After Three Weeks, Trump Baffled, Staff Exhausted

Politico has a new piece up on low morale in the White House. It’s based on interviews with “nearly two dozen people who’ve spent time with Trump in the three weeks since his inauguration.” It’s kind of amazing to realize that it’s only been three weeks because, to me, it seems more like a millennium. And I guess the administration’s staff feels about the same way.

It’s only been three weeks, but that’s been long enough for Trump to create “a climate where people are ‘very careful who they talk to.'” It’s been long enough to create a “powder-keg of a workplace where job duties are unclear, morale among some is low, factionalism is rampant and exhaustion is running high.”

Hell, considering that “two visitors to the White House last week said they were struck by how tired the staff looks,” things were already so bad after only two weeks that people were wearing down.

Stamina. How does it work?

Yesterday, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway violated obvious ethics rules and probably the law by pimping Ivanka Trump’s product lines, which forced the administration to counsel her and drew an instant rebuke from Congress.

Conway’s remarks drew a sharp and unusual rebuke from a top Republican lawmaker, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who said that Conway’s comments were “absolutely wrong, wrong, wrong” and “clearly over the line.”

Chaffetz, who has resisted calls by Democrats to investigate potential conflicts related to President Trump’s businesses, joined with the Oversight Committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), in sending a letter to the Office of Government Ethics calling Conway’s comments “unacceptable.” The letter asked the agency to recommend discipline given that Trump, who is Conway’s “agency head,” holds an “inherent conflict of interest” due to the involvement of his daughter’s business.

I can see how something like that might sap your energy and enthusiasm for Making America Great Again.

Today, we’re watching National Security Adviser Michael Flynn circle the drain as it becomes clear that prior to the inauguration he inappropriately and possibly illegally discussed sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador and then lied to pretty much everyone about it, including Vice-President Pence.

That can’t add to the overall joy of being three weeks into the new job of helping to run the free world.

Of course, if the boss isn’t happy, that can trickle down like a Laffer Curve, and the boss seems a little out of his league and out of his element. This can be seen in a variety of ways, including just observing his interactions with foreign leaders like Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Overall, Trump is shocked that the job is so hard.

Being president is harder than Donald Trump thought, according to aides and allies who say that he’s growing increasingly frustrated with the challenges of running the massive federal bureaucracy.

In interviews, nearly two dozen people who’ve spent time with Trump in the three weeks since his inauguration said that his mood has careened between surprise and anger as he’s faced the predictable realities of governing, from congressional delays over his cabinet nominations and legal fights holding up his aggressive initiatives to staff in-fighting and leaks.

Not to mention that he has to fake knowing what he’s talking about all the time, including on immigration reform or pretty much everything else:

Trump often asks simple questions about policies, proposals and personnel. And, when discussions get bogged down in details, the president has been known to quickly change the subject — to “seem in control at all times,” one senior government official said — or direct questions about details to his chief strategist Steve Bannon, his son-in-law Jared Kushner or House Speaker Paul Ryan.

He expresses “disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay — or even stop — him from filling positions and implementing policies.”

Government. How does it work?

We’re three weeks in and I keep asking what the shelf-life of this presidency can be, because it’s already curdling and stinking like sour milk.

But, if it’s any consolation to Trump and his staff, we’re exhausted, too.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.