Trump’s Chaos Theory for the Oval Office Is Taking Its Toll

For 13 months in the Oval Office, and in an unorthodox business career before that, Donald J. Trump has thrived on chaos, using it as an organizing principle and even a management tool.

Now the costs of that chaos are becoming starkly clear in the demoralized staff and policy disarray of a wayward White House.

.. Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary D. Cohn, warned the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, that he might resign if the president went ahead with the plan,

.. Yet at the end of a photo session, when a reporter asked Mr. Trump about the measures, he confirmed that the United States would announce next week that it is imposing long-term tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. The White House has not even completed a legal review of the measures.

.. Mr. Cohn, who almost left last year after Mr. Trump’s response to a white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va., indicated he was waiting to see whether Mr. Trump goes through with the tariffs

.. second day in a row that Mr. Trump blindsided Republicans and his own aides.

.. he embraced the stricter gun control measures backed by Democrats

.. Mr. Trump relied on a small circle of colleagues and a management style that amounted to “trial and error — the strongest survived, the weak died.”

.. erratic boss and little in the way of a coherent legislative agenda

.. they are consumed by infighting, fears of their legal exposure and an ambient sense that the White House is spinning out of control.

.. he carries on a bitter feud with his attorney general and watches members of his family clash with a chief of staff he recruited to restore a semblance of order — all against the darkening shadow of an investigation of his ties to Russia.
..Mr. Trump’s instinct during these moments is to return to the populist themes that carried him to the White House, which is why his trade announcement is hardly surprising.
.. Mr. Trump has few fixed views on any issue, but he has been consistent on his antipathy for free trade since the 1980s
.. Without Mr. Porter playing a stopgap role on trade, the debate has been marked by a lack of focus on policy and planning
.. Mr. Trump lashes out regularly at Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a vitriol that stuns members of his staff.
.. Mr. Trump regards Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation as the “original sin,” which the president thinks has left him exposed.
.. Anthony Scaramucci, an ally of some in the Trump family, whom Mr. Kelly fired as communications director after only 11 days, intensified his criticism of the chief of staff in a series of news interviews on Wednesday and Thursday.

.. Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner, whom he now views as a liability because of his legal entanglements, the investigations of the Kushner family’s real estate company and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded

.. some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained at the White House, despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave.

.. aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.

.. Some argue Mr. Kelly should have carried out a larger staff shake-up when he came in. That has allowed several people to stagnate, particularly in policy roles, one adviser said.

The Trumpist Gets Trumped

Bannon thinks he created Trump, and Trump thinks he created Bannon. They had a fundamental disagreement about who was using whom, and in any such conflict, the president of the United States is going to win.

.. The Trump statement on Bannon is — of course — exaggerated and overly harsh. It nonetheless nails important things about the former White House official. He was an inveterate leaker and poisonous infighter. Some of Bannon’s energy was devoted to trying to destroy Trump’s notably noncorrupt and nonkooky national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. Most of it, though, was directed at Trump’s children and son-in-law.

.. Bannon also is a flagrant self-promoter. By any reasonable standard, it’s quite a comedown to go from working a few paces from the Oval Office to running a shoddy website devoid of true journalistic interest.

.. his fundraising just got much harder. Part of Bannon’s appeal to candidates was bringing the imprimatur of Trump, and that, too, has been dented.

.. At the beginning of 2016, it seemed that Steve Bannon could be a figure like Karl Rove or David Axelrod, a political strategist with outsize influence over policy who existed at the very top of our national politics for years. Instead, he’s been kicked to the curb more brutally than any presidential aide in modern history.

.. This, obviously, has much to do with Trump himself, who is volatile, jealous of media attention, and insistent that loyalty runs only one way, up to him.

.. He had no idea how to effect his dream of a protectionist, isolationist administration spending massively on infrastructure and raising taxes on the rich. His vision lacked support within the administration and in Washington more broadly.

.. Trump’s base is Trump’s. No one ever voted for Steve Bannon, and now he is on the wrong side of the president in whose name he has presumed to speak.

When Republicans Take Power

the conservative ideology that pervades much of the party is based on the belief that government is the enemy. What will Republicans do with their newfound power? And how will the exercise of that power change the party?

.. It doesn’t require a huge stretch of the imagination to envision Mr. Trump’s trying to use the power of the presidency to punish his enemies, withdraw from military and diplomatic alliances, start trade wars, and engage in a wide-scale roundup of illegal immigrants that would call to mind Operation Wetback in the 1950s crossed with the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. However, such a divisive policy inevitably would split the country and the Republican Party as well, leading to a crushing loss in the 2018 midterm elections.

.. anti-deportation protections for the children of undocumented immigrants. (Mr. Trump may not pursue those children, but he won’t protect them.)

.. Party strategists are well aware that the G.O.P. has now lost the popular vote in six of the last seven elections. Despite Mr. Trump’s ability to maximize the white vote, and his more surprising ability to bring some minority voters along, it’s still not in the party’s long-term interest to write off the minorities, particularly Hispanics, who are a growing part of the country’s population.

.. The demands of the G.O.P.’s constituents may force a revision on issues such as trade and climate change, particularly if the waters continue to rise in coastal red states like South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

.. Republicans in Congress have voted more than 60 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but they’ve spent far less time thinking about how to replace it. Would the 20 million Americans who have gained health insurance lose it? Would a Republican version of the law retain its prohibitions against insurance companies’ denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions?

Throughout the Obama administration, the G.O.P. has had the mind-set of an opposition party, condemning policies without thinking deeply about how to reform them.

.. Now that the common enemy has been vanquished (at least temporarily), the rival conservatives will be tempted to go to war with one another.

Rogue Republican factions in Congress like the House Freedom Caucus could even use the threat of a government shutdown or debt default against their own administration.

The need to keep order in his ranks may encourage Mr. Trump to become a Richard Nixon-style leader, pursuing an agenda that gives enough to each faction that it remains sullen but not mutinous.

.. The establishment may now be forced, at long last, to stand up to those on the right who are calling for Republicans to repeal the institutions of the New Deal and the Progressive era.

.. Those who anticipate only a two- or four-year window will press for the rapid enactment of a maximalist conservative program, even at the risk of an intense backlash. Others, however, will focus on the long game.

.. Mr. Trump will not be able to bring back the manufacturing jobs he promised, but he could put his supporters to work building roads and bridges instead.

.. Other policies aimed at improving life for working-class Americans could include efforts to combat the epidemic of opioid addiction and improve our mental health system.

.. Mr. Trump could invoke the tradition of national greatness by asking Americans to join him in pursuing a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which may present the single greatest threat to our physical and fiscal health in the 21st century. Or he could rally our national energies around the construction of the world’s first driverless highway

.. The success of Mr. Trump’s administration ultimately will be determined more by its ability to persuade than compel.