The Chaos In DC: It’s One Man’s Mess
As he sits alone in the White House over Christmas, stuck there because of the government shutdown over the refusal by Congress to give him money for the border wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for, President Trump can take solace in one fact. This is his crisis. He made it clear in the TV sit down with Chuck and Nancy that the shutdown would be his and now it is. So is the fact that Trump has lost his Defense Secretary over his own decision to withdraw from Syria when the battlefield there is anything but stable. He is threatening to do the same in Afghanistan and would probably withdraw from NATO if he could. He wants America to hide between the oceans leaving the rest of the world to handle the evil that is all around us. This cannot be the American role in the world.
As William A. Galston writes in The Wall Street Journal on December 26, Trump just is not a man of his word and that is a real liability in an American President. There is no order to the decision making in the Trump Administration and the president is constantly criticizing his Cabinet members. Steve Mnuchin is the latest to get the Trump cold shoulder for his inability to calm roiling financial markets, but perhaps the stock market was over valued and a correction was inevitable. If the latest volatility could be blamed on anything it would be Mr. Trump’s inability to settle trade issues, especially the ones between the U.S. and China. The Fed’s small rise in interest rates is probably not the critical factor in the latest downward trends in stock prices (see Amar Bhide’s column in the same issue of the WSJ).
The bottom line as we approach the new year and the new Congress is that the country’s government is in chaos and turmoil, even if the country itself may not be. The economy still seems solid. Unemployment is still low. Half of America has no interest in the stock market and the fact that some traders lose money is not a major concern of the federal government unless there is a crash in the underlying economy. That does not seem to be the case.
There are four Ps that run the government: Policy, Process, Politics and Personality. Trump’s policies are unpredictable. From one day to the next no one is sure what the influence of the talking heads on Fox News might be. Supposedly Trump was close to a deal with Congress on a continuing resolution to keep the government open without the $5 billion for the border wall. Then the conservative pundits started taking him to task for backing away from his campaign promise and Trump reversed course throwing the government into a shutdown that is unlikely to reverse until after the new year, if then. With a new Democratic majority in the House, the president is unlikely to get funding for his wall any time soon.
The Process by which the Trump Administration runs itself is askew. Clearly the administration did not confer with our allies with regard to the Syria withdrawal and no one is very happy about the resignation of General Mattis.
There are no Politics in the Trump White House. Even GOP senators who have tried to stay the course with the president are having trouble over the Syria decision and no one is happy about the forced government shutdown.
But those four Ps are listed in ascending order of importance. That makes Personality the most critical and here is where Trump just melts. He is obnoxious, demeaning, derisive and rude. He conducts himself like a petulant two-year old and wonders why he can’t get anything done or surround himself with a loyal group of effective Cabinet secretaries. The only loyalty he gets is from his family who are counting on him for pardons when they get indicted. The Trump Administration is more a Mafia family than an effective government.
This administration is a mess and it’s one man’s mess. It is unlikely that it will improve. Either Mr. Trump will quit, be impeached or be defeated in 2020. I doubt he gets to 2020 in the Oval Office. The noose around him is tightening and he is becoming more erratic. It’s a race between the time he does something both dumb and irrevocable (and impeachable) and the time he is driven from office.