I generally don’t care about warring factions and personalities in the West Wing. I do care, however, when a White House slips into chaos, due entirely to officials’ own incompetence and ignorance.
Take this morning, for example.
An escalating White House war between two top advisers to President Donald Trump entered a new stage Thursday after Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci lobbed a grenade of leak accusations that were seen as an attack against chief of staff Reince Priebus.
The fracas began Wednesday night after Politico published Scaramucci’s financial disclosure forms from his employment at the Export-Import Bank, where the former financier had a post before being tapped last week as Trump’s new communications director last week.
Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, insisted that “the leak” of his financial disclosure forms was “a felony,” and he intended to pursue the matter with the FBI and Justice Department.
There was, however, no leak. The financial-disclosure materials, first noted by Politico, are public documents, obtained through a simple records request.
In other words, this strange drama was sparked by Scaramucci – who enjoys telling people he went to Harvard Law School – not knowing what he was talking about.
The larger point, however, has less to do with who in the White House is feuding with whom, and more to do with the fact that the White House itself, after just six months, is slipping deeper and deeper into chaos.
Donald Trump took pride in calling his operation a “fine-tuned machine” earlier this year, and while it was laughable at the time, the machine has clearly fallen apart in the months that have followed. The latest column from the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank rings true:
Trump, baffling and alarming allies, goes on the attack against his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was an outspoken supporter of Trump’s candidacy. Trump clearly wants Sessions to resign, but Sessions is ignoring him. Sessions’s former colleagues in the Senate back him over his boss – and they hope Trump isn’t crazy enough to start a crisis by firing Sessions and then special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
Meanwhile, the president continues to sow chaos with perpetual distractions. He fires off a tweet Wednesday morning announcing he is banning transgender people from serving in the military. The tweet apparently catches even the Pentagon by surprise and draws rebukes from pro-military Republicans who argue that all able-bodied, patriotic Americans should be allowed to serve.
And the ship of state sails on, rudderless. This is what it might look like if there were no president at all: stuff happens, but nothing gets done.
By all appearances, Trump World is getting worse, not better, and no one can seriously have any confidence in this White House’s ability to govern effectively.
The feuds make for interesting inter-personal conflicts – Scaramucci vs. Priebus, Bannon vs. Kushner, Trump vs. Sessions, and on and on – but this isn’t a soap opera; it’s the executive branch of a global superpower. What happens when Americans put enormous power in the hands of a strange television personality? Now we know.