“A Bull in a China Shop”: Anonymous White House Officials Versus Trump's Power

AIDAN MCDONALD: Just a year ago last month, an anonymous Trump official penned the now infamous “resistance” op-ed. Back then, as news media reported accounts of an impetuous Trump White House struggling to cope with the ongoing Mueller investigation, the official wrote to assure us there were “adults in the room,” working “diligently from within to frustrate parts of [Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations.”

Two weeks ago, more than a year after the original op-ed, the same anonymous official announced he or she would be publishing a new book detailing a “behind-the-scenes portrait” of the Trump administration. Now, in the midst of an entirely new scandal, the breakdown of U.S. foreign policy in parts of the Middle East, and public support for the impeachment inquiry at a record high 55 percent, some choose to once again place trust in things not seen, waiting in anticipation to hear that those adults are still waging their quiet war.

They shouldn’t. And we shouldn’t. Because if the year since our “unsung hero” sought to calm our nerves has taught us anything, it’s that the adults can’t stop Trump’s most destructive impulses. Here’s what I mean:

After last year’s revelations, we were led to believe that Trump’s tantrums and rhetoric could be confined to the surface, and that actual policy is guided by another standard, by those who ruled with a steadier hand.

Since then, Trump assigned diplomatic powers to his personal attorney, used the power of the Executive Branch to pressure foreign governments to investigate his political challengers, and further divided our country with Trumpian spin for his own political survival.

A single man, with a single unsupervised, ill-intentioned plan, corrupted U.S. foreign policy and once again signaled to the world that the U.S. welcomes foreign interference in our elections.

More recently, in early October, Trump fundamentally altered U.S. global character by betraying our Kurdish allies, making clear in no uncertain terms that we as a country and an ally are not to be trusted. Meanwhile, he ceded regional power to strongmen and known human rights abusers Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A single man, with a single arbitrary, uninformed decision, endangered thousands of lives and recklessly undermined American legitimacy abroad.

No matter how much we hope and pray, Trump is in a position of power far above what we once fantasized could be controlled by these clandestine do-gooders. So much of what he does cannot be protected against, and it is undermining our democratic institutions every single day.

It’s sort of like that old simile, he’s “like a bull in a china shop.” No matter how many rodeo clowns we throw into the White House, every turn the bull makes is inevitably going to send some porcelain flying. The best we had once hoped for was that a few clowns could distract and confine him.

But now, the bull’s invited a Ukrainian Grey Cattle into the shop, and is holding the door open for a Chinese Water Buffalo to charge the saucers aisle. And for some reason, President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani got in and is just throwing cutlery against the ceiling while “butt-dialing” reporters and yelling about Chris Cuomo. It’s a confusing time. But such is the state of the country’s politics, and such is the state of Mr. Giuliani’s headspace: feeble, but sure as hell angry.

It’s understandable that we like to imagine someone behind the curtain, protecting our country at all times. But we’ve got to accept that the office of the presidency has more direct control than can be safeguarded by a gallant official here or there, and that even the hastiest of Trump’s decisions can have an immediate and irreparable impact on our country. If our democratic institutions are to best serve the people, then we need to entrust them to those who will respect and protect them in the first place, not open the gates to bovine and pray the shop’s left the same way it was when they first walked in.

To be clear, I don’t mean to say that “adults” don’t matter: they absolutely do. And we should be thankful for the information they provide and the innumerable scandals and black spots in history that they might continue to prevent.

But if we turn to them in hopes of stopping the most catastrophic of the Trump scandals, it’s best to break out the broom and dustpan and prepare to pick up some ceramic.

Aidan McDonaldf is a senior in the College from Massachusetts studying government and history. He writes for On the Record as a guest contributor.

Marie Swain