Tag Archives: White House

Bannon is gone; POTUS remains

Before we all cheer ourselves hoarse over the departure of far-right provocateur Stephen Bannon from the White House, I’d like to offer a not-so-subtle reminder.

Donald John Trump Sr. is still the president of the United States.

Make no mistake: I am delighted to see Bannon shown the door. Chief of staff John Kelly stepped up and did his job with authority and a bit of panache.

However, as we’ve all been reminded so painfully for the entire length of the Trump administration, the president calls the shots; everything happens or doesn’t happen because of the Man in the Oval Office.

Gen. Kelly is able to whip the White House staff into shape. He cannot whip the Big Man into similar shape. He cannot persuade Trump to control his Twitter impulse. He cannot get the president to keep his mouth shut when he meets with reporters, which was astonishingly evident this week in that jaw-dropping press encounter at Trump Tower.

Bannon’s “alt-right” point of view is gone from the White House. Does any of this mean that the West Wing’s newfound professionalism is going to find its way to the Oval Office? Does it mean that the president will start cracking the books and start learning about the executive branch of government over which he now presides? Does it mean he’s going to actually read the U.S. Constitution and come to grips with what it says about how governing is a team sport, with Congress and the courts also playing a role?

You know the likely answer to all of that. It ain’t likely to happen. None of it. We’ll still have an out-of-control president who has managed to alienate himself from damn near every key player on Capitol Hill.

Oh, and remember? This is just Day 211 of Donald J. Trump’s term as president.

Bannon shown the White House door

I am being tangled up by competing impulses with the news that Stephen K. Bannon has been kicked out of the White House.

The senior political strategist for Donald John Trump is out. They’re calling it a “mutual agreement” between Bannon and White House chief of staff John Kelly. That’s clearly code for Kelly kicking Bannon squarely in the a**.

Bannon, the former editor of Breitbart News and a far-right provocateur, had no business serving among the president’s closest circle of advisers. He’s a scary dude. He detests what he calls “globalism.” Breitbart has become infamous for publishing commentary that is decidedly racist and anti-Semitic. For a time, Bannon had a seat at the National Security Council table.

To that end, the president did himself no favors — except with his hard-core base of supporters — by having Bannon sitting nearby and offering advice.

Accordingly, I’m glad he’s gone.

Bye, bye Steve.

I’m not proud of the other impulse, which is a desire to continue to watch the president continue to struggle. The new chief of staff has made a tangible impact on the White House operation. I once stated my desire to see Trump “succeed” because abject failure as president doesn’t bode well for a nation that needs stability within the White House machinery.

Trump’s definition of “success,” though, doesn’t comport with what I would like to see for the nation. I oppose the president’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, his rolling back of U.S. environmental regulations and the decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; those issues have Bannon’s fingerprints on them.

Where this all goes is now anyone’s guess.

Bannon is now free to speak his mind. Inquiring minds are going to press the former chief strategist to reveal what he knows about what’s really going on inside the West Wing.

The drama continues. So does the chaos.

Business advisory councils’ demise no huge deal, except …

The dismantling of two advisory councils by the president of the United States won’t matter in the grand scheme of the Donald John Trump administration’s method of operation.

The president doesn’t listen to advice. He doesn’t value the expertise of his advisers. He keeps his own counsel. He then acts on some gut impulse.

So, with the departure of the American Manufacturing Advisory Council and the Strategy and Policy Forum we haven’t lost anything of great value — to this administration.

The context, though, is important.

CEOs from both panels — which serve on a volunteer basis — were bailing en masse as a result of Trump’s hideous and jaw-dropping rant on Tuesday about the Charlottesville riot, the one where he blamed “both sides” for the violence and the tragic death of Heather Heyer and those two Virginia state troopers.

Moreover, they had informed the president of their intention to quit, effectively ending their existence. Trump, though, decided to get ahead of them with a tweet that said he was taking the initiative and ending the councils himself.

Put another way: Donald Trump lied. Again. Plainly.

It’s the context of these councils’ demise that gives this story its legs.

If only the president would have valued whatever advice they could provide him, then the country would be the lesser for their departure.

Many of us are left to wonder: Are White House staffers and, oh, possibly Cabinet members next to head for the exits?

Gen. Kelly’s ‘dismay’ comes from the top

I had high hopes for John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff.

The retired Marine general came aboard to repair a dysfunctional West Wing operation that was tearing itself to pieces. Within hours after reporting to work on his first day, Kelly showed renegade communications director Anthony “Mooch” Scaramucci the door.

