My theory about Canadians commenting on American politics is that we need to focus on the entertainment values. Politically there is nothing we can do and we have lots of stuff to deal with at home.
That said, the Trump Whitehouse is brilliant. It is the classic clash of insiders versus outsiders. But it is also a three or four way battlefield over style. Reince Preibus is the consummate, slightly geeky Washington insider with great connections on the Hill and in the still shell shocked Republican Party. Steve Bannon is an outsider who actually reads books and thinks about policy stuff. And now, in the great tradition of pro Wrestling we have Anthony Scaramucci aka “The Mooch” who has had direct access to Trump from day 1 and speaks his language far better than the wussy Preibus or the, relatively speaking, cerebral Bannon.
When Trump took office Preibus was made Chief of Staff to make the trains run on time. I think it is fair to say that his hooks into the Republican Party and connections on the Hill have barely made the trains run at all. Worse, there have been a series of judgements by Trump which would have benefited from some savvy counsel as to timing and tone – Comey, the Special Prosecutor, some position on healthcare – which they clearly did not get. As well, the message coming out of the White House has been, to put it charitably, diffuse. Trump, himself, seems to be settling into much of the role of the President; what he is not doing is effectively using the power of the Presidency to push his agenda. And that lands at the Chief of Staff’s door.
Preibus is a bit of a “pleaser”. He has had to be in his various roles with the Republican Party. A Chief of Staff is never a pleaser. He’s the guy who gets what the President wants done with a minimum of fuss and bother. The nature of the position is not conciliatory, it is actually pretty brutal. The Chief of Staff sets up the field so that the President can do what ever conciliation is required. Preibus is simply not up to that job.
Neither is Bannon. Because Bannon’s function is to develop the policy concepts and the strategy to “Make America Great Again”. In many ways Bannon should not be operational at all. In his own way, Bannon is a policy guy and it is always a bad idea to bring a policy guy into the rough and tumble of getting stuff done.
So, right now, my bet is that Trump sees The Mooch as a clear threat to Preibus. Along the lines of “Do your job Reince or The Mooch will throw you over the top rope.” I would say Preibus has about a month, call it to Labour Day, to prove he can get the trains back on schedule or over the top rope he goes.
In all of this the Trump children and assorted in-laws play the role of the Roman Emperor Augustus’s children and relatives. They may be important, they may not but they have no independent power, only influence. For the players, like The Mooch, Bannon and Preibus, the Trump children are, at best, temporary allies.
If you are an I Claudius fan the Trump White House is showing great promise of engrossing entertainment. And, best of all, it is driving the Democrats and the left into a perpetual tizzy.
My bet is that Trump will back whoever can show him results and a resolute sense of direction. Right now the foul mouthed new guy seems willing to kick butt and take names. We’ll see how that works out.
Update: Republicans just defeated their own “skinny healthcare repeal”. That train is not only late, it’s derailed and that is the sort of thing a Chief of Staff does not let happen.
Upper Date: So Preibus was out last week and today The Mooch vanishes as quickly as he came on the scene. Rumour has it that The Mooch was kicked at the request of General Kelly, the new Chief of Staff. Stay tuned.