Stand back everyone. Donald Trump is about to blow.
Given the events of the past few days, one could be forgiven for thinking Trump is already erupting. Twitter blasts at London Mayor Sadiq Khan over his response to Saturday’s terror attack and the U.S. judiciary for their reluctance to countenance a “travel ban” certainly suggest a man under significant pressure.
And it’s only going to get worse with former FBI Director James Comey set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning. He is expected to confirm reports that Trump asked him to limit his probe into Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced former National Security Advisor, over Flynn’s connections with Russia. Mounts Etna, Pinatubo, and St. Helens will have nothing on Trump if Comey does as expected.
That’s why it’s time for every White House staffer with an ounce of self respect to consider quitting before it happens. If they don’t, Mr. Trump’s ashes will leave them blackened.
It’s too late to stage an intervention, not that one would make a difference. Trump’s staff have demonstrated zero ability to control the President’s urges or have him heed their advice, whether on policy or communications.
The result? Endless bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. On crowd sizes. Wiretapping. Comey. Russians. With all of the distraction, is it any wonder Trump’s agenda on health care, tax reform, and Mexican wall building is going nowhere?
Frustration at Trump’s Twitter intemperance is growing and was expressed yesterday by no less a figure than George Conway, husband of Trump advisor KellyAnne, who tweeted: "These (travel ban) tweets may make some ppl feel better, but they certainly won't help (the Office of the Solicitor General) get 5 votes in the (Supreme Court of the United States), which is what actually matters. Sad.”
Other experienced Republicans must also be watching through their fingers, distressed, as Trump soils their House and Senate majorities. One imagines the desperate calls into the White House pleading for Trump’s advisers to tame their man. They’re wasting their time.
Trump’s inability or unwillingness to take counsel renders his staff irrelevant. At this point, it feels like staff are only holding on only to see if they can get their West Wing rivals fired first. But surviving a dime store version of Game of Thrones isn’t the point of public service. Or at least it shouldn’t be.
Staffing a political leader is tough at the best of times. When things go well you claim none of the credit, and when things go poorly you get slated or sacked. The reason you do it is because you believe in the things your boss is trying to accomplish. That’s the payoff, not the paycheque or any perceived status you hold as a staffer.
What does Mr. Trump believe in? What is he trying to accomplish? His staff might continue to believe Trump’s campaign-era rhetoric and platform, but their eyes and ears in government should be telling them he’ll never develop the temperament or nous with which to deliver it.
If Mr. Trump can’t sit behind a desk in the Oval Office with a bunch of lackeys lined up behind him to sign an Executive Order with his Sharpie, it doesn’t get done. And even then, as the courts have demonstrated with the travel ban, a Trump signature isn’t necessarily worth the paper it’s scribbled on.
Mr. Trump appears to have expected government to be four years of accolades for his having won the election. No wonder he’s already grousing the job is harder than he thought it would be. And instead of being humbled and learning, Trump is lashing out.
This President doesn’t do introspection. Mr. Trump doesn’t believe he needs to change, and so he won’t. His failures will forever be someone else’s fault.
Staff who stay put in the face of the President’s continuing immaturity won’t be able to say they didn’t see it coming. They will have earned it when the President assigns his blame and pushes them out the door, with only their shame left to keep them company.