Participation Required

Saluting President Trump. Photo:WhiteHouse.gov

At the end of a dirt road in rural Delaware, on a piece of government property used during the post World War II era to track Soviet ships off the east coast, six staffers of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee carefully go about their work in a one story gray brick building with louvered aluminum trimmed windows.

The three Democrats and three Republicans have been charged with monitoring and cataloging every move of President Trump and his administration as the first step toward drafting articles of impeachment or building a case to remove the president from office under the terms of Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. It is a live exercise in that the preamble of a bill of particulars has already been written and section titles have been inserted. Sources who have spoken on condition of anonymity say the working group’s first secret draft to the leadership of Congress could come as early as this fall.

Or so some would like to think.

In reality, half of the country remains willing to accept President Trump’s rough edges, and even some level of incompetence, because they are so desperate for something in Washington, D.C. to work in a way that enhances their life or at least does no harm. Most of the other half of the country is resigned to the facts. Donald Trump is not going anywhere for the next four years presuming his chaotic approach to running the country, his recklessness on the world stage, or his need to always be perceived as the toughest hombre on the block does not lead to massive loss of life or economic catastrophe(both of which are possible).

This is a brutal reality of the political moment. Only a large scale disaster of Trump’s making — that may indeed include the loss of life — would push the Republican controlled Congress to take steps to remove him from office. The other threats to the Trump presidency include conflicts of interest created by his family business and possible Trump campaign collusion with the Russians. But even here, it appears most Americans have come to accept the idea that a president who came to office directly from the private sector cannot be held to the same ethical standards as one who has spent his career living under the ethics of government service. The Russian connection would need to be tied directly to Trump to be politically fatal.

As much as Trump frustrates Republicans on Capitol Hill there is still a chance they can use him to advance their agenda. It is therefore in their interest to put up with him. If they can just convince the president to enjoy the perks of office and keep his month shut, Republicans are in position to push their ideas through Congress, relying on Trump to sign their bills into law. This could be a winning combination if Trump and his team could be forced to realize it. All the evidence suggests Trump’s supporters are not married to his campaign promises — they only want progress. The rubber stamp strategy could be a win-win for Trump and congressional Republicans.

Official Washington has put a great deal of faith in the people around Trump to keep his administration within the boundaries of something that looks like normalcy. Specifically, Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are consistently cited as the adults in the room. But as we settle in for four years of Trump in the White House it is important for all of Washington — Republicans, Democrats, the bureaucracy, and the American people — to take on the role of adult in the room.

This point was made last week by Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York. Appearing on a cable news show the president may have been watching, Maloney said, “We don’t have a presidency to waste.” The country cannot afford to wait for the next presidential election to correct the mistake that currently occupies the Oval Office. We have no choice but to work with President Trump, to help President Trump, to allow President Trump to think it is all about him, if that’s what it takes to move forward.

Like the incompetent boss we have all worked for, as a country, we need to force a smile and work around the president. Look to Vice President Mike Pence for inspiration on this point. We need to let Trump take the credit, we need to put up with his obvious shortcomings and cajole him into using his power on our behalf. This is the pragmatic political approach the situation requires. This is the moment we all become the wily senior senator who lets his opponent think he has won while we snatch the prize out from under his nose.

As the news media focuses on grading President Trump’s first 100 days in office we need to use this milepost to move past the shock of the 2016 election results and figure out how to make it work. In the absence of leadership from the top, it is up to the rest of us to take responsibility for our own government by remaining vigilant and participating as we never have before.

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