Bob Corker went off on Donald Trump Sunday night.
For 25 minutes, the Tennessee Republican senator unloaded lots (and lots) of pent-up frustrations to New York Times’ reporter Jonathan Martin. The interview was remarkable – both in the scope of Corker’s denunciation and the words he chose to say about the sitting Republican President of the United States.
Corker’s comments that he feared Trump was steering the nation “on the path to World War III” got the most attention – and rightly so. But there was a whole lot more that Corker said that’s worth paying attention to. Here are the 12 most notable quotes, ranked in order of how damning they are about Trump.
12. “I would compliment him on things that he did well, and I’d criticize things that were inappropriate. So it’s been really the same all the way through.”
Corker is trying to explain here what’s changed in his relationship with Trump. He was once on the long list for vice president and was on the much-shorter list to be secretary of state. Now, he is persona non grata. What’s obvious is that Corker believes Trump is wildly unpredictable and mercurial, lurching between love and hate based on the last thing you said about him on TV.
11. “When I told him that that just wasn’t in the cards, he said, ‘You know, if you run, I’ll endorse you.’ I said, ‘Mr. President, it’s just not in the cards; I’ve already made a decision.’”
It’s telling about how devastating the Corker interview was that his direct, on-the-record rebuttal of Trump’s assertion that Corker begged for his endorsement ranks this low. That said, if it surprises you that Trump tells himself the story he wants to hear (facts be damned!), you haven’t been paying attention.
10. “[It’s] a reality show … like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”
It’s now clear – and has been for a while – that Trump draws no distinction between his previous life as a reality TV star and his current one as president of the United States. His latest orchestrated drama – Vice President Mike Pence walking out of the Indianapolis Colts game when several San Francisco 49ers players knelt during the National Anthem – is just the latest example of how Trump views the presidency as a way to build drama and leave the audience wanting more.
9. “I don’t know why the President tweets out things that are not true. You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does.”
A sitting Republican senator acknowledging that the president of the United States lies on Twitter regularly. So, yeah.
8. “Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here … of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”
This quote says more about Corker’s Senate colleagues than it does about Trump. Corker is asserting that everyone he works with understands Trump’s “volatility.” And yet, with the exceptions of Jeff Flake, John McCain and Ben Sasse, very few Republican senators have been consistently and openly critical of Trump and the decisions he makes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn have, largely, toed the Trump line – even after Trump publicly attacked McConnell and suggested he might need to consider stepping down as the top ranking Senate Republican.
7. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out.”
Every time the Trump White House – or some ally of the President – insists that the media takes his tweets too seriously or obsesses over them too much, they should be shown this quote. This is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying that Trump’s tweets, on more than one occasion, have made deals more difficult.
6. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him.”
Consider this: A GOP senator in a position to know says that the main job of everyone working in the White House is to try to manage the President of the United States. This is the sort of thing someone might say about an unruly toddler: “We just have to spend all day trying to keep him from making trouble.” It’s OK when you are 7. When you are 71 – and the President of the United States – it’s, um, much less OK.
5. “As long as there are people like that around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made, I think we’ll be fine.”
“Think we’ll be fine”???? That’s reassuring! Corker said last week that he believed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and chief of staff John Kelly were the only people keeping the country (and Trump) from descending into total chaos. And, as recently as last week, there was open speculation that Tillerson might be on his way out. Even if all three of these men stay on, say, for another year or two, history suggests most people in these high profile and high pressure jobs will cycle out of them sooner rather than later. What then?
4. “I don’t think he appreciates that when the President of the United States speaks and says the things that he does, the impact that it has around the world, especially in the region that he’s addressing.”
Understatement of the year. Maybe the decade.
3. “He concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”
Absolutely remarkable. Remember – and yes I know I keep saying this – that Corker is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in a position to know much more about what Trump is doing day in and day out than we are. That he would openly express his concern over Trump’s capacity to keep the country safe is eye-popping.
2. “A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true.”
Nailed it. This is Corker’s way of dismissing the idea that Trump is playing three-dimensional chess with every move he makes or tweet he fakes. That he is purposely acting outlandishly as some sort of strategic play to make sure the world knows he is capable of anything. (This is commonly known as the “Madman Theory.”) As Corker makes clear – and as Trump, too, makes clear when he does things like attack Corker – the President isn’t executing against some sort of master plan. He just acts – primarily out of personal pique. There’s no chess being played – three-dimensional or otherwise.
1. “Trump may be setting the US on the path to World War III.”
It doesn’t get any more damning than this quote. What’s even more remarkable is that Corker suggests that Trump may not even know what he is doing. As in: He may not only be marching us toward another world war but he also could well be totally clueless that’s he even doing it.