Trump's White House is a Shambles

Convershaken Staff
February 6, 2017

Three weeks into Donald Trump's presidency, the White House remains in complete disarray. "Aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room", according to The New York Times. "Visitors conclude their meetings and then wander around, testing doorknobs until finding one that leads to an exit", the newspaper adds.

Trump wasn't fully briefed before signing an executive order granting chief strategist Steve Bannon a seat on the National Security Council - a "greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban". The administration also discarded a detailed staffing and implementation plan - penned by New Jersey governor and former Trump advisor Chris Christie - by "tossing it into a garbage can". Its preferred strategy? Releasing "dramatic" executive orders on a daily basis to keep opponents on the back foot.

The bombshell report portrays a naïve, impulsive and disorganised administration, which helps to explain its recent missteps. The best example is the ill-conceived travel ban, which caused chaos at airports around the country and resulted in widespread protests and unlawful deportations.

Trump's tenure has also been dogged by embarrassment. A woman impersonated a Congressman's wife to infiltrate a recent GOP retreat, where she recorded Republicans admitting they had few ideas about how to repair or replace Obamacare, one of the party's flagship commitments. Trump's pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has faced severe criticism for her lack of knowledge about the American school system. As all Democratic senators and two of their Republican colleagues oppose her appointment, Vice-President Mike Pence may have to cast the tie-breaking vote.

The White House's shortcomings pale in comparison to Trump's personal behaviour. He stubbornly refuses to acknowledge or apologise for mistakes, seeks out scapegoats should anything go wrong, and dismisses any evidence that his policies are flawed or unconstitutional. He airs many of his concerns and reactions via his Twitter feed, which has become a repository of petulant and delusional statements.

After James Robart ordered a temporary stay of Trump's travel ban, the president labelled him a "so-called" judge and said the blame for future terrorist attacks would lie with him. He recently tweeted that "any negative polls are fake news" and that "people want border security and extreme vetting", indicating he'll ignore any evidence to the contrary. He accused The New York Times of "making up stories & sources" after it published the report on his administration's inner workings. And he criticised the media for failing to report terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East; press secretary Sean Spicer later clarified that he meant they were 'underreported'. The White House published a list of incidents to back up his claim that included the San Bernardino and Orlando nightclub shootings, both of which received national coverage.

The new president has also threatened international relations. He reportedly hung up on Australian president Malcolm Turnbull after hearing the previous administration had agreed to take 1,250 refugees off its ally's hands. He put Iran 'on notice' after it fired a ballistic missile, a term with no clear meaning. He suggested, perhaps jokingly, that he would send US troops into Mexico to help with its criminals. Yet he remains keen to stay in Russia's good graces. In a recent interview, he refused to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin as a killer, asking, "You think our country's so innocent?"

In a short period of time, Trump has shown that he's serious about his most outrageous campaign pledges, including a Muslim ban and a southern border wall. Yet he remains deeply insecure about the legitimacy of his presidency: he blames millions of illegal (and non-existent) voters for his loss of the popular vote. And he continues to benefit from his business interests - memberships at his exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort have doubled in price since his election.

Some Americans have realised their mistake: Trump is historically unpopular and more than half of respondents to a recent poll opposed his border wall and immigration ban. Trump's brash, antagonistic management style hasn't translated well to the role of president, and his reaction to setbacks suggests he's unaccustomed to having his decisions challenged or overturned. It's possible he'll grow into the role, become more circumspect and collaborative and realise the presidency doesn't grant him ultimate, unaccountable power. But for now, the teething problems are likely to continue.