The fundamental problem with the Trump presidency is Donald J. Trump.
There are new reports that behind the scenes, key advisors to the president, who refuse to say so on the record, know that the administration is off to a bad start. Incompetence abounds and there is backstabbing among aides who are supposed to be on the same team. There are suggestions that a staff reorganization is being planned to make the operation more professional, but the only staff change that could make a difference would be a change at the top; the very top.
Let’s play fantasy West Wing for a moment and imagine that we can staff the White House with people who actually have experience in government. The first place to look for talent would be Capitol Hill and the last Bush administration. In this pool of candidates we would find people with current relationships with leaders in Congress and past experience in a Republican administration(as if that matters to Mr. Trump). At this point, there may even be members of the Obama administration who would be willing to come back — at least for a while — as part of a public service rescue mission.
This would require the president and his family to admit they are not qualified to run the U.S. government as they have run their business and accept the advice of people who actually do — without question — know better than the Trump’s. This seems unlikely, because President Trump is used to doing things his own way and the idea of following the lead of people he doesn’t know, people he resents as a class, is impossible to accept.
But let’s pretend he can cross that bridge, how would it work? Ideally the White House staff would work with a clear chain of command. The chief of staff, working mostly on his or her own, would organize the priorities of the Trump administration based on the president’s vision, make sure the entire team understood those priorities and organize the White House and the agencies to execute the president’s agenda. Under such a system the president would be the beneficiary of good staff work. Issues would be placed before him fully formed, along with a list of possible decisions to be made and their ramifications.
There would be no random Tweets on a Saturday morning, because the communications team would manage the president’s Twitter habit with the goal of advancing his agenda. There would be no secret meetings between the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and junior White House staff, because the White House counsel would be in position to stop such a meeting before it happened. Executive orders would not be stopped by the courts, because they would be fully reviewed from a legal perspective before they were issued. Major legislation would not be stopped by members of the president’s own political party, because a strategy would be worked out in advance and there would be no call for a vote unless the votes were there to pass it. There would be fewer leaks because everyone would understand they are on the same team with a fair chance to influence presidential decisions.
President Trump did not come to office with a mandate based on the number of votes he received, but there was a clear message behind his election. The American people want Washington, D.C. to work and the sense is that it isn’t. Given the choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton, the voters chose Trump, because choosing Clinton would amount to staying the course. But this choice to change direction is not the same as a choice to change the rules. There are still some basic rules, some basic standards, the American people want President Trump to live by and his refusal to do so is reflected in his dropping poll numbers, which are not fake, but as real as they come.
Other than the fact that President Trump does not seem to trust anyone enough to even consider surrounding himself with experts, there is another problem with the idea of a White House run by professional staff. Such a change would mean that Trump would be president in name only. The country would be run by a group of people most of us don’t know and none of us had a chance to vote for, but that is where we are 80 days into this administration. We have to decide whether we seek stability in our national government or if we are prepared for a full four years of Trump being Trump.
The White House is in chaos, no one is in charge, people close to the president are under investigation, aides and allies are digging their way deeper and deeper into a ditch of lies, and around the world — people who do not wish us well — can see this team is not prepared to handle a crisis. We are therefore vulnerable. Despite all the evidence there is still no case to be made for Trump’s removal from office so we are really left with the hope that the Trump family understands the way to save their presidency is to turn over the keys to a management team. This is apparently something they have experience with; putting their names on a building while someone else does the work.