President Trump insisted last night in Montana that he is not “handled’ by his staff, that his commands are easily understood and followed. Nearly three dozen of his top aides have rushed out to insist they did not the anonymous op-ed about the Trump White House that appeared earlier in the week in the New York Times.
But the Washington Post, which contributed to the week’s narrative that Trump must be “handled” with stories about Post staffer Bob Woodward’s book “Fear,” returned to the theme Friday to assure us that yes, he is being handled, they’ve known it all along, and we should be thankful they are there “acting as guardrails against President Trump – manipulating him, infantilizing him and ignoring his directives” but fearful, perhaps, that these stories have “raised the specter of a shadow administration.”
In “’A never-ending cycle’: Book, op-ed show how some Trump aides work to curb his instincts,” Post reporters Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Greg Jaffe penned the narrative the president is little more than a figurehead in his own White House.
The book and the op-ed “detail efforts at the highest level of the government to contain Trump’s impulses and, in the most extreme cases, defy and even undermine his orders,” , the Post wrote.
“The successive disclosures crystallized what has long been evident throughout the Trump presidency – a cadre of administration officials alarmed by the whims and wishes of a chief executive they view as mercurial and impetuous working to curb his instincts on a range of issues, including national security, trade and immigration.”
Those nearly three-dozen denials on the op-ed “read as public declarations of loyalty to an audience of one – the media-obsessed president, who was gratified to see the statements as aides kept him abreast.”
The Post said Reince Priebus’ strategy with Trump was to say he would fire whoever or execute whatever order the president said, but not until next week, by which time the president often would have forgotten.
But later in the story, it admitted this strategy did not work because Trump, whom Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others have said should be removed on 25th Amendment grounds, remembered his request and asked why it hadn’t been implemented.
“Aides also routinely slow-walked his trade ideas,” the Post reported. “The president would demand executive orders from Cohn or former staff secretary Rob Porter imposing tariffs or otherwise punishing China. … ‘He would be like, ‘Do this, do that, slap a tariff on this country or that country, let’s blow everything up, let’s go to war,’ a former White House official said. ‘Then he would come back the next week and Trump would say, ‘What happened with Z?’ And he would get mad that no one had done it. And it was a never-ending cycle.’”
A never-ending cycle of a president insisting his orders be followed – “standard staff work in any White House,” as one senior administration official put it. And the Post admitted: “Ultimately, though, the administration implemented some of the tariffs – a precipitating factor in Cohn’s departure earlier this year.”
So, an advisor disagreed with administration policy, tried to steer it in another direction, then left when he lost the policy argument. That’s not abnormal.
Trump is “impatient with bureaucracy and wants to see action or results immediately,” the Post complained. This “sometimes puts him in conflict with his staff or the processes they manage.”
Some senators even went golfing with the president to push their initiatives, and aides “would prep them on helpful messages they were trying to share or ‘disasters they were trying to divert,’ according to a former senior administration official quoted in the Post story.
“The twin bombshells also underscored a vexing reality for Trump – that some in his employ do treat him as an adolescent in need of chaperoning,” the Post concluded.
His is hardly the first staff to characterize its work that way, if indeed it did. But the Post isn’t interested in what’s normal.