reaction to any Kerry pronouncement, particularly one that takes a dig at the GOP leadership, is eye-rolling skepticism. But this is what the op-ed and the Woodward book amount to, no? If advisors like Gary Cohn are stealing documents off Trump’s desk because they know better on trade, if deputies like Mattis are ignoring orders to take out Assad because they know better on foreign policy, if unknown aides are admitting in the pages of the Times that many Trump staffers are working to undermine him because they know better on everything…

…then in what meaningful way do we have a president? If he can’t impose his will on his own branch of government, then what’s the difference between a government run by a technocratic junta and what we have now? There’s a reason people across the political spectrum were using the word “coup” yesterday after the op-ed appeared.

Although to lefties, of course, the main knock on the junta is that they haven’t done enough to restrain him. Republicans are collaborators, they insist, not resisters.

If we’re going to have a coup, says David Frum, the plotters have a legal and moral duty to be above board about it and accept the consequences:

If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand. That duty may be risky to their careers in government or afterward. But on their first day at work, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution—and there were no “riskiness” exemptions in the text of that oath…

What happens the next time a staffer seeks to dissuade the president from, say, purging the Justice Department to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation? The author of the Times op-ed has explicitly told the president that those who offer such advice do not have the president’s best interests at heart and are, in fact, actively subverting his best interests as he understands them on behalf of ideas of their own…

Speak in your own name. Resign in a way that will count. Present the evidence that will justify an invocation of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, or an impeachment, or at the very least, the first necessary step toward either outcome, a Democratic Congress after the November elections.

Transparency in government is always better, although … I’m not sure how mass resignations “in a way that will count” would actually count. Let’s say Mattis, Kelly, Nielsen, and a bunch of others all quit in protest along the same lines as the NYT op-ed. Trump doesn’t know the issues, Trump has terrible, destructive impulses, etc. They all quit. Then what? We invoke the 25th Amendment on grounds of “terrible judgment”? Senate Republicans vote to remove him because John Kelly thinks he’s a crank? Not gonna work.

What we’d be left with is a president essentially left alone, without professional input, with a bunch of key department vacancies and his own party in the Senate skeptical of his intentions. What’s the “good” outcome in that scenario? Inevitably you’ll get Trump acting autocratically, on instinct — which is exactly what Mattis, Kelly and the rest fear and why they haven’t resigned, no matter how many times they’ve been tempted. They’ve gamed this out already. With no grounds to remove the president (yet?), the least dangerous option is to stay put, keep their mouths more or less shut, and do what they can do to maintain some semblance of normalcy. The choice to them isn’t between having a president and no president. It’s between having a dangerous president and no president. They’ve chosen the latter. And that’s what we’ll have until Trump starts firing people.