Noonan on Trump

Peggy Noonan on the President’s staff:

It is absurd to think the president can solve his problems by firing his staff. They are not the problem. He is the problem. They’re not the A-Team, they’re not the counselors you’d want, experienced and wise. They’re the island of misfit toys. But they could function adequately if he could lead adequately. For months he’s told friends he’s about to make big changes, and doesn’t. Why? Maybe because talented people on the outside don’t want to enter a poisonous staff environment just for the joy of committing career suicide. So he’s stuck, surrounded by people who increasingly resent him, who fear his unpredictability and pique and will surely one day begin to speak on the record.

Pretty much (emphasis mine).  A question in my mind is how long the handful of competent people in position can either avoid being fired or continue to hold their noses in an attempt to steer the president in the right direction (assuming that is what they are trying to do) without quitting.

Two other comments on the Noonan column.

First, she asks:  ”A mystery: Why is the president never careful?”

That is not a mystery.  He lacks the maturity one would expect of a 17 year-old, let alone a 70 year-old.  He is insecure, ignorant, and egotistical as well.  None of this leads to careful behavior. (Plus, “careful” did not get him where he is now.  There is no mystery, therefore, that he remains incautious in his words and behaviors).

Second, she suggests:

Here’s an idea.

It would be good if top Hill Republicans went en masse to the president and said: “Stop it. Clean up your act. Shut your mouth. Do your job. Stop tweeting. Stop seething. Stop wasting time. You lost the thread and don’t even know what you were elected to do anymore. Get a grip. Grow up and look at the terrain, see it for what it is. We have limited time. Every day you undercut yourself, you undercut us. More important, you keep from happening the good policy things we could have done together. If you don’t grow up fast, you’ll wind up abandoned and alone. Act like a president or leave the presidency.”

Could it help? For a minute. But it would be constructive—not just carping, leaking, posing, cheering and tweeting but actually trying to lead.

The president needs to be told: Democracy is not your plaything.

All well and good, save that a) I see no such likely leadership from the Congress, and b) he wouldn’t listen if they tried.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    No, he wouldn’t listen if they tried, which probably answers the question of why they won’t do it. It’s an exercise in futility. Why bother?

    By the way, Jason Chaffetz said something today to the effect that he’d like to jail all the leakers. I laughed. What, Bannon’s going to go to prison for trashing Kushner? Kushner’s going to go to prison for trashing Bannon?

  2. Hal_10000 says:

    Plus, “careful” did not get him where he is now. There is no mystery, therefore, that he remains incautious in his words and behaviors

    I often compare the GOP’s relationship to Trump to someone in a bad relationship. One of the things I often say to people in bad relationships is, “Why should he/she change? Being this way got them here.” There is no reason for Trump to change. Being this way made him the most powerful person on Earth.

  3. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I noticed something…

    Item #1 – Trump Elected

    Item #2 – Ringling Bros. is closing

    Coincidence?

    Hard to sell clowns & “the greatest show on earth”… when this administration speaks.

  4. CSK says:

    @Hal_10000:

    It may have gotten him to the Oval Office. But will it keep him there?

  5. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @CSK:

    It may have gotten him to the Oval Office. But will it keep him there?

    I laughed…

    I watch too many movies… and as soon as you said that, I thought “Joe vs. the Volcano”:

    I know he can GET the job, but can he DO the job?

  6. CSK says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    I think we’ve seen with Trump that he can’t. Every single quality that it takes to be a competent president–and by that I don’t mean brilliant, but just able to perform basic functions–he lacks.

  7. Argon says:

    I think one or two days out of every year, Noonan has a cogent thought. But she can never string an entire argument together without introducing some nonsense. I really wonder why news organizations give her print space. Nostalgia, perhaps.

  8. Argon says:

    @CSK:

    By the way, Jason Chaffetz said something today to the effect that he’d like to jail all the leakers.

    That’s why he’ll be on the Fox News payroll shortly.

  9. @Argon: Have you ever read the rest of the Wall Street Journal Opinion page? She is the best columnist there – but that’s a pretty low bar.

  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    He lacks the maturity one would expect of a 17 year-old, let alone a 70 year-old.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t actually expect much maturity of 70 year olds. I’ve noticed that a lot of people’s maturity peaks in their 50s, and then afterwards they start regressing.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    Peggy Noonan is a decent wordsmith but she cannot find a way to escape the inevitable conclusion that 46% of American voters did something disastrously stupid, and that they remain so stupid they can’t even see the mess they’ve made.

    And then she fantasizes about Republican leaders – an oxymoron. And then there’s some whining about liberals who insist on pointing out what has evidently just occurred to her and has yet to occur to Trump’s mullet-wearing voters.

    We are at the stage now where the dummies berate the smart kids for already getting the answers while they are still struggling to get through chapter one. How dare we figure out that 1 + 1 = 2! Arrogant bastards with our addition and our multiplication tables and our unfair ability to see the screamingly obvious! Elitists! Swamp creatures!

