Donald Trump’s dependence on cable news for White House personnel is one of the staples of his presidency. But Trump doesn’t just choose aides based on what he’s seen on television, he also shapes his daily White House agenda the same way.
Politico published an interesting report overnight on the rise and fall of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who was brought in to instill a sense of discipline in the president’s operation, but who gradually found himself marginalized by a boss who didn’t care for the constraints. The article included this unsurprising gem:
Kelly has done away with “meeting crashers,” the West Wing aides who showed up for meetings uninvited, according to a White House aide, but he has not been able to curb Trump’s practice of adding and subtracting advisers to meetings throughout the day or of turning scheduled gatherings into freewheeling discussions of subjects that suit his interests – including those suggested to him by his coterie of outside advisers, including Fox News host Sean Hannity.
“He comes down for the day, and whatever he saw on ‘Fox and Friends,’ he schedules meetings based on that,” said one former White House official. “If it’s Iran, it’s ‘Get John Bolton down here!’ … If he’s seen something on TV or [was] talking to Hannity the night before, he’s got lots of flexibility to do whatever he wants to do.”
It’s not exactly reassuring that the White House’s daily agenda is routinely shaped by whatever the president happened to see on his favorite cable news channel. Global superpowers in the 21st century should probably govern in a more responsible way.
But it’s also one of the many ways Trump’s presidency is the opposite of his predecessor’s.
Four years ago this week, Barack Obama hosted an event with some young people, one of whom asked how he dealt with criticism. The Democratic president briefly laughed to himself before he answered.
Addressing an audience largely made up of African-American boys and young men, Mr. Obama turned serious and gave a long, thoughtful answer about how, over the years, he has learned to focus on what is important to him and keep fixed on “the north star that steers you” no matter what others may say.
“And then I just don’t watch TV,” he added with a smile. “That’s the other thing.”
A lot can change in four years.