Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Trump's White House needs surgery not band aids

John Cassidy (New Yorker) deflates expectations that a White House shake-up will fix what ails the Trump administration. If the only cure is surgical removal of the head, a band aid will not suffice.

… To put it in business terms, the White House’s problem can’t be resolved by firing the marketing team and hiring some external consultants. The problem is the obvious shortcomings of the primary product, Donald J. Trump. Here are six of them: Six reasons why the Trump reset won’t work

1.He isn’t Presidential.
2. He has limited bandwidth.
3. He won’t (or can’t) stick to a message.
4. He won’t delegate real authority.
5. The Russian saga is now a morass.
6. He’s stuck with unpopular Republican policies.

I’ll expand on a couple of these themes with snippets.

The anti-president president

Trump couldn’t see [his recent] trip through without a blowup. When he got to Brussels, he berated his fellow nato leaders in public. Then he attacked the Germans, saying they were “bad, really bad” for exporting so many cars to the United States. After he arrived back home, this weekend, he quickly got back on Twitter and wailed away at his usual targets: the leakers, the media, and the Democrats. (For good measure, he also criticized Germany again.) It was almost as if he were sending a message to the members of his own staff who were suggesting that he might rein in his social-media presence.

Leaders need self control. That’s not in Trump’s behavioral skill set.

Limited bandwidth

Why … did Trump launch his diatribe against the Germans on the eve of the G7 summit? On top of coming across as a boorish guest, he displayed his ignorance on trade—one of his signature issues. Evidently, he was oblivious to the fact that BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen have all set up factories in the United States, where they assemble many of the vehicles they sell here.

Was Trump briefed on the structure of the global auto industry before he spoke? It might not have made much difference. According to a report in Tuesday’s Washington Post, his attention span is so short that intelligence briefers are encouraged to keep written presentations to a page and to include a lot of visual aids, such as maps, charts, and photographs. Reuters reported earlier this month that some National Security Council officials, when preparing materials for the President’s review, have strategically included Trump’s name in “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned.”

That’s the problem; it’s not a solution. Feeding mentions to Trump just plays to his pathological narcissism.

Republican baggage

When a President sees his popularity dip, the obvious response is to do something that voters like. But Trump has committed himself to two policy measures that are anything but popular: the House Republicans’ health-care-reform bill and a big tax cut for rich people and large corporations.

So far, there are no signs that he’s willing to do anything other than play the role of the devil in the Faustian deal with Ryan and McConnell.

Let me add one more reason why the band aid won’t work:

Number 7: John McCain

Blake Morlock (Tucson Sentinel) has some good advice for Trump: Look out, Donald: Straight Talk Express rumbling back to life. President about to pay a price for POW comment.

Sen. John McCain knows how to do political rumble. Morlock recounts how Dubya ran afoul of McCain in 2000 and the price that was paid.

Remember the right-wing hit on his family deployed by Bush supporters in 2000. McCain has an adopted daughter from Bangladesh and during the South Carolina primary someone sent out mailers saying she was a “black daughter born out of wedlock.”

Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove 10 years later was denying he had anything to do with it. swore it wasn’t him but McCain never bought that.

Who was the biggest critic of the Bush administration as the Iraq war unraveled? John McCain. Who was out there banging the drum against torture, when the Bush team said it was vital? John McCain. Who banged on the Bush team to fire Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez? John McCain. Who voted against the Bush tax cut in 2001? John McCain. Who pushed campaign finance reform over the express objections by the Bush team? John McCain. Who backed climate change legislation (watered down as it may have been) that Bush opposed? John McCain.

Who did the Bush re-election team ask to deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Republican Convention to vouch for the President during a tough re-election battle? John McCain.

Donald Trump’s presidency suffered a major blow months before it started. His longest-lasting self-inflicted wound may be the day he threw out the line "He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Insulting McCain and all his fellow POW’s in the Hanoi Hilton was a whole new level of trash talking.

So, now …

Who holds Donald Trump’s domestic agenda in the palm of his hand? Arizona’s senior senator. McCain and Graham tend to vote as a team. To piss off one is to piss off the other. The Republicans hold the U.S. Senate by two seats. McCain and Graham say no, and every other Republican senator can dictate terms. That includes Trump haters like Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse (perhaps next in line to be the Senate’s lone adult) and Maine’s Susan Collins.

And McCain is the first Republican to mention the Comey-Russia scandal in terms of Watergate. He obviously alone won’t provide enough votes for any possible removal from office but he can make Trump’s life more hell than it would otherwise be every step along the way.

"I prefer people who weren’t captured?” Oh, Donald Trump. I hope that testosterone-soaked moment was worth it. The Straight Talk Express is rumbling back to life and its tire tracks are about to be a familiar stain for White House stewards to presoak out of Trump’s too-large jacket.

McCain: Allies must remind America of its principles

McCain is on the road for “talks on security in the Asia-Pacific region” according to an AP report in this morning’s Daily Star: McCain urges Australia to stick with US despite Trump jitters. McCain essentially drove a wedge between Trump’s unpresidential treatment of our allies and the America that is going through “a rough period.”

SYDNEY — U.S. Sen. John McCain urged Australia on Tuesday not to abandon its alliance with America despite jitters over President Trump, saying the U.S. needs its allies more than ever to remind it of its principles.

McCain said he understands why the country’s allies have questioned its commitments to truth over falsehood and freedom over oppression. But he urged Australia to stick with the U.S. “to encourage us to stay true to who we are at our best and remind us always just how much is at stake.”

Whoa! We need our allies to bring us back to our principles? We can’t do that on our own? Apparently not so long as Trump is in the White House. It gets worse (for Trump).

"I realize that some of President Trump’s actions and statements have unsettled America’s friends. They have unsettled many Americans as well,” McCain said in a speech organized by the United States Studies Centre. “There is real debate under way now in my country about what kind of role America should play in the world and, frankly, I don’t know how this debate will play out. But I do believe — and I don’t think I’m exaggerating here — that the future of the world will turn to a large extent on how this debate in America is resolved. That’s why I and others are fighting so hard to ensure that America stands by our allies and remains an active, principled leader in the world.”

Sometimes consequences take a while to play out. The consequences of "I prefer people who weren’t captured” are now becoming manifest. In the era of Trump some straight talk is refreshing.

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