A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
“If your head’s not spinning, you’re not listening,” CNN’s Chris Cuomo said Thursday night. The banner below him said, “Trump turmoil: Defense secretary quits amid shutdown battle, market free fall, DOJ controversies and Russia probe.”
The resignation by Defense Secretary James Mattis was the biggest headline of them all. It received the six-column treatment on Page One of Friday’s NYT.
The Times’ front page described a government in “turmoil,” a “jittery capital,” and a looming shutdown.
A couple hundred miles south, WaPo captured all of it in this paragraph: “At perhaps the most fragile moment of his presidency — and vulnerable to convulsions on the political right — Trump single-handedly propelled the U.S. government into crisis and sent markets tumbling with his gambits this week to salvage signature campaign promises.”
The Post cited interviews with 27 sources to say that “Trump has been isolated in bunker mode in recent weeks as political and personal crises mount.”
Trump’s most loyal media outlets are averting their eyes and downplaying the chaos while emphasizing the border $$$ fight. Everyone else has eyes wide open:
– CNN: “Shaken, saddened, scared: Washington erupts over Mattis resignation”
– The banner headline on NYTimes.com: “Day of Upheaval”
James Mattis’ warning to America
National Review’s David French wrote: “This letter represents America’s most-respected warrior telling the nation that he does not believe the president sees our enemies clearly, understands the importance of our alliances, or perceives the necessity of American leadership.”
After the news broke around 5:20 p.m. ET, many analysts talked about the “wheels coming off” the Trump admin. Karen Tumulty commented on Twitter: “There were wheels?” George Conway replied: “It’s the axles now.”
– Cuomo: “All kinds of chaos erupting in the season finale of the 2018 version of The Trump Show…”
– Mark Hertling on “AC360:” “When a guy like Mattis says he’s gone, there’s something dysfunctional…”
– Speaking with Rachel Maddow, historian Michael Beschloss said a defense secretary has never resigned in protest before…
– Courtney Kube to Maddow: “Are we going to see military resignations over this?”
– Eli Stokols: “People inside the White House really don’t know what’s coming next…”
– MSNBC’s Chuck Todd just minutes after the news broke: “I just had somebody email me who’s usually very much a Trump person who said, ‘I think you’re underplaying the crazy that’s going on today!’ Like we’re numb to it. This feels extraordinarily serious. He is on a one-man temper tantrum right now…”
– Susan Glasser’s newest column: “When I started writing this column, the freakout was over Syria. By the time I finished it, Mattis was resigning…”
– John Kerry on the phone with Brian Williams: “This is the continuation of a crisis that too many people have been too content to live with…”
– James Clapper to Don Lemon: “Knowing Jim as I do, I figured it was a question of time – when he would reach the point where he would have to do what he did….”
– Navy Adm. Jim Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander, tweeted: “Very challenging days ahead for the Pentagon and the nation…”