For months, the White House under President Trump operated with few real rules, and those were barely enforced. People wandered into the Oval Office throughout the day. The president was given pieces of unvetted information, and found more on his own that he often tweeted out. Policy decisions were often based on whoever had last gotten Mr. Trump’s attention.
.. In two memos sent to the staff on Monday he began to detail his plan, starting with how he wants information to get to the president, and how Mr. Trump will respond.
.. Mr. Kelly’s predecessor, Reince Priebus, sent some similar guidelines around early in the administration, according to two officials, but they were never taken seriously. Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine general, has been treated with a different level of deference
.. Mr. Kelly has made clear that one thing he will not seek to directly control is the behavior of the president, and there is a good reason for that.
.. Mr. Trump has a history of lashing out at advisers who have publicly conveyed their attempts to impose tighter procedures on him. Just before Election Day, for example, Mr. Trump blew up publicly after a New York Times report that his aides had succeeded in keeping him off Twitter for the final stages of the campaign. He tweeted several times to enforce the point.
.. Despite Mr. Kelly’s fairly deft touch at approaching the president, Mr. Trump has shown signs of rebelling
.. That included his news conference at Trump Tower in which he doubled down on his blame for “both sides” in the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va., and his campaign rally speech in Arizona
.. Mr. Kelly had urged Mr. Trump to deliver a more somber, traditional statement the day before. And he and other advisers had urged the president to avoid taking questions from the news media at Trump Tower, a request that the president ignored.
.. In one of the memos, White House aides were told that all materials prepared for the president must go first to Mr. Porter for vetting and clearance. Then Mr. Kelly must sign off on them before they go to Mr. Trump’s desk.
.. given the propensity for some of Mr. Trump’s staff to slip him news accounts from dubious sources that shape his thinking or prompt him to cite unreliable or inaccurate information.
.. Mr. Priebus had tried to take firmer control of that process after Mr. Trump’s first week in office, when Stephen K. Bannon, the recently departed chief strategist, and Stephen Miller, the president’s senior policy adviser, pushed across the president’s desk two orders redesigning the National Security Council, and putting in place the first, court-contested travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries.
.. That process is expected to curtail freelancing and hijacking of decisions by West Wing aides. Mr. Bannon was often accused of taking advantage of the loose process, but Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who both work in the West Wing, have also frustrated their colleagues for months by going directly to the president on specific issues.
.. “Let’s assume for the moment that Trump has learned the first big lesson of his first six months, which is that you have to empower the White House chief of staff to be a real gatekeeper,”
.. “What he hasn’t learned, what he has shown no sign of learning, is that governing is completely different from campaigning,” Mr. Whipple said.
As surprising as Trump’s young presidency has been, it’s also the natural outgrowth of 30 years of Republican pandering to the lowest common denominator in American politics.
Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 after nationalizing the election into broad themes and catchphrases. Newt Gingrich, the marshal of these efforts, even released a list of words Republican candidates should use to glorify themselves (common sense, prosperity, empower) and hammer their opponents (liberal, pathetic, traitors); soon, every Republican in Congress spoke the same language, using words carefully run through focus groups by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Budgets for House committees were cut, bleeding away policy experts, and GOP committee chairs were selected based on loyalty to the party and how much money they could raise.
.. Gone were the days when members were incentivized to speak with nuance, or hone a policy expertise (especially as committee chairs could now serve for only six years).
.. President George W. Bush didn’t realize he was supposed to just be a passive bill-signing machine; he kept insisting that Republicans enact his priorities, which, often, were not very conservative—No Child Left Behind Act, steel tariffs, a tax cut with few supply-side elements. His worst transgression, for me, was the budget-busting Medicare Part D legislation, which massively expanded the welfare state and the national debt, yet was enthusiastically supported by a great many House conservatives, including Congressman Paul Ryan, who had claimed to hold office for the purpose of abolishing entitlement programs.
.. In the 14 years since then, I have watched from the sidelines as Republican policy analysis and research have virtually disappeared altogether, replaced with sound bites and talking points.
.. The Heritage Foundation morphed into Heritage Action for America, ceasing to do any real research and losing all its best policy experts as it transformed from an august center whose focus was the study and development of public policy into one devoted mainly to amplifying political campaign slogans.
.. Talk radio and Fox News, where no idea too complicated for a mind with a sixth-grade education is ever heard, became the tail wagging the conservative dog.
.. Reagan, who granted amnesty to undocumentedimmigrants in 1986
.. no workable concept that adhered to the many promises Republicans had made, like coverage for pre-existing conditions and the assurance that nobody would lose their coverage.
.. their intellectual infrastructure is badly damaged, in need of repair
.. what conservative intellectuals really need for a full-blown revival is a crushing Republican defeat—Goldwater plus Watergate rolled into one. A defeat so massive there can be no doubt about the message it sends that
.. Some conservative thinkers, such as the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, speculate that Mitt Romney may emerge as the leader of a sane, modern, technocratic wing of an intellectually revitalized GOP
right when our physical technologies leapt ahead, many of what the Oxford economist Eric Beinhocker calls our “social technologies” — all of the rules, regulations, institutions and social tools people needed to get the most out of this technological acceleration and cushion the worst — froze or lagged.
.. When President-elect Trump wants to be heard he now gets his message out directly from his New York penthouse through Twitter to 15 million-plus followers at any hour of the day he pleases. And the Islamic State does the same from a remote province in Syria.