But for the fact that the presidency is the most powerful office in the world, the ceaseless turmoil among President Donald Trump’s staff might make a zany soap opera. But like it or not, Trump is the leader of the free world, and chaos in the West Wing does not serve the interests of the American people – nor, for that matter, the interests of the president.
Trump brought this all on himself. He chose not to bring in seasoned Washington veterans. He prefers to govern from his deeply uninformed gut. If the boss won’t listen, the best staff in the world can’t help.
The past few days are a prime example. Trump botched the response to the outbreak of violence surrounding Saturday’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. He revised his remarks 48 hours later, calling out white supremacist groups by name. But incredibly, on Tuesday, he doubled down on his original remarks, insisting that there was “blame on both sides” and suggesting that protests over statues of George Washington, a slave-owner, could be next. He can’t leave bad enough alone.
On Monday, after being hammered by critics for two days, Trump grudgingly called out racist groups by name. Then Fox News reported that in an interview on Sunday, Trump had said he was “seriously considering” a pardon for former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
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This undermined Trump’s own make-good statement condemning hatred and bigotry. Arpaio, who called himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” spent six terms in office trampling the rights of Hispanic citizens in his quest to round up undocumented immigrants. He faces six months in prison for violating a federal order against racial profiling.
Fingers pointed at chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, who once ran the anti-immigrant alt-right website Breitbart.com. His anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, isolationist positions were a key to Trump’s election but have been central to West Wing chaos. He reportedly has feuded with both Kelly and his predecessor, Reince Priebus; with Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser; with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser; and with Anthony Scaramucci, who flamed out profanely after 11 days as Trump’s communications director.
Bannon should never have been hired and deserves to be booted. It would cause blowback from the ultra-right part of Trump’s base. But Trump can’t pretend to believe what he said Monday while allowing Bannon to remain just a few steps down the hall – especially as business leaders keep dropping off his American Manufacturing Council in the midst of the turmoil.
It’s all vastly entertaining until you realize that this crowd is running the White House. Then it becomes embarrassing to say the least, and dangerous at worst.