epaselect epa05747103 US President Donald Trump (F), with White House chief of staff Reince Pribus (L), counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway (2L),...
SHAWN THEW

Who’s calling the shots in Donald Trump’s White House?

In April 1995, Bill Clinton’s presidency wasn’t going well. Republicans had just taken control of Congress for the first time in decades, and when the White House announced a prime-time news conference, most of the networks decided not to air it.

In a line he probably regretted soon after, Clinton told reporters, “The president is still relevant here.” The trouble, of course, is that relevant leaders don’t generally feel the need to talk up their relevance. The Democrat’s defensiveness was ultimately self-defeating.

More than 20 years later, Donald Trump’s presidency is experiencing its own problems, leading to a related, overly defensive claim. “I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it,” Trump said on Twitter this morning. (Because if there’s one thing we think of when we hear the name Donald J. Trump, it’s “accumulation of data.”)

A boast like this may make the president feel better, but “everyone” clearly doesn’t know he calls his own shots – because if they did, Trump wouldn’t feel the need to brag about his decision making. Leaders who confidently call their own shots don’t need to whine about it. Trump sounds like a boss who’s desperately trying to convince himself and those around him he’s still in charge.

As for why the rookie president is making this misplaced boast in the first place, Trump appears to be responding to this New York Times piece, which noted, among other things, that the president doesn’t seem to know what policies he’s putting his signatures on.
Mr. Priebus bristles at the perception that he occupies a diminished perch in the West Wing pecking order compared with previous chiefs. But for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.
“Was not fully briefed on details” suggests Trump made some important changes to the National Security Council without understanding his own policy.

A leader who calls his own shots probably would’ve asked for a briefing before he signed an executive order, and if he wasn’t satisfied with the answers, he wouldn’t have put his signature on it.

The same Times article included a variety of other notable tidbits, including the fact that the president watches cable news, “both at night and during the day,” watches Sean Spicer’s daily press briefings live, and occasionally even “gives quick tours” to White House visitors “to pass the time between meetings.”

This may not seem especially controversial at first blush, so let’s note for context that most modern presidents are extremely busy on any given day managing the affairs of state. The idea that Trump, after just two weeks on the job, finds time during the day to watch TV and give quick tours to visitors between meetings suggests the political amateur is not using his time wisely.

It’s enough to make one wonder who’s calling actually the shots in the West Wing.


Donald Trump and White House

Who's calling the shots in Donald Trump's White House?