Bob Corker may be right about Donald Trump's White House

Corker's tumultuous relationship with Trump
Corker's tumultuous relationship with Trump

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Story highlights

  • GOP senator's tweet about White House being an adult day care center wasn't far off the mark, writes Michael D'Antonio
  • It reflects the frustration many Americans feel with President Trump, D'Antonio writes

Michael D'Antonio is the author of the book "Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success" (St. Martin's Press). The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)In the end, Donald Trump finally pushed Sen. Bob Corker to the point of exasperation, frustration and exhaustion felt by vast numbers of Americans who despair of the President's behavior. "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center," tweeted Corker, referring to his fellow Republican as if he needs constant minding. "Someone obviously missed their shift this morning."

Corker was provoked by early Sunday morning statements from Trump. who said, via Twitter, "Senator Bob Corker 'begged' me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee, I said 'NO' and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement)." Trump also said Corker asked to become secretary of state but, "I said 'NO THANKS.'" He also said Corker "didn't have the guts" to seek re-election in 2018.
The capital letters suggest the tweets came straight from the President. He loves capital letters. But the timing and content are more important indicators of authenticity. Trump's social media outbursts are more vivid on weekends, when he's likely home alone.
    And true Trump tweets resonate with a tone -- "guts" and "begged me" are classics -- that makes it seem like he doesn't quite understand where he is, or what is required of him. (Never mind that Corker's chief of staff, Todd Womack, challenged Trump's account of the facts: "The President called Sen. Corker on Monday afternoon and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times.")
    The fact that Trump could conduct stream-of-consciousness carping from the confines of the same White House that had been occupied by the likes of Lincoln, FDR and Ronald Reagan suggests that he may not be aware of his surroundings. As he tweets about TV shows, we can see that his mind is too often fixed on matters beneath a president. And when he does focus on something important, like national security, he indulges in silliness about the "Rocket Man" (Kim Jong Un) or praises himself: "Wow, Senator Luther Strange picked up a lot of additional support since my endorsement."
    Despite the President's "Wow," Alabama's Sen. Strange wound up losing a GOP primary to Roy Moore.  A religious extremist who was twice forced to step down from the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore had called homosexuality "evil," insisted Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison should not be permitted to serve in Congress and suggested the attacks of 9/11 could have been God's punishment for American sinfulness.    
    The prospect of serving with Moore may have helped Corker reach his decision to retire as of 2018, but his concern about Trump predates the Alabama primary. In August, Corker was obviously appalled by Trump's response to a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, when he said among the torch-bearing neo-Nazis there were some "very fine" people.
    Corker considered these words and concluded, "The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful."
    Just days ago, Corker stood up for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had reportedly called Trump a "moron" and was trying to demonstrate his loyalty to the President. "I see what's happening here," said Corker.  "I deal with people throughout the administration and (Tillerson), from my perspective, is in an incredibly frustrating place, where, as I watch, OK, and I can watch very closely on many occasions, I mean you know, he ends up being, not being supported in the way I would hope a secretary of state would be supported. That's just from my vantage point." He suggested that Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, were keeping the United States from tumbling into "chaos."
    Frustration with Trump can be heard across the nation as leaders who hoped the President would set aside his rage and self-centeredness in the service of the country are met, instead, by the same old Donald Trump. No more thoughtful than he was as a TV game show host and no more reliable than when he was a salesman practicing "truthful hyperbole," Trump makes much of the world cringe as he fails to achieve his agenda at home and undercuts his own secretary of state abroad. 
    With Trump in a cycle of saying and doing destructive and disruptive things unbecoming the leader of the free world,  Corker seems to be suffering from the sort of burnout experienced by those who care for senior relatives.
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    Here his evocation of "adult care" is more meaningful than the senator may even know. Adult day care is as much a service for the friends and family of those with dementia and other disabling conditions as it is for those who attend programs. The respite they receive when experts take over for a few hours makes it possible to continue with the burden of caregiving.  
    In the case of President Trump, the parallel with adults in care includes, also, the sad reality that someone who is supposed to be strong and capable is, instead, in need of supervision. It's hard to begrudge Corker his decision to escape dealing with a president in this condition by not running for re-election. But as a member of the Republican Party, he's one of the few who have the standing to get through to the man, and thus it seems like he's taking the easy way out while leaving more of the work to the rest of us.  We're burned out, too.