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Distracting times mask real trouble in White House

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One on

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One on Oct. 7, 2017. Credit: AP

The reality show circus continues.

One by one, shiny baubles were dangled, distracting a distractible nation. This weekend it was President Donald Trump’s claim that he had orchestrated Vice President Mike Pence’s staged, or not staged, walkout at an NFL game after some players knelt during the national anthem. And Trump’s wounded-ego cry that he personally has done so much for Puerto Rico and received so little appreciation. And his suggestion that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 campaign, should focus instead on the “fake news” media.

On Monday, the president’s first and third wives got into a spat. Melania Trump’s spokeswoman blasted as “self-serving noise” a joke by first wife Ivana, who is peddling a book, that she is the real “first lady.”

But the choreographed silliness masked something more ominous, the reality that demands our collective focus. The war of words between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over that country’s nuclear weapons program is very troubling to top aides and leading senators.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, a GOP stalwart and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, deliberately planted seeds of doubt about the fitness and effectiveness of the president of the United States. Corker said Trump does not understand the power of his office or his words and conducts himself as if he’s still on “The Apprentice.”

Corker considered some of Trump’s comments — like saying that a room full of military personnel might be the calm before the storm and that “only one thing will work” with North Korea — too provocative. The highly regarded senator, who said he is free to speak his mind because he is not running for re-election, said Trump could be leading us down the “path to World War III.”

Corker’s remark that someone at the “adult day care center” that is the White House missed a shift on the morning of a series of Trump tweets was sly, but it also was a distressing insight on the need for more effective restraints on Trump from chief of staff Gen. John Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other top aides.

Step away from the daily dose of craziness and understand the extraordinariness of Corker’s remarks. Combine that with reports about Kelly’s frustration over being unable to tame his boss’ taunts and improvisations despite restoring a semblance of order to the White House, and his daily questioning of why he remains on the job. Add in open speculation about how long Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, under fire for allegedly calling Trump a moron, will remain in the administration. Now you begin to understand Corker’s angst when he said these are the people who keep our country from chaos.

Revelations such as these never happen in isolation. We’re not learning about the frustrations of Kelly or Tillerson by accident. Corker is not going rogue here, he’s not easily dismissed, and he’s not prone to hyperbole. He supported Trump during the election, and was a contender to be vice president. And now he’s saying Trump’s behavior should worry “anyone who cares about our nation.”

Something’s happening here.— The editorial board