Being ‘unpresidential’ is not grounds to remove Trump

As prominent Republicans fret over Donald Trump’s “unpresidential” behavior, that broad and undefined sentiment was aptly summed up by GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who lamented that the White House has become “an adult day care center.”

In response to a fresh outburst from the president, Corker added mischievously, “Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.” The obvious reference is to the impression that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly is obliged almost daily to save the president from his own impulsive and habitually childish comments, which often imperil national security.

The Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who recently announced he will not seek re-election next year, made clear that he believes Trump has neither “the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

Not surprisingly, Corker, once mentioned as a possible secretary of state in the Trump cabinet, invited a slashing tweet from the president. He charged that the Tennessean in 2016 had “begged” him for his endorsement for the Senate but hadn’t gotten it, despite endorsing Trump for the Oval Office. And now, Trump wrote, Corker “didn’t have the guts” to seek re-election. The GOP senator’s crack about the White House day care center followed speculation that Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, all former military generals, were aboard as seasoned veterans to corral Trump’s erratic excesses.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a longtime CEO of the ExxonMobil oil dynasty, was likewise viewed by Trump critics as part of the sensible coterie that monitors the president’s erratic impulses. That was so especially in the hazardous arena of foreign policy, despite Tillerson’s own paucity of experience in the field. Neither man knew each other at the time Trump chose Tillerson. The president offered the job on the suggestion of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, presumably in part on because Tillerson once shared a table with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow dinner. Subsequently, in an interview with The New York Times, Corker broadened his concern over Trump, saying he feared the president was setting the United States “on a path to World War III” with his taunts against North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and suggestions that he might “destroy” the communist dictator and his country in a nuclear attack or exchange.

“He concerns me,” Corker said of Trump. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation. I know for a fact that every single day in the White House, it’s a situation of (his senior watchers) trying to contain him.” Corker told reporters that Tillerson, Mattis and Kelly are “people that help separate our country from chaos.”

Yet there is a growing concern within the old Republican establishment that his loose-cannon quality of governance is politically and institutionally cataclysmic for the Grand Old Party. It guarantees a continuing state of internal discomfort and bewilderment as the Trump era stumbles and staggers on.


Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at