Trump’s White House: Chaotic, Crumbling, and Ineffectual
Our infrastructure is not the only thing that is crumbling. So too is the Trump Administration. Under the weight of endless chaos, it is falling apart bit by bit, day by day dragged out in slow motion.
For six months, we have been watching a spectacle the likes of which has never been seen before. It is an Administration in total chaos. The casualty list is long, and it keeps on growing.
When Reince Priebus, Katie Walsh and Sean Spicer from the RNC were named to the White House staff at the Inauguration, the Republican establishment was convinced that they had the White House under control and could make Trump look presidential. All three of these GOP insiders are now gone – victims of Trump’s disloyalty, impulsiveness and compunction to blame others for anything that might go wrong.
Flynn is gone. Attorney General Sessions is under daily fire from Trump. Secretary of State Tillerson has already told friends that it is unlikely that he will last a year either leaving because he can’t function in the chaos or because the next collision with Kushner or Trump will be his demise. Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin has told friends that he expects major clashes, possibly terminal, over issues such as the debt ceiling and the budget. And the National Security Advisor, General McMaster, is complaining about being isolated and constantly at odds with one or more of the many fractured power centers in the White House.
Many in the GOP establishment continue to hope that the White House can be stabilized. General John Kelly is being touted as their savior. However, to say that the switch from Reince Priebus to General Kelley will stabilize the White House is to say that Priebus was the problem. Will Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Anthony Scaramucci, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders report to General Kelley? Will they fall in line behind him? Will Kelly have the authority to fire them for going around him? Could he fire Scaramucci for a vulgar, out-of-control screed like the one he just gave?
According to the White House, 28 people on the staff have free access to the Oval Office. Each selling his or her own ideas and promoting his or her own self-interest. Do you think Kelly will be granted the normal authority of approving and metering all access? Do you think he would even be able to cut it in half? Not a chance. Trump thrives on the cacophony.
Can Kelly control Trump’s tweets? Could he walk into the Oval Office and tell Trump that he cannot be encouraging the use of excessive force by police as he just did in his speech in Nassau County?
If you think that the answer to these and analogous questions is “Yes,” there is a lovely old bridge in Brooklyn that is available that you can have at a great price.
A White House cannot function with multiple power centers. Kushner, Ivanka, Bannon, Conway and Scaramucci all represent independent, competing power centers. As Sarah Sanders offered in a recent press briefing, Trump likes such competition.
Kelly stands zero chance of eliminating the chaos. Trump will never grant the necessary authority. Trump could never tolerate someone with such authority near him and, beyond that, he never would grant such authority over Kushner and Ivanka. Kelly will be lucky to last six months. The best that can be expected is that he and General McMaster will hold on for as long as they can to look like good soldiers defending our country.
At the heart of the chaos is Trump himself with his lack of understanding of the issues facing the nation and with his mortal fear of any investigation into the Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Every day members of the GOP chorus can be heard singing the tired refrain that the chaos is distracting Trump from his policy agenda. The GOP may have a policy agenda and that is debatable given their vast policy differences on healthcare. However, when it comes to Trump the appropriate question is: What agenda? The truth be told he doesn’t have an agenda. An agenda implies knowledge and understanding of the issues on the agenda. Trump is devoid of any such knowledge and understanding. He has absolutely no understanding of health care, of the history and functioning of NATO, of globalism and international trade, and of just about any other issue central to governing. This is a man who learned what the nuclear triad was in the middle of a campaign debate. And he seems determined to remain ignorant. According to his own people, he doesn’t like reading intelligence or policy briefs and wants verbal presentations to be as short as possible.
All Trump has is campaign talking points that he endlessly regurgitates in his tweets and in his speeches at his “rallies.”
His ignorance goes well beyond the issues facing our country. To this day he doesn’t understand the powers of the Presidency and their limits. He has no notion that the Judicial and Legislative Branches are co-equal with the Executive Branch. He just complained that Congress was not protecting him. Where he got the idea that protecting him was their job is unfathomable.
Being so mired in ignorance what else is he to do but tweet?
The chaos in his administration is most driven by his mortal fear of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. He seems particularly terrified by any look into his business loans, financial transactions, or other kompromat that might give Russia leverage over him. Day in and day out, he knows that Mueller, his staff and the FBI are relentlessly digging. He knows that they soon will be tunneling into the tax and business records that he has so desperately tried to shield. This is a nightmare that consumes Trump’s attention.
I wonder if Trump is beginning to recognize his seminal mistake of bringing so many campaign officials and family members into his White House and Administration. This dragged in all the issues surrounding the meddling in the 2016 election. It also brought in a bunch of amateurs ill-equipped to contend either with the political fallout or with the professionalism and integrity of our intelligence and counterintelligence services.
The fiasco that he is running is slowly promoting isolation and alienation. The public is distancing itself. His approval ratings have slipped into the 36% – 39% range and easily could fall another 10 points. His own party is beginning to take its distance. Some in Congress are pinning the chaos directly on him. Some are openly warning him not to fire Sessions or Mueller or “there will be hell to pay.” Others are taking positions in opposition to his. Most recently the DoD refused to implement his tweet about banning transgender persons from the military.
No administration can function in this way.