This is the Trump White House. Sketch: CNN

The charitable, the hopeful, and the delusional describe President Trump as an unconventional president who — while upsetting the established order of things — poses no real threat to the country and might even be providing our government a needed refresh.

The truth is much more troubling.

There is substantial evidence governments around the world, state and local governments in this country, and even White House insiders, have concluded the only way to survive the Trump administration is to work around the president. This is a remarkable conclusion reached separately by a number of very smart people less than six months since Trump’s inauguration. The president of the United States is an unreliable leader. The American White House relevant only as a generator of crisis.

On June 22, the New York Times offered a detailed look at how the Canadian government has decided to deal with its once trusted ally. Soon after Trump’s election, before the curtains even opened on the big show, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began to implement a policy of constructive engagement with every branch and level of government in the United States except the White House. His interactions with Ivanka Trump were meant to establish a back channel to the executive branch. The policy is described as a “doughnut” strategy with the White House serving as the doughnut hole.

This is Canada. These are our friends. We share a border, an economy and a way of life. But the Canadian government has determined President Trump is so unpredictable, the only logical course of action that represents the best interests of all Canadians is to smile politely at our unstable president while doing business with others. Trudeau has set up what is described as a “war room” to manage U.S. relations. It is difficult to conceive of a world pre-Trump that would lead one of our closest allies to take such a step.

Thanks to reporting by the Times, we have been presented this very clear picture of how one foreign government is choosing to interact with a Trump led America, but we also know, based on the public statements of their leaders, that Mexico, Australia, France, Great Britain and Germany have a similar view.

A little more than one-third of Americans surveyed in recent polls strongly support Trump and his policies. They are not concerned with how the rest of the world views us. They welcome the idea of going it alone, because they believe the rest of the world has taken advantage of our generosity for too long. Some call it an America first policy, but it feels more like a screw the rest of the world strategy and it is short-sighted. Surely even President Trump knows the only way to be part of a deal is to have a seat at the table, but so far his desire to cater to his shrinking base is creating a world in which other countries will be making big decisions absent full American influence.

The spectacle at home is not encouraging either. Trump remains at war with elements of the government he leads and with the special prosecutor who has been assigned to look into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. His latest strategy is to attack the credibility of special counsel Robert Mueller and former FBI Director James Comey. Both men have long established reputations in Washington, D.C. as professionals of strong character and integrity. Trump, whose public reputation is quite the opposite, is not impressed and is engaged personally in an effort to smear both. At least one poll shows it is not working. Even Trump supporters realize that when it comes to telling the truth Trump loses every time.

President Trump has now admitted that he has no audio recordings of his conversations with Comey. He and his White House spokesmen are trying to make the case that Trump suggested there might be recordings as part of a deliberate plan to coerce Comey into telling the truth during his congressional testimony. The fact that Trump would waste time making such a claim is surely a symptom of a deeper psychological problem. The president has a constant need to present himself to the world as a master manipulator, but he is really only a liar — and not a very good one.

Even in admitting there are no tapes of Trump-Comey conversations the president could not fully let go. “With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea…whether there are “tapes” or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” Trump tweeted.

The first part of this two-part tweet is telling. It says the president is unable to admit when he makes a mistake and it tells us he either does not trust the American government he leads or he has no idea how it functions. By saying he has “no idea” whether recordings were made of his conversations with Comey he is suggesting some arm of the American government is surveilling the president in the White House. This could only be done if his own appointees were working against him. It is a dangerous conspiracy theory being peddled without any basis in fact.

Reportedly, the “I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” tweet was vetted by White House staff including legal counsel. So this recklessness is an example of Trump at his most restrained. It also demonstrates that all Trump’s horses and all his men do not have the power to hold the president together. No fully empowered member of a White House staff would ever allow a president of the United States to make such an unhinged official statement.

We have learned lawyers working to protect Trump from the Mueller investigation have begun to have regular phone calls with the president, early each morning, in an effort to allow him to vent and to prevent him from engaging his Twitter compulsion at the start of each day. Like the Canadians, White House insiders have decided the best they can do is manage this problem that is our president in a way that limits damage. This is triage at the highest level of the U.S. government and can not be seen as re-assuring to governments around the world.

The effort to control the president is also at work in the administration’s evolving effort to manage the news media. Trump has undercut his own message so many times his paid messengers have lost all credibility with the press. White House spokesmen have adopted a new policy of confirming only the obvious and deflecting all questions requiring any interpretation of Trump policy by claiming they have not had a chance to “speak to the president directly on that point” or by stating the president speaks for himself.

Cameras are being banned from White House briefings to deny the press the ability to fully document the disorder. Let’s call this what it is: A pre-emptive attempt by the White House to control what Americans see in television coverage of the Trump administration and to make it easier to deny official statements that contradict the president. The camera ban led CNN to send a sketch artist to the briefing room so the world can see charcoal drawings of what is happening inside the White House. CNN no doubt understands the absurd light its editorial decision casts on the Trump presidency. Welcome to the 1800’s.

The temptation is to look away. The temptation is to conclude that the best we can do is carry on with our lives and hope that others protect us from the president. That’s not the best we can do, because we put Trump in the White House and he has been asked to represent all of us. When our friends around the world choose to work around the president, they are choosing to work around us. When the White House staff schemes to simply survive another day without doing further damage to the institution of the presidency, they are sending us a message. President Trump is much more than unconventional. He is a continuing threat to our own best interests.

Photojournalism for Brands and Ideas.