Trump’s rhetorical schizophrenia is easy to see through

And so, on one day, we had an unhinged and divisive rant by President Trump in Phoenix. Then, the next day in Reno, Nev., a call for national unity and reconciliation. Multiple political personality disorder. Rhetorical schizophrenia.

The gap between Trump extemporaneous and Trump scripted is canyon-like. The normal role of a speechwriter is to find, refine and elevate the voice of a leader. The greatest professional victory comes when a president thinks: This is the way I would sound if I had more time to write and more talent with language. In these circumstances, speechwriting is not deception; it is amplification.

.. But what about speechwriting that is designed to give a leader a different voice? Here moral issues begin to lurk. Is it ethical to make a cynical leader appear principled? A violent leader seem pacific? A cruel leader seem compassionate?

.. Or maybe a speechwriter can hope a president will eventually rise to the level of his teleprompter.

.. he plays rhetorical games with the artificial (for him) constraints of being presidential. “Nobody wants me to talk about your other senator — who’s weak on borders, weak on crime,” he said of (conservative Republican) Jeff Flake. “Now everybody’s happy.” Here the “nobody” clearly included his own concerned advisers. Trump often uses speeches (and Twitter) to cut the strings of their counsel.
  • .. So it was the real voice that we heard in Phoenix, attacking a man with brain cancer — Republican Sen. John McCain — without any wish for his recovery.
  • The real voice defending a supporter who had been fired by CNN for writing “Sieg Heil” on Twitter.
  • The real voice making fun of a TV anchor’s height. The real voice again widening racial divisions by defending Confederate monuments as “our history and our heritage.
  • It was the real voice expressing greater passion in criticizing journalists than white supremacists.

.. his transparency reveals a disordered personality.

his Phoenix remarks indicate a loose connection to reality.

  • His response to the violence in Charlottesville was, in his view, “perfect.”
  • The North Koreans, he claimed, are learning to “respect” America (for which there is no evidence).
  • “I don’t believe that any president has accomplished as much as this president in the first six or seven months,” Trump claimed of himself. “I really do not believe it.”

What if Trump really believes what he claims? Then he would be not deceptive, but deluded.

.. Trump is not merely acting unpresidential; he is erratic and grandiose.

On the evidence of the Phoenix speech, Trump believes that a government shutdown is preferable to giving up on funding for the southern border wall. This involves a different type of delusion. Poll after poll demonstrates that about 35 percent of Americans support Trump’s wall. You can’t hold national parks and veterans’ payments hostage over an issue like this and expect to win.

..  “It also takes careful management of the levers available to the administration in a shutdown to keep it from becoming a nightmare immediately, and OMB [Office of Management and Budget] is not doing the work to prepare. Incompetence is the death of these guys over and over.”

.. The unified control of House, Senate and presidency means little when the president lives in a reality of his own.

Trump is exactly what Republicans are not

The fundamental reason Trump isn’t a Republican is far bigger than words or policies. He stands in opposition to the founding principle of our party — that of a united country.

.. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, and our founding principle is our commitment to holding the nation together. This brought us into being just before the Civil War. The first resolution of the platform at the party’s first national convention states in part that “the union of the States must and shall be preserved.”

.. Now comes Trump, who is exactly what Republicans are not, who is exactly what we have opposed in our 160-year history. We are the party of the Union, and he is the most divisive president in our history. There hasn’t been a more divisive person in national politics since George Wallace.

.. It isn’t a matter of occasional asides, or indiscreet slips of the tongue uttered at unguarded moments. Trump is always eager to tell people that they don’t belong here, whether it’s Mexicans, Muslims, transgender people or another group. His message is, “You are not one of us,” the opposite of “e pluribus unum.” And when he has the opportunity to unite Americans, to inspire us, to call out the most hateful among us, the KKK and the neo-Nazis, he refuses.

.. But our party has been corrupted by this hateful man, and it is now in peril.

.. we Republicans must disassociate ourselves from Trump by expressing our opposition to his divisive tactics and by clearly and strongly insisting that he does not represent what it means to be a Republican.

If you work for Trump, it’s time to quit

You hate that people are shying away from administration jobs in droves: Just this week, in rapid succession, Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Trey Gowdy withdrew their names from consideration as replacements for former FBI Director James Comey, the guy your boss fired. Whatever department you’re in, it’s a safe bet that it’s a whispering graveyard of empty appointments and unfilled jobs.

.. after all, just a few days after taking office, he assured us, “I can be the most presidential person ever.”

.. You figured Trump would turn his political capital into big wins, and that his lack of interest in policy details would let you and your friends in Congress set the agenda. Sure, you knew you’d have to feed Trump’s ego and let him take a victory lap after every success, but you also thought you might claim a smidgen of credit for

  • a popular infrastructure bill,
  •  a big tax cut,
  • repeal of Obamacare
  • or a host of other “easy” lifts.

