It is worth remembering, however, that the former adults in the room attempted the same gambit. Kelly, Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster all tried to split the difference rather than confront Trump. The president eventually ejected all of them except for Mattis, who ejected himself. Their efforts ranged from abject failure (Tillerson) to modest but temporary success (Mattis).
This week will present some intriguing tests for this new crew, because there are twin challenges coming in which Trump seems to want to declare a Potemkin victory and his advisers do not.
Trump is in Vietnam for his second summit with Kim Jong Un and seems way more enthusiastic about it than anyone else in the administration. Indeed, Politico’s Eliana Johnson reports that Trump’s top advisers worry “that Trump, eager to declare victory on the world stage, could make big concessions in exchange for empty promises of denuclearization.” At the same time, the March 1 deadline for trade negotiations with China was approaching, until Trump extended the deadline. The Wall Street Journal’s Bob Davis, Alex Leary, and Lingling Wei report that Trump, spooked by the stock market’s gyrations in response to trade tensions, wants a deal, any deal. His more hawkish China advisers do not.