U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (standing, L-R), Vice President Mike Pence and Staff Secretary Rob Porter welcomes...
JONATHAN ERNST

The select few who have Donald Trump’s ear

Politico reported over the weekend that Donald Trump likes to leave large blocks of “private time” on his presidential schedule, which are regularly devoted to “spontaneous meetings and phone chats with ex-aides, friends, media figures, lawmakers and members of his Cabinet.” For most modern presidencies, this isn’t exactly a normal practice, but it’s the way Trump has operated for years.

Whether or not this is a good thing appears to be a matter of perspective, and Politico spoke to members of Team Trump who were “split on whether the freewheeling set-up, which can allow friends and unofficial advisers to whisper in the president’s ear on policy issues, is productive.”

It matters quite a bit who, exactly, is doing the whispering. With this in mind, the New York Times had an interesting piece over the weekend.
As Mr. Trump’s White House advisers jostle for position, the president has turned to another group of advisers – from family, real estate, media, finance and politics, and all outside the White House gates – many of whom he consults at least once a week. […]

Mr. Trump’s West Wing aides, like President Bill Clinton’s staff two decades before, say they sometimes cringe at the input from people they can’t control, with consequences they can’t predict. Knowing these advisers – who are mostly white, male and older – is a key to figuring out the words coming from Mr. Trump’s mouth and his Twitter feed.
The Times did a nice job breaking down the list of 20 presidential confidants – each of whom, at least for now, works outside the White House – and the role they play in Trump’s orbit. The piece even breaks them down into convenient categories.

Of the 20, 18 are men, 20 are white, and most are roughly the president’s age. The demographic characteristics are very likely to make a difference in how Trump sees the world and what challenges most deserve his attention.

But there’s one other common thread tying together much of the list that jumped out at me.

Of the 20 people featured on the Times’ list, 17 of them have zero governing experience. The exceptions were House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) – and how much influence these three have over Trump’s thinking is a subject of some debate.

But consider this detail in context: Donald Trump is the first president in American history to have literally zero background in public service at any level. His chief of staff has no governing experience. His chief strategist has no governing experience. His chief counselor has no governing experience. His daughter and son-in-law – who appear to have as much influence over the president as any two people in the world – combined have no governing experience.

And now we learn that nearly everyone outside the White House who’s in frequent communications with the president, offering him guidance and advice, also has no governing experience.

As the political world takes stock of the Trump presidency as it nears its 100th day in office, and observers question why he’s struggling so badly at the job he knows so little about, it’s worth considering a likely answer: these people have no idea what they’re doing.

Donald Trump and White House

The select few who have Donald Trump's ear