Quick Takes: A Failing Presidency

Last Friday we were talking about the worst week ever for a first-term president. While this week hasn’t been quite as dramatic, the aura of a failed presidency is beginning to take hold.

* Here is how Mike Allen describes the situation.

President Trump brought his chaos-and-loyalty theory of management into the White House, relying on competing factions, balanced by trusted family members, with himself perched atop as the gut-instinct decider. He now realizes this approach has flopped, and feels baffled and paralyzed by how to fix it, numerous friends and advisers tell us…

The chaos dimension has created far more chaos than anticipated. Come nightfall, Trump is often on the phone with billionaire, decades-long friends, commiserating and critiquing his own staff. His most important advisers are often working the phone themselves, trashing colleagues and either spreading or beating down rumors of turmoil and imminent changes.

This has created a toxic culture of intense suspicion and insecurity. The drama is worse than what you read.

I’m not ready to buy the idea that Trump knows his approach has flopped. But it sure looks like most everybody else is catching on.

* The folks at NBC’s First Read summed things up this way:

Just 10 weeks on the job, President Trump’s approval rating is stuck in the 30s and 40s. His health-care effort failed. The travel ban is tied up in courts. Congress and the FBI are investigating his campaign’s possible links to Russia. He’s calling out fellow Republicans for failing to help him on health care. His White House tried to cover up (for a while at least) his aides providing information to House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes. And now his ousted national security adviser says he’ll cooperate with the FBI and Congress in exchange for immunity.

Any one of these stories would ensnare a presidency in a crisis. But you add up these seven storylines above — we’re sure we’re leaving others out — and it’s unsustainable.

* Here’s Michael Gerson’s take:

Heading into the 2016 election, Republicans knew that this problem — the tea party predicament, the Freedom Caucus conundrum, the Boehner bog — had to be dealt with. The GOP needed a large and capable leader who could either unite the whole party (at least temporarily) with a bold, unifying conservative vision, or peel off some centrist Democratic support with innovative policy. They needed an above-average president.

What they got is unimaginably distant from any of these goals. They got a leader who is empty — devoid of even moderately detailed preferences and incapable of using policy details in the course of political persuasion.

Republicans got a leader who is impatient and easily distracted…

Republicans got an administration that is incompetent…

Republicans got an administration that is morally small…

It is now dawning on Republicans what they have done to themselves. They thought they could somehow get away with Trump. That he could be contained. That the adults could provide guidance. That the economy might come to the rescue. That the damage could be limited.

Instead, they are seeing a downward spiral of incompetence and public contempt — a collapse that is yet to reach a floor. A presidency is failing. A party unable to govern is becoming unfit to govern.

* Dan Rather has observed other failed presidencies. Here’s what he sees now:

Both Johnson and Nixon were seasoned politicians and they were surrounded by Washington insiders who knew how the game was played. Both men had pulled off remarkable achievements to their agendas. And there were long stretches of stability in their administrations. We are just over two months into President Trump’s term and already there is civil war in his own party in the wake of the health care debacle. His Muslim travel ban is suspended indefinitely, and then there is always the Russian shadow, which continues to become more serious, now with new allegations of White House interference. We have record low approval ratings and a White House that is understaffed and those who are there do not seem up to the task of governing…

We have seen no evidence to suggest that this Administration can stabilize itself. There seems to be no ballast of seriousness or sober mindedness to right the ship.

None of these people address the obvious next question, “What now?” That’s because no one can. We’re all just going to have to live through it to find out.

* Finally, let’s end the week with a humorous take on all of this. Is the Trump presidency simply a ridiculous plot gone awry?

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.