In deciding to abruptly fire FBI Director James B. Comey, President Trump characteristically let himself be guided by his own instincts -- fueled by his creeping anger and sense of victimhood about a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that he considers a "witch hunt."The aftermath is a presidency rocked by its most serious self-inflicted crisis yet, exposing dysfunction and distrust within his West Wing and imperiling his agenda. The momentum for the health-care bill that passed the House is gone, and a week scheduled to be devoted to Trump's preparations for a high-stakes foreign trip was overtaken by distractions and fury.Across Washington, Trump's allies have been buzzing about the staff's competence as well as the president's state of mind. One GOP figure close to the White House mused privately about whether Trump was "in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion."
May 13, 201722:50
It's not often that the Washington Post publishes a quote like that -- in the third paragraph, on the front page, in the midst of what appears to be one of the most serious White House scandals in decades.The piece went on to describe Trump as angry, impulsive, and directionless, overseeing aides who are eager to point fingers at one another. Describing the night of the Comey firing, one White House official told the Post, "They were running around like chickens with their heads cut off."An Associated Press report, meanwhile, added that Trump has "become distrustful" of White House staffers, marginalizing once-powerful aides, and relying more and more on his daughter, son-in-law, and Keith Schiller, his longtime bodyguard.The piece noted that the president "increasingly sees himself as the White House's only effective spokesperson," which is genuinely hilarious given the damage he did to himself by effectively admitting to obstructing justice last week -- after West Wing officials put their credibility on the line by pushing a narrative that Trump himself discredited.On the surface, the portrait that emerges is obviously unsettling. Our amateur president is lost, bruised, and isolated, skeptical of his own team, and inadvertently making each of his problems worse. Given that so few people in the West Wing -- especially those who have Trump's ear -- have any governing experience, or even a rudimentary understanding of what a functioning White House looks like, there's no reason to believe Team Trump will right this ship anytime soon.Indeed, both of the aforementioned reports raise the specter of the president deciding on a major staffing overhaul, though there's no reason to believe that would make any difference: it's not as if new staffers would suddenly make Trump competent and responsible.But just below the surface it's important to recognize that each of the White House's problems are of Team Trump's own making. Three months after Inauguration Day, the president is plagued by scandal, incompetence, and unpopularity, but neither he nor his aides have been forced to confront an external, unpredictable crisis they didn't see coming.And every president, without exception, faces external, unpredictable crisis they didn't see coming.Is there any reason for anyone to have confidence in Trump World's ability to control its chaos and respond like grown-ups to a serious challenge the president didn't create on his own?