When you look at the first five months of the Trump Presidency you have to wonder where it is headed and if there is any clear direction on policy. As a candidate Trump campaigned on a definite set of ideas but it appears that a reality check is setting in at the White House and they are still trying to find their way.
One of the reasons I suspect is the problem is very simple: Trump did not expect to win. Just as Hillary Clinton was sure she was going to win the Presidency he was not that sure he could win. The night of the election Clinton was in utter shock and denial and could not even bring herself to come down and thank her supporters. Trump on the other hand, paraded he and his family down to the stage and claimed victory and promised great things would like ahead.
Clinton had a large cadre of experienced government workers ready to step in and hit the ground running. She could also rely on the Obama Administration holdovers to move the ball forward as she fleshed out her administration. Trump was not convinced he would win and therefore did not have this list of manpower (and woman power) at the ready to jump in and start to move is policies forward. This is now becoming evident as Assistant Secretary positions are left vacant throughout the government and the confirmation hearings will drag on well into the fall. That means that an entire year, one fourth of is first term, will be understaffed and not moving his agenda forward.
Couple this with the Democrats intransience in the Senate and the process becomes even more difficult. We saw this with the delays they put up in confirming Cabinet Secretaries. They are being just as obstinate with the lower positions. They keep demanding more information and more vetting. They realize that they cannot actually block a nominee but they can delay for months their assuming the office for which they are nominated. McConnell was forced to change the Senate rules to move the nominations of Justice Neil Gorsuch but he will not, in my opinion, change the rules on legislation and so Trump will have to deal with the fact that any policy change will have to attract 60 votes in the Senate. With the Republicans only having 52 Senators, and a couple of them liable to bold on any given initiative, the task of moving Trump’s agenda is very difficult.
In the House of Representatives it is a little better but not much. There is no super majority rule in the House but the Republicans in the lower body are divided and cannot seem to coalesce around legislation. The Freedom Caucus, a group of about 30 conservative Republicans, vote as a bloc in most cases and prevent the Speaker of the House from moving anything they don’t agree with. The Democrats have realized they are the minority and they are strongly anti-Trump so they refuse to help Speaker Ryan pass anything and simply sit back and watch the Republicans destroy each other.
So here we are almost five months into the new Administration and Republicans who celebrated the fact that they had won the Senate, House and the Presidency seem to be at a standstill and looking for a solution to their own stalemate. What is the solution?
As I wrote earlier, I believe Trump has to shake up the White House staff. Despite denials there still appears to be some splits in the staff and they are competing for the ear of the President. I have a hard time believing that Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus are best of friends and supporting each other. In the end one or both will have to go because they have not found a way to play nice in the sand box. Bannon is a polarizing figure and the Administration would do better without him and his close associates. Priebus has struggled to assert himself and he may not survive as well.
Jared Kushner has been the President’s most trusted advisor and he is also the President’s son-in-law. But the recent news reports that he tried to set up some sort of back channel communications with the Russian government does not bode well for him. In normal times it is not unusual for someone in the transition team to reach out to key foreign governments to establish a line of communication prior to the inauguration but these are not normal times and with the accusations of Russia trying to influence the elections it does not pass the optics test. Kushner has become the Valerie Jarrett of this administration; the person the President trusts the most. But as difficult as it might be the President might have to recommend that both Jared and his wife, Ivanka Trump, head back to New York and just be the daughter and son-in-law of the President.
The next thing that needs to happen, and happen quickly, is the Administration has got to find out who is leaking things to the media. There is not doubt the media has a strong bias against Donald Trump and people leaking damaging information to them are hurting the administration. Those leaks could be coming from competing interests in the White House or they could be coming from people still left over from the Obama administration. It does not matter who is doing the leaking. What matters is they stop it and tighten things up.
At the cabinet level the White House Office of Personnel must quit stalling on nominees and start moving them at a rapid pace to the Senate for confirmation. They must also send a strong message to the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and other Committee Chairman that they expect confirmation hearings and votes to move much faster and if the Democrats object then just roll right over them. I can assure you that if there was a Clinton Presidency and a Democrat Senate the Leader would be Chuck Schumer and he would not tolerate any delaying tactics by Republicans.
I would then invite the Freedom Caucus to a dinner at the White House. Threatening them has not worked in the past because they are all ensconced in safe districts that are very conservative. But I would have my political director lay out the facts that the public is growing weary of them getting nothing done and their demands that every policy be in agreement with their desires will only result in Republicans losing seats in the mid terms and they may find themselves in the minority with absolutely not power and the new majority will simply ignore them. There only power comes with a Republican majority and if they continue to threaten that majority they will find themselves irrelevant.
The next suggestion I would have is one that is the most difficult and I am not sure anyone is up to the task of making it happen. President Trump needs to take a hard look at himself in the mirror and realize he won the election. That means quit watching cable news and tweeting out some response. That means quit allowing the media to bait you into arguing with them. They don’t like you and it will not change. Don’t feed them more fodder for their criticism. That means getting the facts straight. No more making up things. You have a staff to give you the true facts. If they give you something that is incorrect fire them. That means no more saying everything is the best or the biggest. It does not always have to be that. Sometimes it just means getting the job done and let your actions speak for themselves. You don’t’ have to tell everyone that you did something.
Now to my liberal friends I have this to say. You lost the election, get over it and lets start finding ways to work with the President to better the country. Quit obsessing over every little nuanced thing you see to criticize the President. Many of you complained when conservatives did this to Obama and now you find yourself doing the very thing you complained about. If politics is more important to you than advancing the nation then that is your problem.
I want the nation to succeed. I want to find a solution to the healthcare issue. ObamaCare is failing and the Republicans and Democrats need to come together and find a system that has a chance of working. We need tax reform. It has been over 30 year. Democrats need to quit calling every Republican proposal a tax break for the rich. If you cut taxes you by default are cutting the tax burden for the wealthy because they are the ones that are paying the taxes. We need a compromise immigration bill. Republicans have to quit demanding we deport everyone here because that is simply not going to happen. Democrats need to acknowledge that we need to secure our border and just because someone finds a way to sneak across it does not guarantee them the right to stay here. There is a compromise so lets find it and get it done.