President Donald Trump still doesn’t get it. He seems to think that if he ousts his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and chief spokesman Sean Spicer, that all of his White House management and image problems will magically be solved. Trump publicly berates his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in the mistaken belief that such humiliation will yield better results in the deepening probe of Russian election meddling.
What Trump seems incapable of understanding is that these are all symptoms of the same problem: him. The White House is in utter disarray not because of leaks or because two or three senior officials are underperforming but because their leader still hasn’t figured out how to lead.
No amount of firings and public humiliations can put the White House in order as long as the president refuses to observe greater self-discipline and address his own deep personal flaws. Since that’s clearly not going to happen anytime soon, the chaos seems destined to continue, even after Monday’s ouster of new communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
The new White House chief of staff, former Homeland Security Secretary and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, will fare no better in the job than Priebus if Trump refuses to change his ways.
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Far too many Americans still mistake Trump’s brash style as an admirable quality, as if his gaffes and ill-considered early morning tweets are overturning Washington’s business-as-usual atmosphere. They’re not. All they’re doing is causing dozens of stalwart Republicans to join Democrats in opposition to their president.
Both houses stood against Trump in overwhelmingly passing a tough sanctions bill against Russia. During last week’s debate over the Affordable Care Act, the administration miscalculated that it could threaten and bully Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, into voting to advance a GOP repeal-and-replace measure. Murkowski voted no anyway, correctly refusing to be cowed by Trump’s tactics.
Trump, who has repeatedly berated Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the past, got his comeuppance when McCain tipped the balance in voting against the GOP measure last week.
Trump tweets embarrassing and irresponsible pronouncements on a daily basis, distracting staffers from promoting his agenda, forcing them instead to constantly put out brush fires. No organization can succeed if the person at the top behaves so erratically.
Likewise, Trump mistakenly believes senior staffers do their best work when pitted against one another. The result is that each works to promote himself and undermine competitors rather than work as a team.
Kelly now inherits this unqualified mess. It’s up to him to instill order and put a stop to the madness. Trump seems to think that the discipline and leadership qualities of a Marine general are what’s required to right the White House’s sinking ship. Rearranging the deck chairs might tidy things up, but it won’t help if the captain keeps to his same, disastrous course.