There have been lots of rumors about how Donald Trump conducts himself in office like a child king in a backwater feudal court, but reading all of the evidence of that at once is a real kick in the taint.
On Thursday, Politico published long piece on Trump’s failures and triumphs in office in his first 100 days, entitled “The Education of Donald Trump.” Though he’s derided the marker, Trump has allegedly been piling on tasks to be completed before Saturday. “There is no way we can do everything he wants to do this week,” one senior official told Politico, which is obvious when you read a bit about how things are being done around the White House these days.
First of all, staffers and advisors, including his children and buddies, generally manipulate Trump by explaining how his actions will play out in the press rather than how they’ll affect the world:
White House aides have figured out that it’s best not to present Trump with too many competing options when it comes to matters of policy or strategy. Instead, the way to win Trump over, they say, is to present him a single preferred course of action and then walk him through what the outcome could be – and especially how it will play in the press.
“You don’t walk in with a traditional presentation, like a binder or a PowerPoint. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t consume information that way,” said one senior administration official. “You go in and tell him the pros and cons, and what the media coverage is going to be like.”
Even then, those advisors are competing with the president’s main obsession: cable news. His three TVs are always turned on to Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, and what he sees there often dictates what he will be talking to staffers about first thing in the morning. Aides bemoan the fact that they can’t control more of Trump’s free time “after work,” and keep him occupied so he doesn’t call up world leaders and tweet bomb threats.
“If you’re an adviser to him, your job is to help him at the margins,” one anonymous staffer told Politico, “To talk him out of doing crazy things.”
The rumors about infighting amongst his staff are reiterated, in particular the conflict between Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon. They apparently have competing white boards that illustrate their opposing world views. Bannon calls his office his “war room” and lists all of Trump’s campaign promises, like “Deport 2 million criminal illegal immigrants,” checking them off as those Executive Orders get signed.
Kushner, however, eschews MAGA paraphernalia and slogans in order to treat our democracy like a tech start up. His white board is functioning as a list of deadlines for his new Office of American Innovation, which is supposed to address infrastructure and veterans’ affairs. He likes to describe Trump’s presidency as being in “beta mode,” which would explain all the bugs—for example, the utter failure of Trump’s healthcare bill, a failure he supposedly didn’t even really comprehend:
Trump seemed, at first, not to even understand the scope of his health care failure. He called reporters and spoke about moving on. Top-level aides bragged about his good mood. “No bullshit, I think he’s actually pretty comfortable with the outcome,” a senior White House official crowed.
Since the importance of the healthcare bill sank in, Trump has been particularly rabid in his attacks against the Freedom Caucus, extremely conservative Republicans who were not afraid to speak openly against Trump, to his surprise. While he was elected on campaign promises of being an outsider, the lack of support in the White House from people who really understand congress is being deeply felt.
“I kind of pooh-poohed the experience stuff when I first got here,” explained one White House official, “But this shit is hard.”
You can and should be terrified by the full piece here.