Disturbing Patterns Emerging From The Trump White House
Although it seems like much longer, Donald Trump has been President only sixty-six days so far, but there are already several patterns developing that seem likely to continue to be true for the foreseeable future. The biggest one, of course, is that the Trump Administration has no idea how to sell its message or its agenda to the American public. After a General Election campaign in which Trump and his surrogates focused on pitching a message about immigration, trade, foreign policy and other ideas that, while vague and without any real detail, at least was in line with what the candidate was saying on the campaign trail. From the day that they entered office, the chief spokespeople for the President, principally Press Secretary Sean Spicer and top aide Kellyanne Conway, have instead spent the vast majority of their time defending the President’s latest bizarre tweets, responding to the allegations about alleged contact between Trump associates and Russian officials and oligarchs, and attacking the media for alleged negative reporting and “Fake News.” As a result, there’s been little if any concentration on pushing anything resembling a coherent message that could be said to define the Administration’s first 100 days in office, a period of time that has become somewhat iconic in defining the early success of a Presidency.
A second obvious pattern that has developed is the fact that the Administration has had very few if any weeks that can be characterized as “good” weeks in Washington. To be sure, there have been some successes here and there. The announcement of Judge Neil Gorsuch as President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee went very well, and that nomination appears to be moving forward toward confirmation regardless of whether or not Democrats are successful in at least initially utilizing the filibuster to block his confirmation. The same can be said for Trump’s first nationally televised address before Congress in late February, notwithstanding the fact that the speech itself was still nothing but the same kind of Trumpian mess that we’ve become used to. In both of those cases and several others, though, the Administration has, seemingly without fail, stepped all over its own message to turn a good week into a bad week. Sometimes, it’s come from external sources such as the judicial reaction to the Administration’s Muslim Travel ban Executive Order. In other cases, though, the damage was self-inflicted either by Administration spokespeople making ridiculous claims or by Trump himself making similar claims, usually during one his stereotypical Twitter rampages that seem to come on a regular basis whenever things seem to be going well.
Finally, it is clear that the Administration really doesn’t know what it’s doing when it comes to advancing a policy agenda, to begin with. The best example of this, of course, came in the form of the push for the passage of the American Health Care Act which lasted a grand total of just seventeen legislative days from the time the bill was first introduced to the time it was pulled late in the day on Friday. Throughout the two weeks that the bill was before Congress, the Administration sent conflicting signals about what its strategy was and largely left it to Congressional leaders to get the bill passed. Instead, all we heard from the White House was how great the plan was and how it would fix all our problems if only it were passed into law. There was little indication that the President was doing anything himself to actually assist in getting the bill passed until the very last minute when it was quite honestly too late to make a difference. Additionally, the manner in which the various factions of the GOP were handled shows that neither the President nor his staff knows how to handle their own party on Capitol Hill, that he lacks the leadership skills necessary to do so, and the President’s absurd efforts to blame Democrats for the failure of the bill. The result was a history-making legislative debacle early in a Presidential term that is likely to taint the ability of this President to influence Congress going forward.
All of this, of course, is part of the reason why the President’s Job Approval numbers are at historic lows for an incoming President. What’s significant about these patterns, though, isn’t just what they mean for job approval of personal favorability numbers but what they tell us about the future. While it’s still very early in the Administration and it’s always possible that things could turn around, the likelihood of that happening become less the more engrained they become in the news cycle and the way the White House operates. Some have already suggested that Trump needs to clean house at the White House and bring in people who are better at their job than the current crop of White House advisers. While that might help a little bit, the reality is that there’s only so much that changing personnel can do to change how things operate in the White House. In the end, the staff is little more than a reflection of the boss, and these first sixty-six days are telling us that, notwithstanding his reputation, Donald Trump isn’t a very good boss at all and an even worse decision maker. This doesn’t bode well for the future of any of the Administration’s future endeavors, whether we’re talking about tax reform, immigration, the budget, the debt ceiling, or anything else. And, as I said Saturday, raises serious concerns about how well Trump can actually handle a seemingly inevitable international crisis whenever it may rear its head. Add into all of that an investigation into the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, whatever they might have been, and it paints a recipe for failure unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory.
Hold on folks, it’s only likely to get worse from here.