.. you’re really not doing much except playing defense and wondering which of your colleagues is leaking to The Washington Post.

.. If you’ve been ordained to appear on television as an administration surrogate, you know by now that your task isn’t to advocate for your agency or issue, but to lavish the president with praise.

.. You already know you can’t save the president because he doesn’t want to be saved. You already know there’s not another, better version of Trump getting ready to show up.

.. When this regime falls, do you want to be among those who said “not me,” or do you want to go out like a Baath Party generalissimo?

Sticking with Trump to the bitter end and pretending the unfolding chaos is just “fake news” won’t save your reputation as the walls close in.

.. Cutting ties with a man who is destructive to our values, profoundly divisive, contemptuous of the rule of law and incontrovertibly unfit to serve in the highest office in the land just might. Do it now.

Priebus faces daunting task bringing order to White House that will feed off chaos

Reince Priebus says that one of his most important tasks as Donald Trump’s chief of staff will be to establish “some level of order within the White House.”

That, of course, has been the central mission of everyone who has held this post in the past, but it is certain to be a particularly daunting challenge with a president who regards chaos as a management tool.

.. the 44-year-old Priebus will be at the center of an experiment to determine whether Trump’s singular style of leadership — honed in his family business, displayed on reality television, and used with devastating effect in a presidential campaign that defied every expectation — will transform Washington as Trump promised or prove ineffective when applied to the more complex work of presiding over the massive federal government.

.. “The president has to make it clear that Reince is first among equals,” said Ken Duberstein, who served as chief of staff under Ronald Reagan. “You’ve got to empower somebody on the staff.”

.. “The chief of staff, I think, has the responsibility to be all-knowing — to decide what the president should know, what he needs to know, what he doesn’t need to know,”

.. But Trump is also known for being swayed by the last person he has talked to, especially if the advice is accompanied by flattery.

.. “Reince has this kind of ‘aw, shucks’ demeanor, but he’s pretty tough,” said former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie.

.. in the wake of The Washington Post’s Oct. 8 revelation of a 2005 tape in which Trump was heard making lewd comments about women and boasting of groping them. The distraught party chairman reportedly urged the GOP nominee to drop out of the race, or face losing it in a landslide.

.. Early on, Priebus used some of those sessions to urge Trump to tamp down his incendiary and divisive rhetoric. That turned out to be futile.

.. it also turned out to be what Priebus called “a perfect marriage.”

.. “It just turns out that the president-elect’s message was ringing extremely true to the electorate and we had the data and the infrastructure to back it up.”

.. One of this most important projects was bringing aboard key party leaders in Priebus’s home state of Wisconsin, which had gone for Sen. Ted Cruz

.. Priebus “was the ultimate diplomat,” said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose own 2016 presidential hopes had fallen early victim to Trump. “Paul’s support was critical to sending a message, not just to House members, but just overall Republican voters. Reince was just tenacious.”

.. Priebus has more often than not gotten his way on key administration hires.

.. RNC communications director and Priebus confidant Sean Spicer as press secretary. Katie Walsh, currently Priebus’s chief of staff at the RNC, is considered likely to become a deputy White House chief of staff.

.. His first name is short for Reinhold.

.. took his future wife, Sally, to a party fundraiser on their first date.

.. He became RNC chairman in 2011 at a desperate time for the party, which was $24 million in debt. It had a little more than $350,000 cash on hand and a $400,000 payroll due six days later — a situation so dire that, early on, he had to help float it by maxing out two personal credit cards to pay his travel expenses.

.. When you don’t have the White House and you don’t have the Congress, dialing for money is just hard as hell, and he just kept doing it, and he didn’t have anybody helping him,” said lobbyist Richard Hohlt. “He loved the job.”

.. By the end of 2012, the RNC has $3.3 million in the bank and no debt.

.. Priebus shares one thing with the president-elect: little apparent need for sleep. Walker marveled at how he has texted Priebus at 11 p.m. on a Saturday, gotten an immediate response, and then awakened to a follow-up sent at dawn.

That means that when the future president is firing off tweets in the wee hours, as is his wont, his chief of staff will probably be up and seeing them.

.. Among his queries: How do you involve Cabinet officials, and make sure they are pursuing the president’s agenda, rather than their own?

.. How do you control who gets the president’s ear?

What is paramount, said former chief of staff Card, is that no one be allowed to make end runs around Priebus.

.. “Almost no debate in the Oval Office should come without a prior debate in the chief of staff’s office,” Card said. “It is going to be a challenge for Reince.”Priebus disagreed.

“No, I don’t think it’s a particular challenge,” he said, promising “an orderly system in place in which the president is informed, and not exhausted with multiple sources of information in an unorganized fashion.”