Then he restricted access to the president. He made sure everyone on the staff reports to him. He seemed to get a quick handle on the complicated mechanics of the White House machinery.

Except for one thing: He cannot manage the president himself. No sir. Donald John Trump Sr. is his own man. He takes no advice from anyone. He freelances at will. He is a train in search of a place to wreck himself.

Trump did so again Tuesday afternoon. He walked into the Trump Tower lobby and launched into an unannounced rant against the media, against the counter protesters who challenged the racists who had gathered in Charlottesville; he said “both sides” were responsible for the misery and mayhem that occurred.

And Gen. Kelly stood in the background, arms crossed, looking at his feet, wincing more than once.

Then came reports that Trump’s out-of-control impulses have the chief “dismayed.” Well, yeah, do ya think?

The chief of staff has plenty of clout to make White House staffers toe the line. He has none, though, as it regards the guy who sits in the big chair in the Oval Office.

I truly wish Gen. Kelly success. Wishing it, however, likely won’t bring it to this spit-and-polish Marine.

A glimmer of good news from Trump tirade?

If there was the slightest glimmer of good news from Donald J. Trump’s astonishing rant this afternoon, it involves the possible fate of the president’s senior political strategist.

The president fielded a question at Trump Tower about Stephen K. Bannon and whether he was going to be pushed out of his job. Trump responded that Bannon is a good guy, a “friend of mine.” He said Bannon “is not a racist.”

Then the president said he was uncertain about whether Bannon would stay on.  “We’ll see what happens,” Trump said.

Wait a second! He’s the president of the United States. Of course he knows whether he’s going to keep Bannon. Should he retain this guy? Hell … no!

Bannon is the former Breitbart News honcho who ran an organization with deep sympathies to the “alt-right” movement often associated with white supremacists and assorted other haters.

He now has a seat at the White House policy-setting table. He also is reportedly feuding with chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

I want Bannon out of there. Maybe the president will do the right thing — at least on that score. Then again, we still will have Donald Trump as president of the United States.

Hoping these Bannon reports are true

Oh, how I hope reports that have surfaced about Stephen Bannon are true, that he’ll be shown the door at the White House, the one leading away from the “real dump” where the president now lives and works.

A Bannon exit actually would verify that White House chief of staff John Kelly is the kick-a** Marine everyone says he is and that he cannot work with someone who (a) holds extreme right-wing views, (b) has the ear of the president of the United States and (c) is wholly unqualified to be the “senior strategist” for Donald John Trump Sr.

I have made no secret of my loathing of Bannon, the former Breitbart News executive whose publication has — and continues to do — published blatantly racist and anti-Semitic commentary on public policy. Bannon is the darling of the “nationalist wing” of the base that continues to cling, albeit in declining numbers, to its support of the president.

Bannon reportedly also has been feuding with another Trump grownup, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who happens to be an active-duty Army lieutenant general; he, too, has been known to kick some back sides in his day.

The president is on vacation in New Jersey. He’ll be returning soon to the place he calls “a real dump.”

The changes that might await him are substantial, thanks to the work of Kelly, the retired Marine general. The potential changes likely won’t erase the immediate past — the “Russia thing” and questions about whether the president sought to obstruct justice in that ongoing FBI and special counsel investigation.

If only Gen. Kelly can control the president’s Twitter fingers. We’ll still have to see how that plays out.

Trump finally says what he should’ve said the first time

That wasn’t so painful, was it, Mr. President?

Donald J. Trump returned to the White House — aka “a real dump” — to sign an executive order and then deliver some remarks about the “criminals and thugs” who instigated the deadly race riot in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. He had been facing immense pressure from, um, “many sides” as a result of his initial response to the violence.

The president said what he needed to say at the outset. The Klan, neo-Nazis and assorted white supremacist groups provoked a riot while protesting the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. It went bad bigly.

Trump has condemned racism and bigotry and called out the white supremacists and Nazis as “criminals and thugs.” He called them what they are. Trump said “racism is evil” and said hate groups such as neo-Nazis and white supremacists “are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

How far will his remarks go in healing the damage that already has been done by his initial remarks in which he blamed “many sides” for the violence that erupted? Time will tell.

If he had asked for my opinion, I would have preferred that the president atone more directly for his error of omission. He should have acknowledged publicly in the White House that he erred in failing to respond appropriately.

Moreover, he could have said categorically that he does not welcome the overt political support of individuals such as one-time Ku Klux Klan grand dragon/lizard David Duke, who over the weekend invoked Trump’s name. Duke said he wants to “take our country back” and said “that’s why we voted for Donald Trump.”

