‘There Is No Trump Doctrine’

According to Shane Goldmacher, Trump’s communication director Mike Dubke is trying to “re-brand” the president’s image in time for his 100th day in office on April 29th. As part of that effort he held a brainstorming session (how very “swampish” of him) with 30 staffers — six of whom leaked about it to Goldmacher. Here’s the part that caught my eye:

Dubke, who did not work on the campaign, told the assembled aides that international affairs would present a messaging challenge because the president lacks a coherent foreign policy. Three days later, Trump would order missile strikes in Syria in a reversal of years of previous opposition to such intervention.

“There is no Trump doctrine,” Dubke declared.

Some in the room were stunned by the remark.

“It rubbed people the wrong way because on the campaign we were pretty clear about what he wanted to do,” said a third White House official in the room, “He was elected on a vision of America First. America First is the Trump doctrine.”

As Michael Cohen noted, “America First is not a doctrine. It’s a fascist slogan.” But Dubke nailed it. “There is no Trump doctrine.” That doesn’t just apply to foreign policy. It describes the president’s entire approach to policy. Here is how David Frum summed it up:

That message—a vote for Clinton is a vote for World War III beginning in Syria—was pounded home by surrogates and by Trump’s social-media troll army.

Not even 100 days into his presidency, Trump has done exactly what he attacked Hillary Clinton for contemplating.

Some have described this reverse as “hypocritical.” This description is not accurate. A hypocrite says one thing while inwardly believing another. The situation with Donald Trump is much more alarming. On October 26, 2016, he surely meant what he said. It’s just that what he meant and said that day was no guide to what he would mean or say on October 27, 2016—much less April 6, 2017.

Voters and citizens can expect literally zero advance warning of what Donald Trump will do or won’t do. Campaign promises, solemn pledges—none are even slightly binding…If you feel betrayed by any of these reversals, you have no right to complain.

That is precisely why, during the campaign, I quit trying to write about Trump’s policies. To understand this president is to recognize that he is not a populist, or an anti-globalist, or an anti-interventionist. He is a narcissist. His narcissism expresses itself in racism, sexism and xenophobia. It is also why he is a congenital liar. Trump will say and do anything that reinforces the fantasy of himself that lives inside his own head.

Mike Allen reported this succinctly in commenting on the battle between Steve Bannon and the Kushners.

In their view [Ivanka and Jared], Bannon is too inclined to want to burn things down and blow things up. They want a more open process driven by the interests of the president, not ideology.

When Trump’s interests align with Bannon’s “burn things down and blow things up” approach, that’s cool. But when they are in conflict, Bannon is shunned.

That’s why the search for reasonable thinking in this White House is a pointless task. The Ivanka/Jared wing might be inclined to blow fewer things up, but only when holding their fire is in their own (or Daddy’s) interests. There is not a Trump doctrine when in comes to formulating a consistent policy. What emanates from this White House will always be whatever benefits the narcissist.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.