Monday, May 15, 2017

Withdrawal Symptoms

Via Mike Allen at Axios:

At the urging of longtime friends and outside advisers, most of whom he consults after dark, President Trump is considering a “huge reboot” that could take out everyone from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and press secretary Sean Spicer, White House sources tell me.

Trump is also irritated with several Cabinet members, the sources said.

“He’s frustrated, and angry at everyone,” said one of the confidants.

The conversations intensified this week as the aftermath of the Comey firing pushed the White House from chaos into crisis. Trump’s friends are telling him that many of his top aides don’t know how to work with him, and point out that his approval ratings aren’t rising, but the leaks are.

“The advice he’s getting is to go big — that he has nothing to lose,” the confidant said. “The question now is how big and how bold. I’m not sure he knows the answer to that yet.”

If Trump follows through, his innermost White House circle would shrink from a loop to a straight line of mid-30s family members with scant governing experience: Jared and Ivanka. So while the fighting and leaking might ease, the problems may not because it’s the president, not the staff, calling the shots.

One note of caution: Trump often talks about firing people when things go south and does not follow through on it. So it’s possible these conversations are his way of venting, and seeking reassurance.

[…]

The sources say Trump feels ill-served by not just his staff but also by several of his Cabinet officials. Trump has two complaints about Cabinet members: Either they’re tooting their own horns too much, or they’re insufficiently effusive in praising him as a brilliant diplomat, etc.

He’s not even four months into his term and he’s already thinking about a wholesale housecleaning and reduction in counselors.

This is surely a result of Trump being used to running the whole show and being surrounded by sycophants who would make sure that his every wish and need was taken care of without question.  That’s how it worked at his business, so that’s what he expects as president.  The very idea of being held accountable to Congress or the voters?  You’re kidding, right?

I think what we’re seeing here is the result of Trump taking on a job he thought would be so easy — after all, Dubya and Obama did it — but is not only much harder than he thought but it requires a skill set that he doesn’t have: the ability to get along with people, listen to them, and actually follow their advice, even if it goes against his instinct.  All signs, either now or in his past, indicate that he’s never had to do that, and even when faced with defeat, bankruptcy, or defiance, he’s managed to absorb it not as a failure or mistake on his part but as a betrayal or failure by someone else.

So far the failures and fumbles of this administration have been minor compared to what could really happen, and in the hands of other administrations, they would have been dealt with swiftly and moved on; Hillary Clinton’s attempt at healthcare reform didn’t result in the purge of the cabinet, and if the Trump administration faced the backlash that greeted the arrival of the Obamas, he would have lined up his cabinet against the wall at Mar-a-Lago.  What is really scary is contemplating what’s going to happen when the inevitable major challenge comes along: an economic downturn, a major terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or any one of the number of things that happen in the life of a presidency.  Those won’t be resolved by firing the staff and leaving it up to your son-in-law and retreating to the residence to wait for the adulation from Sean Hannity.

Bonus Track from D.R. Tucker in Washington Monthly:

Donald Trump did not make himself President. A significant portion of the American electorate begged for a candidate like Trump–someone who scorned expertise, someone who believed that talking tough constituted leadership, someone who believed America fell into degeneration in the years following Brown v. Board of Education. Trump is the natural consequence of a generation of folks that watched All in the Family and actually thought the Archie Bunker character would make a one heck of a president.

The folks who voted for Trump knew exactly what they were doing. It wasn’t desperation. It wasn’t confusion. It was a willful and deliberate attempt to turn the clock back, to “deconstruct the administrative state,” to live out a fantasy of privilege, prejudice and power.

When Trump attacks our institutions, he is doing so with the full and total imprimatur and approval of those who voted for him. They like what they’re getting. Progressive nightmares are the same as their dreams.

It’s easy to put this all on Trump. It’s easy to say he’s out of control. It’s harder to countenance the idea that those who voted for Trump wanted chaos and disorder, wanted national and international harmony destroyed, wanted to eliminate all vestiges of progressivism and enlightenment in this country. No one wants to believe their neighbors hate them.

Which means that even if Trump can’t handle the job, they’ll still say they support him.

3 barks and woofs on “Withdrawal Symptoms

  1. An interesting read in HuffPost about how Putin has used the weakness, the openness in the nascent Russian democracy to seize power saying he was protecting the Russian culture from the erosion of values and decency seen in the West. Trump claims to be draining the swamp, a similar pretext. By frightening to populace an authoritarian can claim to be a protector and those who deplore the browning of America and the new freedoms granted to women and gays welcome Dear Leader as a savior. Don’t forget Trump has been open about his admiration of the strong leadership of Vladimir Putin.

  2. You’re right that many Trump supporters wanted to tear down the system.
    But many just wanted a change from what wasn’t working for them. When the demos candidate didn’t offer anything new, they went to Trump by default. Not all his supporters wanted chaos. I’ll bet there is a lot of buyer’s remorse.

  3. Stop talking about Trump, and start talking about Republicans. BRAND THEM. As in the advertising sense, and the cattle sense.
    We aren’t fighting Trumpism we are fighting REPUBLICANISM.

Speak!