Do We Actually Have A President?

Do We Actually Have A President?

Axios reports on what it tells us is the president's real schedule -- not the one that's released to the public,. It's -- how do I put this? -- relaxed:

President Trump is starting his official day much later than he did in the early days of his presidency, often around 11am, and holding far fewer meetings, according to copies of his private schedule shown to Axios. This is largely to meet Trump’s demands for more “Executive Time,” which almost always means TV and Twitter time alone in the residence, officials tell us.

One example:

On Tuesday, Trump has his first meeting of the day with Chief of Staff John Kelly at 11am. He then has "Executive Time" for an hour followed by an hour lunch in the private dining room. Then it's another 1 hour 15 minutes of "Executive Time" followed by a 45 minute meeting with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Then another 15 minutes of "Executive Time" before Trump takes his last meeting of the day — a 3:45pm meeting with the head of Presidential Personnel Johnny DeStefano — before ending his official day at 4:15pm.

Do we even have a president? We have a guy who, when he's not golfing, takes a couple of meetings a day and otherwise watches TV, eats, and tweets. It looks as if he's using Twitter as part of the way he governs, but, as The New York Times notes, nations around the world question the significance of what he posts:

Two things stand out about the foreign policy messages Mr. Trump has posted on Twitter since taking office: How far they veer from the traditional ways American presidents express themselves, let alone handle diplomacy. And how rarely Mr. Trump has followed through on his words. Indeed, nearly a year after he entered the White House, the rest of the world is trying to figure out whether Mr. Trump is more mouth than fist, more paper tiger than the real thing.

Countries are unsure whether to take his words as policy pronouncements, or whether they can be safely ignored. If Mr. Trump’s threats are seen as hollow, what does that do to American credibility?


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Domestically, as The Washington Post tells us, Trump also seems irrelevant:

President Trump expressed misgivings about his administration’s infrastructure plan Friday at Camp David, telling Republican leaders that building projects through public-private partnerships is unlikely to work — and that it may be better for the government to pursue a different path.

Then on Saturday morning, Gary Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser, delivered a detailed proposal on infrastructure and public-private partnerships that seemed to contradict the president. He said the administration hoped $200 billion in new federal government spending would trigger almost $1 trillion in private spending and local and state spending, according to people familiar with his comments. Cohn seemed to present the plan as the administration’s approach, although the president had suggested such an approach might not work.

The seemingly contradictory statements, made within 24 hours of each other, show the uncertainty of the administration's approach to its top legislative priority in 2018....

Hardcore Trumpers will insist that the president is the smartest, most vigorous, and all-around fittest president of all time. But I suspect that other defenders will say that it really doesn't matter whether the president is engaged (or even engageable). They'll tell us that the presidency is too powerful, therefore it's good to shift emphasis to the rest of the government. They'll say that Jimmy Carter was a vigorous micromanager who wanted to control the use of White House tennis courts, and he was a terrible president, while Ronald Reagan was a great president who delegated and took naps (though Reagan's 9:00-to-6:30 work schedule seems vigorous compared with Trump's 11:00 to 4:15 with break times).

Ross Douthat, citing Michael Wolff, believes that Trump staffers are keeping the government together, if barely:

Can the people who surround Donald Trump work around his incapacity successfully enough to keep his unfitness from producing a historic calamity?

They have done so for a year, with some debacles (Puerto Rico) but also some genuine successes (the defeat of the Islamic State). People may laugh at Wolff’s assertion that “the men and women of the West Wing, for all that the media was ridiculing them, actually felt they had a responsibility to the country,” and for some figures (perhaps especially in the press office) the laughter will be justified. But for others the work has been necessary and important, and the achievement of relative stability a genuine service to the United States.

Can it continue in the face of some greater crisis than Trump has yet confronted? Can it continue if the Democrats take a share of power or if the president’s own family faces legal jeopardy? Is the American system more able to correct for presidential incapacity than some of us have feared?

The last year has given us some reason to think the answer to the last question might be “yes.” May the new year give us more, because our president’s chaotic mind isn’t going anywhere.

I suppose other commenters will acknowledge that the president is too lazy and distractible to function as president but will insist that America is just too damn resilient to let that be a serious problem -- our system is strong, our people (exemplified by Trump staffers) are capable of miracles ... U-S-A! U-S-A! They'll make a virtue of the hole in the center of our government, won't they?

Originally published at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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