It’s been hectic first month for the new administration with cracks beginning to show in the overly confident new White house group that is heavy in political operatives, but grossly short in the experience and skills for running a large and complex government.
That may have contributed to the “hit the ground running” attitude, and the iant love affair with a flurry of presidential executive orders. The orders were intermixed with the Republican majority campaign to begin deconstructing the Obama legacy. This past week, it included reversing Obama departmental regulation changes retroactively to June 2016, and undoing changes that had been in the works for over two years, in some cases.
The rarely used Congressional Review Act of 1998 erased years of hard fought public issue regulations in just 25 hours, to the delight of the industries preferring profits over things like public health.
General Flynn is gone over the Russian Ambassador flap; a Labor Secretary nominee withdrew because he did not have the committee votes even among Republicans; and Betsy Devos got her Education Secretary post because Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote on her behalf.
Will the campaign battles ever end?
The battle lines are being drawn for what looks like the beginning of a political civil war. Democratic state legislatures are already drafting laws to tie Trump up in endless legislative controversies. For instance, New Hampshire legislators are calling for a federal probe of Trump University, despite his having settled the civil case for $25 million. A California Democrat wants to look into Melania Trump’s immigration records.
Because Trump would never release his tax returns, several Democratic majority states are working on legislation to ensure that Presidential candidates have to submit five years of tax records before being added to their state ballot.
If Trump follows through with cutting Federal funding to sanctuary cities, it seems obvious that would trigger a wave of counter legislation, such as laws to ban state law enforcement officials from enforcing the new Trump immigration changes. For now, the large group of those guilty of felonies is the priority for deportation, over 50,000; but reports last week showed non-felony undocumented people being picked up.
Republican legislators are viewing all the hoopla as a huge waste of time, when most states are still struggling will major budget problems, and not because of Russian sanctions on us.
Trump’s hastily issued immigration and visa ban continues to blow up in his face, having lost the San Francisco Appeals Court 3-0 decision. His derisive comments about the judiciary are also sending earthquake rumbles throughout the national judiciary. He quickly tweeted a childish response of “See you in court”. No president has spoken like this in modern history about the judges, with his veiled insinuation that some cleaning up needed to be done there.
Trump stumbles, then flipflops
Despite the invective, the worm has turned and Trump has blinked. His team is working to reissue the immigration order, which is an admission that the first one was not done correctly, despite having been structured by a Rudi Giuliani committee. Reports finally came out that one of the reasons for rushing the order quickly was due to leaks getting out. Leaks are normal in a city where information only has value to a lot of mid-level people when they can give it to somebody.
This past week was a flip-flop week for Trump. Reports surfaced that Trump backed out on his earlier stated desire to discuss nuclear disarmament, and he has a separate investigation going on now to hunt down that leak, even requiring staff to let their phone logs be reviewed.
China learns during its first phone call, that Trump is OK with the One China policy, and the South China Sea dispute will be cooled down. The public is wondering, what was all the tough-guy grandstanding for? The new President has undermined his image by playing the role of a carnival barker.
His claim that Iran is the number one terrorist threat played well with the Iran-haters in Congress. But, for those who know that Iran has done more to fight terrorism inside the Syrian coalition and also in Iraq than the US has, because it is not playing both sides of the fence by supporting the terrorists while fighting them, the terrorist threat hoax is a make-believe game that is a holdover from the Cold War days.
All of this self-generated turmoil has been taking its toll on the new White House staff, and on Trump, too…who seems a bit too eager to jump on Air Force One to get out of Washington and down to Florida. His Mar-a-Lago club looks like it is becoming the second White House, with its membership fees doubling from $100,000 to $200,000.
Visitors to the White House tell of a visibly tired staff. The blame game has ensued in anticipation for those who might need to be removed to give the President cover for what were his own policy and timing mistakes.
Who will survive the blame game?
The Steve Bannon gang at Breitbart News has set the dogs loose on Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former Republican National Committee chairman. They are blaming him for everything but global warming.
There still seems to be some confusion about lines of authority, and especially for the son-in-law Jared Kushner. He is said to be the President’s most trusted adviser, despite his being 36, with no diplomatic or government experience, and despite his business dealings being the result of his wealthy real estate magnate father who has a scandal-ridden past.
Since Trump took office, the media has stopped mentioning that the Jared’s father, Charles Kushner, did a prison stretch for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness-tampering. The case record shows that Charles’ brother-in-law was cooperating with the prosecutors, so Charles hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, taped the event, and sent the tape to his sister, something right out of a third rate movie. When he got out of prison, he brought two more convicted big time swindlers he had met in prison back into his real estate business with him.
Jared and his brother were admitted to Harvard, compliments of a $2.5-million donation by the father. Jared then moved on to New York University, which had received $3 million from Dad. So, we are looking at the classic silver-spoon young man here, who has been put in charge of spearheading a Mideast peace in Palestine. This has some countries wondering what Trump could possibly be thinking.
Enter the White house wrecking ball
Press reports on the chaos are pouring from Washington interviews reveal that Congress is wondering whom they are going to work with in a Trump team whose core group views itself as a “giant wrecking ball” to tear down the current order and replace it with their own magical concoction. Any cab driver in Washington could tell you that approach in winning friends and influencing people in DC will go over like a lead balloon. But the Trump’s staff does not seem to be listening.
White House aide Stephen Miller bragged, “We have a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration.” This was an exaggeration, in that most of these executive orders were just instructions for reports and studies to be made “about” doing things.
Very little has actually been done, with the exception that the Trump team has put on a confusing display of its not understanding that changing the political world is not a business deal negotiation, but rather thousands of them going on simultaneously, and with endless issues and details and conflicts to be worked out.
Endless grandstanding does not instill confidence
To say that Trump has been short on specifics is an understatement. Some feel he is purposefully being vague so no one can criticize the details of his plans. He has been characterized as not understanding the political laws of gravity — that step A must be completed to create the conditions for steps B and C.
Press relations for the new administration are in the toilet, with Trump calling all of them but Fox news, Fake News. I suspect that he may soon find himself being called a Fake President, with much of that indignity due to his own conduct.
As the weeks go by, we will start to see the Trump administration’s people talking directly with their counterparts. Secretary of Defense Mattis addressed the NATO defense ministers, telling them that the US taxpayer is not going to fund their defense needs. Secretary of State Tillerson was in Bonn, Germany to attend his first G-20, in what was described as a “listening tour”, but one where contact with Mr. Lavrov will initiate some diplomatic momentum to loosen the many logjams that are holding foreign policy progress hostage on Syria, Ukraine, China and Iran.
There is much work to do, and history shows that new ideas can be helpful if the timing is right, but innovative ideas are rarely implemented by amateurs or pretenders. We have too many of those in the White House now, and many are hoping that Trump will see this and wean himself off the political hacks he brought with him.
Trump needs an injection of some seasoned professionals who have the needed reputations to help him avoid big mistakes and to start doing the real work of governing. I am not sure his ego will allow him to do this, and we all will suffer for it.
Jim W. Dean, managing editor for Veterans Today, producer/host of Heritage TV Atlanta, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.