Someday, when all that’s been happening has receded into the semi-distant past, historians may be able to answer a fascinating question: What were the people who worked for Donald Trump, the nation’s forty-fifth President, really saying to one another?
It’s no secret that some of those people closest to Trump—close, that is, in the ways of Washington, though not necessarily close in a personal way—are deeply worried about the nation, and torn, if that’s the word, between duty to country and a tug of loyalty to the man who appointed them to their posts.
When, following the wrenching events in Charlottesville, the President expressed a strange tolerance for neo-Nazis, a glance at the bowed head of the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, revealed an attitude of sadness and bafflement.
At the same event, Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president and Trump’s chief economic adviser, who is Jewish, looked miserable and was said to be “disgusted” and “upset,” ready to bolt.
As for what Mattis, Kelly, and the rest say to one another, it doesn’t take much to imagine that the most pressing topic has been “What are we going to do with this fellow?” It is to be hoped, for history’s sake, that they’re keeping notes on their conversations, both formal and social, recalling their honest discussions at private meals and even remarks exchanged in washrooms.
In time, there will be more to learn from memoirs, although their quality will depend on the indiscretion, the observational talent, and, particularly in the case of the recently departed Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, the rage level of their authors.