Prologue: On Sunday, October 8, a feud erupted between the president and Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It began in the morning when Trump posted a tweet on his Twitter account accusing Corker of deciding not to run for re-election because “he didn’t have the guts.” Corker shot back with his own tweet, “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.” Trump replied on Twitter, “The senator had “begged” for his endorsement.” “I said ‘No’ and he dropped out. ” He also wrote that Mr. Corker had asked to be secretary of state. I said, ‘NO THANKS’,”
The Feud continues: On Sunday evening, Bob Corker gave an interview to the New York Times reporters Mark Landler and Jonathan Martin. He said Trump is treating the presidency “like a reality show” and could be setting the nation “on the path to World War III.” He had said earlier that “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chief of Staff, John Kelly “help separate our county from chaos.” On Sunday, he spoke of the cause, “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to control him.” There was no doubt of the identity of “him”.
By Monday, the feud was front page news in The New York Times and the number one story on cable TV shows. Panel members talked about whether other Republicans would come out to support Corker, who held a key position, heading the Foreign Relations Committee. Trump was challenging the Iran deal and flipping it to Congress. Next to the Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Corker was the most powerful Republican senator. With only a two vote margin, three votes (including Pence) could affect decisions on Tax Reform, DACA, and other significant issues on the docket.
Senator Corker spoke to reporters saying, “A lot of people think there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true. He said that his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican. He added, “I don’t know why Mr. Trump tweets out things that are not true. You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does.” Bob Corker, 65, is a former mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee who has built a reputation over two terms as a reliable, but not partisan Republican. He helped Barack Obama win Senate confirmation of the Iran Nuclear Deal despite strong Republican opposition. It was predictable that Trump continued to post negative tweets about him . He wrote, “Bob Corker gave us the Iran deal and that’s about it. We need Health Care. We need TaxCuts/Reform. We need people who can get the job done.”
On Tuesday, the president mocked Corker’s 5 ft. 7” height when he tweeted,” The Failing NYTimes set Liddle Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with.” His tweet reminded insiders that Trump had considered Bob Corker for Secretary of State during the transition period. He had told associates Corker was too short to be the country’s top diplomat. When he chose Rex Tillerson, well over six feet, Trump was quoted as saying, “He looks like he’s from central casting.”
Thursday, October 12, “Nuclear Arsenal Story Prompts Threat by Trump. NBCNews posted a story online that during a July meeting with members of his national security team, the president had said that he wanted a nearly tenfold increase in the nations’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. Some of the Generals present had been stunned. There was also a report that Trump said, “If we have them, why don’t we use them?” By 9:55 a.m. the president was tweeting his response. “With all the fake news coming out of NBC and the networks, at what point is it appropriate to review their license. Bad for country.” He continued, “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake, that licenses must be challenged and if appropriate, revoked. “ “Not fair to public.” Later, at a photo op with Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, Trump said, “It is frankly, disgusting that “the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.” This incident reminded the press and the American people of his attacks upon the press as “the enemy of the people” throughout his campaign.
Trump’s threat to target NBC drew an immediate critical firestorm that he was attacking the First Amendment to the Constitution. “Congress shall make no law, respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The free press was one of the four freedoms the founders placed first in The Bill of Rights. It separates our republic from authoritarian countries like Putin’s Russia, Assad’s Syria and others where the state press reports the news to the people. Our free press is independent of the government.
The NYTimes reporters Peter Baker and Cecila Kang wrote that the networks do not hold federal licenses, but the TV stations do. They also quoted Tom Wheeler, the former chairman of the Federal Communitcations Commission, who said, “Broadcast licenses are a public trust. They’re not a political toy, which he is trying to do here.” He added, “This sounds like another dog whistle for folks to file against the license renewals. Clearly, it would be a bridge too far for the Trump FCC to move on their own initiative.”
The Nuclear Arsenal story also raised the specter of the escalating war of words between Trump and the North Korean leader igniting “World War III” as Bob Corker warned. Times reporters, who visited North Korea in recent weeks, write that the leaders and people are convinced they would win a war despite the vast difference in their numbers and weapons. The lead NYT editorial on October 12 was “One Finger on the Button Is Too Few.” It poses the question, “Does the president understand and can he responsibly manage the most destructive nuclear arsenal on earth? He has threatened to’ totally destroy North Korea’. In recent Tweetstorms, his warnings of ‘fire and fury’ and quip about ‘ calm before the storm’ have caused serious concerns that he might launch a first strike without consultation with his national security team.”
Epilogue: Two bills have been introduced in Congress by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Ted Lieu of California, both Democrats, prohibiting the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. Only one member in the house has signed on. It should also be noted that only Senator Ben Sasse, Republican from Nebraska spoke out in support of Bob Corker. There was congressional action in July with a strong bipartisan bill to stop Trump from lifting sanctions against Russia. However, it must be noted that the president has not acted on it since then.
…………………………………………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson