A turning point?
Can we agree that this was the worst week of Donald Trump’s presidency? All of the latent dysfunction in the White House finally boiled over in spectacular fashion, culminating with Friday’s announcement that Reince Preibus is out as chief of staff.
If this was a move to stabilize the administration, it came far too late to save the president’s first-year agenda. The Obamacare repeal failed, even with a Republican majority.
That turned out to be a run-of-the-mill political failure compared to the circus-variety sideshows that popped up all week.
The president wanted his attorney general to resign for recusing himself from the Russia probe. Trump has refused to fire Jeff Sessions, choosing to harangue him publicly instead, but Sessions has stood his ground.
GOP leaders in the Senate have thwarted the president’s plans to oust Sessions, announcing the Senate Judiciary Committee wouldn’t hold confirmation hearings for a new attorney general this year. Nor would the Senate recess if the president had designs on firing Sessions and making a recess appointment.
The pushback is mounting. As the Boston Globe’s James Pindell noted, the notion that Republicans fear to cross Trump no longer applies:
The GOP “... denied Trump an Obamacare repeal bill and instead sent him a Russia sanctions bill he didn’t want. Even the military said it wouldn’t implement his policy on transgender individuals — at least not immediately. And as badly as Trump wants the Russia investigations to go away, it was a Republican committee chairman who went ahead and subpoenaed Trump’s former campaign chief to testify in the investigation.”
Criticism of the president is no longer coming from the hard left or the Democratic resistance. The Washington Post’s Dan Balz pointed out that Trump was rebuked on Thursday by three separate constituencies considered friendly to the president — the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America.
These were reactions to the president’s cyber-bullying of Sessions, a rogue tweet ordering transgender people out of the military and his turning an invitation to speak at the Boy Scout Jamboree into a political rally.
More troubling may be the turmoil we don’t see. The growing acrimony inside the White House manifested itself publicly when new communications director Anthony Scaramucci viciously attacked other top aides in an on-the-record conversation with a reporter for The New Yorker. The White House staff is clearly divided against itself. It will be up to the new chief of staff, John Kelly, to provide direction and internal clarity.
It looks like the president’s act is wearing thin. Even the Trump-friendly Wall Street Journal’s editorial board has urged Trump to change his ways: “Mr. Trump somehow seems to believe that his outsize personality and social-media following make him larger than the presidency. He’s wrong. He and his family seem oblivious to the brutal realities of Washington politics. Those realities will destroy Mr. Trump, his family and their business reputation unless they change their strategy toward the Russia probe. They don’t have much more time to do it.”