    If we’re lucky Trump voters will manage to cobble together some absurd narrative where they can blame someone else – black people, immigrants and liberals of course – for their abject and contemptible failure to parse the world’s simplest human resources hiring decision ever.

    Noonan wants us all to be very sober about the needs of the country. Well, we are. And we were on November 8, 2016. The mess is unfixable until Trump is gone, because, as Peggy acknowledges, he’s the damn problem.

  12. CSK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Trump was 58 when he was bragging to Billy Bush about grabbing pussies. I think the point is that he got to about age 15 and never advanced beyond that.

  13. Stormy Dragon says:

    @CSK:

    I wasn’t suggesting Trump specifically was ever particularly mature. I just meant that I think the assumption that people generally continue to mature their entire lives is wrong and that there is a peak. There’s a lot of older people I know who’s opinions I used to respect who I find in their 60s and beyond all seem to be turning into petulant assholes.

  14. Stormy Dragon says:

    @CSK:

    I think the point is that he got to about age 15 and never advanced beyond that.

    As Trump told his biographer: “When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I’m basically the same. The temperament is not that different.”

    The problem is that Trump seems to think this is a good thing.

  15. CSK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    And didn’t he claim to have been a bully and a troublemaker at that age? Didn’t he clock a teacher? I recall him boasting about that.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Quite true. It’s something that interests me as I continue to age. (It’s like every year I’m a year older!) I’ve been at pains to stop it happening to me, but I feel the temptation to sort of stand pat.

    So I’m deliberately moving out of my professional comfort zone (big, complex, violent YA book series) into other areas – adult mystery, adult sci fi, comedy. I’m desperate to make a big geo-therapeutic move, preferably one that will force me to learn a new language. (Can’t till my daughter is out of high school.) And I spend a fair bit of my time learning history, making some weak and inadequate efforts to understand more science, and various other things.

    It requires effort. It requires a desire to get at truth. My oft-stated goal is to understand more at bed-time than I did when I woke up that morning. It’s unfortunate that older people just sort of stop learning, especially since age generally means you have more time to learn, and have enough acquired knowledge and mental skills to analyze the new data.

    I suspect though that it’s all less about age and more about character. Trump has never at any point cared about learning.

  17. David M says:

    All well and good, save that a) I see no such likely leadership from the Congress, and b) he wouldn’t listen if they tried

    I won’t disagree with A, but they could force B if they wanted. Congress has plenty of power, it’s just a matter of being willing to use it.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @michael reynolds: have you published any adult works yet?

  19. Scott says:

    Two random thoughts:

    1) Looking at the policies coming out of this White House and the Republican Congress, I can only hope for total dysfunction.

    2) WRT to leaking, other than classified information, I don’t think leaking is illegal. Unethical maybe. Unprofessional, certainly. But illegal, nah.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Not yet. The problem seems to be publishing’s refusal to publish books I have not yet actually written. They’re very old-fashioned that way.

    I have one and about an eighth YA books still under contract and I’m taking some time to help a fellow author with some plotting. Those are things I actually get paid for and get a higher priority than ‘spec’ work. But I’m well advanced on an adult mystery novel, a comedy TV series pilot, a writing book slash autobio, and I’m gestating a sci-fi adult series.

    God knows if any of that will see the light. But if it does I am confident I will manage to sneak a plug into a comment thread here.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    More important, you keep from happening the good policy things we could have done together.

    Perhaps Trump’s one saving grace…his sideshow helps to prevent Republicans from enacting their poisonous policies…

  22. Joe says:

    @Scott:

    2) WRT to leaking, other than classified information, I don’t think leaking is illegal. Unethical maybe. Unprofessional, certainly. But illegal, nah.

    I had this same thought and I would be interested in any comments from anyone with expertise. I trust leaking would be a fireable offense, but not an FBI matter short of classified information.

    Anyone?

  23. al-Alameda says:

    @Steven L Taylor:

    First, she asks: ”A mystery: Why is the president never careful?”

    That is not a mystery. He lacks the maturity one would expect of a 17 year-old, let alone a 70 year-old. He is insecure, ignorant, and egotistical as well. None of this leads to careful behavior. (Plus, “careful” did not get him where he is now. There is no mystery, therefore, that he remains incautious in his words and behaviors).

    People who though that Trump, a 70 year old guy who’s been ‘ insecure, ignorant, and egotistical’ his entire life, was going to behave differently because well, this is the presidency, were engaging in a kind of magical thinking. This is who he is. He got there by being himself, so why would he change a thing?

    If Peggy Noonan was honest, she’d just come out and say it openly, “Get rid of Trump, swear Pence in, and get on with the Republican agenda,” but she, like others such as David Brooks or Ross Douthat, just cant bring themselves to say it.

  24. Jen says:

    Adding to Noonan’s (much-delayed) observations, we not only have an island of misfit toys, we also apparently might have quite a few waivers that allow foxes to guard hen houses.

    Draining the swamp, this is not.