He didn’t do those things. The president did say the right words — today! I still have to ask: Did they come from his heart, his soul?

Please demonstrate that they did, Mr. President.

White House faces another moment of truth

As if the White House doesn’t have enough centers of conflict within its walls, now we hear about yet another feud erupting between two of the president’s closest advisers.

In one corner is Stephen Bannon, the uber nationalist and former head of Breitbart News and a guy known for his rather harsh views about “globalism.” In the other corner is Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the brilliant military strategist who now serves as Donald John Trump Sr.’s national security adviser.

The White House is getting caught up in a growing potential crisis in North Korea. The president needs close aides nearby to give him sound advice on how to handle this matter.

McMaster made the rounds today on news talk shows to talk about the Korea issue — and about his relationship with Bannon. McMaster declined to say he could work with Bannon. He soft-shoed his way all around the questions.

Indeed, this is another test for the White House, which now is being run day-to-day by another general-grade officer, former Marine Gen. John Kelly, the president’s newly named chief of staff. It now falls on Kelly to ensure that the White House functions like a “fine-tuned machine,” which is now Trump once described his dysfunctional administration.

My sincere hope is that McMaster emerges as the man who’s standing if he, indeed, is engaged in a battle with Bannon.

I don’t trust Bannon as far as I can throw my big home office desk. He lacks the background to serve as a “senior policy adviser” to the president of the United States. He is a far-right provocateur and a damn scary dude, to boot!

McMaster is a grownup with tremendous combat experience. He has emerged as a brilliant strategist and he is the kind of serious-minded adviser who — if he’s given the chance — can serve the president and the nation with distinction.

All of this, of course, relies on the president’s judgment.

Will he heed the voice in his head that tells him to trust the national security pro or does he rely instead on the right-wing flamethrower?

As hopeful as I want to be on how this turns out, I am not willing to bet the mortgage the president will do what is right for the nation.

Trump dashes hopes that Kelly would rein him in

I had such high hopes.

Oh, but they’re being dashed almost daily by the president of the United States.

My hopes rested with the appointment of a decorated combat veteran, Marine Gen. John Kelly, as White House chief of staff. I had high hopes that Kelly would be able to tell Donald J. Trump to cool it with the tweets, bring some discipline to the White House operation.

As the president has demonstrated, Kelly so far has been unable to deliver on that first promise.

Trump continues to fire off tweets in the early-morning hours. He is continuing to act like the cyber bully his wife, Melania, has pledged to combat in her role as first lady.

The president then blabbed away about the “fire and fury” he intends to bring to North Korea if the communist government continues to “threaten the United States.”

Do you suppose the White House chief of staff signed off on that careless, reckless and dangerous remark? Me neither.

Gen. Kelly showed some very early promise when he showed former communications director “Mooch” Scaramucci within hours of reporting to work at the White House.

Much of the early handicapping, though, has looked dimly at Kelly’s chance of surviving long as chief of staff. The pundits have wondered whether the president’s undisciplined habits will be more than the buttoned-down Marine general can handle.

I fear they might be correct. But, hey, the White House is full of surprises. There might even be a pleasant one in store for us — if Kelly can persuade the president to start acting like the president.

Sully weighs in on goofy idea

Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger became an American aviation icon in the span of just a few minutes.

His jet airliner took off, ran into a flock of birds, lost power in both engines and Sully then had to make a split-second decision; he chose to land the aircraft in the Hudson River. He did so with precision and professionalism. No one was hurt.

Sully became a hero. They made a movie about his exploits; they cast Tom Hanks in the starring role as Sully; Clint Eastwood directed the film. So, when someone as iconic as Sully says it’s a mistake to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system, I believe his words are worth heeding.

The U.S. House is considering a plan to turn the air traffic control system over to a non-profit system; the White House has signed on as well.

It’s not as nutty a notion as turning prisons over to private firms, but this one is still pretty strange.

“I know what works and what doesn’t. Our air traffic control system is the best, the safest in the world,” Sullenberger says. “Why would we give such an important valuable national asset to the largest airlines — the same airlines … who often put expedience and cost-reduction ahead of the safety and welfare of others?”

Read more from The Hill here.

Indeed. Remember, too, how some of the major air carriers have suffered some serious public relations damage owing to the behavior of employees and their treatment of passengers. I have little faith in the airlines’ ability to handle the task of controlling air traffic.

I’m going to stand with an iconic pilot with 50 years of general aviation experience. If Sully says the air traffic control privatization idea stinks, that’s good enough for me.