Presidents who come from outside the professional political class run and win on their lack of Washington experience. But once they get to the capital, it seems, they quickly fall prey to Beltwayitis as the scourges and blood-suckers of the District of Columbia attach themselves, lamprey-like, to their extremities and begin feeding. Entering office without a K Street Rolodex, new chief executives are forced to staff up by relying on the suggestions of others — often, the very same politicians and consultants they defeated on their way to the White House.
Thus it was that back in the ’80s the cry went up to “let Reagan be Reagan,” as the president’s conservative supporters both inside the administration and across the country felt stifled by the business-as-usual johnnies who had entered Reagan’s orbit in part through his forced marriage with the consummate insider, George H. W. Bush (that’s how you got Bush). Naturally, the media, which hated Reagan back then almost as much as it hates Donald Trump today, sneered at the notion of a liberated Ronnie, preferring to see his presidency through its customary prism of Stupid Republicans:
The chairman of President Reagan’s re-election campaign said Thursday Reagan lost the debate with Walter Mondale because the presidential briefers smothered him with facts and figures. Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., vowed America will see ‘a brand new Ronald Reagan’ in the next debate, Oct. 21.
‘The man was absolutely smothered’ by facts and figures, Laxalt said. ‘This time we’re going to let Ronald Reagan be Ronald Reagan.’ Laxalt, Reagan’s closest friend on Capitol Hill, told a news conference Reagan is better fit, both mentally and physically, to be president now than when he first took office. ‘Now we can get out of the ivory tower and into the streets — as we did in 1980,’ Laxalt said. ‘The president will be even more aggressive than he has been in the past.’
Laxalt said the age issue is the ‘red herring’ of the 1984 campaign and that ‘Ronald Reagan today — physically, emotionally and in know-how — is better today than when he took office.’ The Nevada Republican conceded Reagan lost the debate to Mondale, adding that ‘even champions have off nights.’
As we all know, an aging, senile Reagan went on to lose the 1984 election to Walter Mondale… oh wait. Reagan destroyed the hapless Minnesota senator in the 49-1 landslide that saw him win 525 electoral votes to Mondale’s 13, and held a 17 million popular-vote margin over Fritz by the time the refs called the fight.
Now it’s Trump’s turn to release his inner beast. Gone are such early stalwarts as Steve Bannon, Seb Gorka, and Reince Priebus, along with Rex Tillerson and now H.R. McMaster. The national security adviser was no favorite among the most conservative backers of the president, being seen as insufficiently zealous regarding the threat from Islam. With Mike Pompeo now at State and John Bolton at the NSC, Trump now has two allies who see the world exactly the way he does. Like it or lump it, Trump has the team he wants (with the possible except of Jeff Sessions, who’s still hanging on as attorney general).
Of course, on the Media-Left, all these early changes are signs of… all together now… chaos — orderliness apparently being the most prized virtue in the White House correspondents’ pantheon. One would think the administration’s mile-a-minute pace of breaking news would thrill reporters, but no — all they can do is complain about it.
President Trump decamped to his oceanfront estate here on Friday after a head-spinning series of presidential decisions on national security, trade and the budget that left the capital reeling and his advisers nervous about what comes next.
The decisions attested to a president riled up by cable news and unbound. Mr. Trump appeared heedless of his staff, unconcerned about Washington decorum, or the latest stock market dive, and confident of his instincts. He seemed determined to set the agenda himself, even if that agenda looked like a White House in disarray.
Inside the West Wing, aides described an atmosphere of bewildered resignation as they grappled with the all-too-familiar task of predicting and reacting in real time to Mr. Trump’s shifting moods.
Aides said there was no grand strategy to the president’s actions, and that he got up each morning this week not knowing what he would do. Much as he did as a New York businessman at Trump Tower, Mr. Trump watched television, reacted to what he saw on television and then reacted to the reaction.
Zzzzzzzzz. We’ve been reading the same thing about Trump since day one. Like Reagan, he’s a moron with zero intellectual curiosity, who spends his days watching television and reading the New York Post. When Trump recently hired DC insider Joe diGenova — a former U.S. attorney — diGenova was immediately dismissed as just a Fox News contributor; ditto Bolton, whose previous employment consisted of being ambassador to the United Nations.
Note that the above “news” story is entirely based on leaks from “aides,” who are happy to tell the New York Times that the president of the United States is Chauncey Gardiner from the movie Being There — a description that, by the way, was far more suitable for Barack Obama, who really did spend a lot of his time watching sports on TV. Aimless, distracted, making it up as he goes along, it’s all copied from the same anti-GOP handbook. But let’s pile on, shall we?
Aides said he was still testing his limits as president while also feeling embattled by incoming fire — from Congress, the Russia investigation, foreign entanglements, a potential trade war and a pornographic film actress and a Playboy model who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump and were paid to keep quiet.
The president’s threat to veto the omnibus spending bill even comes in for mockery, although that briefly heartened the conservative base; in the end, Trump was persuaded to sign the dog’s breakfast served up by Paul Ryan thanks to the generous (deficit) funding of the military. Democrats, of course, crowed that Trump didn’t get funding for his wall.
But perhaps this is the end. Trump doesn’t like getting publicly rolled, and Ryan and Mitch McConnell did just that, presenting him with a fait accompli to avoid another phantom “shutdown,” and then laughing in his face. The first thing Trump should do to signal his displeasure is to fire Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife, and replace her with a cardboard cutout and an auto-pen.
The second thing is to make it clear to Ryan that his days as speaker of the House are numbered, and that Trump will no longer campaign for GOP duds like Rick Saccone in a Pennsylvania district the president easily carried in 2016, but instead will throw his endorsement behind candidates who will swell the ranks of the House Freedom Caucus, whose members cordially loathe Ryan and his leadership team.
Finally, the leaks simply have got to stop. No White House is leak-proof, and courtiers from ancient Rome through the Borgias to contemporary Washington have always sought curry favor with the mob in order to stab their opponents in the back; reporters now play the role of the Lurker Behind the Arras. Still, it’s encouraging to see that one of Bolton’s tasks will be to ferret out the leakers in the NSC and elsewhere.
What does it mean, then, to let Trump be Trump? To the entrenched Compromised Media, more “chaos.” To the rest of us, a refreshing change from Washington orthodoxy — something for which we’ve been waiting for a very long time.