Media are reporting possible big shakeups within the White House high command.
The White House — no surprise here — is denying it. Yet the signs seem to be unmistakable.
Senior strategist Steven Bannon has lost his job on the National Security Council. He’s fighting with Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Meanwhile, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus appears to be his way out … along with Bannon.
Trump’s White House flack machine no doubt is considering all this to be “fake news.”
But is it?
Trump’s executive machinery has been creaking along ever since the president took office. There can be no doubt about what we’ve all witnessed.
At some level, the notion that Priebus would be placed into some kind of shakeup bubble troubles me. I’ve considered Priebus — the former Republican Party national chairman — to be one of the few grownups Trump brought in. But he might be shown the door. Why? My guess is that he cannot stop the reports of palace intrigue within the White House.
Chiefs of staff are supposed to keep a tight rein on everyone else within the West Wing. That’s how the best of them function. Jim Baker did so within the Bush 41 administration; Dick Cheney ran a tight ship during the Ford administration.
Trump, though, brings a whole new dynamic to executive branch governance. He has surrounded himself with amateurs in many posts. Yes, he has some fine men and women serving in his Cabinet.
This notion, though, of putting his son-in-law — not to mention his own daughter, Ivanka — in the middle of policy decisions creates a tension that goes far beyond the “creative” kind that can work in an executive’s favor.
The president has just encountered his first major foreign policy crisis and answered it with clarity and precision with the air strikes against Syrian targets. He’ll need strong, steady leadership and counsel within his top White House staff if he is going to move forward.
If he’s going to shake things up in the West Wing, he’d better do it quickly and tell his flacks to stop denying the increasingly obvious.