Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press on Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio, as Vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence looks on.
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

Unwilling to focus on substance, Trump sidelines policy team

Before the election, Donald Trump and his team made a deliberate decision to avoid substance and policy details. One of the Republican candidate’s top policy advisers said after the conventions that the typical American voter would be “bored to tears” if the campaign focused on substance – a sentiment Trump himself endorsed in June when he said “the public doesn’t care” about public policy.

In May, Politico quoted a campaign insider saying Trump didn’t want to “waste time on policy.” The Trump source added at the time, “It won’t be until after he is elected … that he will figure out exactly what he is going to do.”

Well, the election has come and gone, and as Politico reports today, Trump still isn’t focused on what, exactly, he’s going to do.
While Donald Trump dines on frog legs with Mitt Romney and meets with a parade of lawmakers and governors in his gold-plated Midtown skyscraper, most of his transition staff are hunkered down in Washington, D.C., writing detailed governing plans for his first 100 days.

But so far, Trump and his inner circle have largely ignored those plans as they focus on top appointments and lean on the advice of politicians, CEOs and donors, rather than on their transition staff, say sources close to the transition.

The president-elect, meanwhile, has been more likely to set policy on Twitter than through consultation with his D.C. advisers.
The article quoted a Republican official involved in past transitions who said Team Trump’s approach “is not a recipe for smooth governance.”

Politico added that Trump’s focus is on “personality” over “policy.”

In theory, one can imagine a team of seasoned veterans, who bring vast experience in government and management of massive institutions, investing less time in governing plans during the transition phase because they’re confident in their expertise.

But with Trump, it’s largely the opposite. The president-elect has no governing experience, and neither does his chief of staff. The same is true of his chief strategist. And his Treasury secretary. And his HUD secretary. And his Education secretary. And his Commerce secretary. And some of his deputy cabinet officials.

In other words, Trump and many of those he’s surrounded himself with have no idea what they’re doing, and about a month from now, they’ll be running the executive branch of a global superpower. These are the same folks, however, who’ve decided to “largely ignore” detailed governing plans.

They’re led by a president-elect who seems deeply interested in “Saturday Night Live” and self-indulgent, self-congratulatory victory-tour rallies, but who tends to tweet more than he attends policy briefings.

Politico’s piece added that former transition officials say Trump’s operation “is unusual in the way it’s leaving so much of the policy and second-tier personnel appointments to D.C. transition team members, many of whom are volunteers with little power and no connection to Trump’s key advisers.”

The article added that it’s “becoming harder for policy experts to get the attention of Trump’s inner-circle.”

What could possibly go wrong when the most inexperienced and unprepared presidential amateur takes office in six weeks?