The emerging, not unanticipated picture of the Trump White House is one of absolute chaos. "A feeling of distrust has taken hold in the West Wing … as his aides view each other and officials across the federal government and on Capitol Hill with suspicion," reports Politico. "The result has been a stream of [administration-damaging] leaks." This was confirmed recently by the always misleading Kellyanne Conway, little sister to Big Brother: "We're the ones not leaking."
At the chaotic core of these wounding leaks are the "warring factions" of Bannon, Kushner, and Priebus, whose internal battles are propelling a WH paranoia in which "no one is quite sure who is up and who is down, and who is on their side" — which reads like a remembrance of 1940s Berlin, what with its Bormanns, Keitels, and Speers. And yet all the jockeying and infighting in Trump's bunker "often means little," muses Politico, "because the president will make a decision based on one conversation." One may be successful in gaining the hourly ear of the denuded emperor, only to have one's influence undone in the next hour, at the hands of the next sycophant or exterior voice.
Trump's apologists, of course, argue not only that he "thrives on chaos" — which is true enough, since a severely disordered mind knows no other — but that chaos "has proved to be an effective management approach for him in the past. But," writes the NYT's James Stewart, "every expert I consulted said there is no empirical data or research that supports the notion that chaos is a productive management tool." The Trump WH is now contributing mightily to that empirical data.
The president's Muslim ban was, for example, but one product of the WH's endemic chaos and larger paranoia over potentially disagreeable opinion from, ahem, outsiders, they being Trump's own secretaries of Homeland Security and Defense. Thus an executive order was scribbled by a tight team of insider incompetents, yielding mass confusion throughout the government and blistering news coverage. "This is so basic, it’s covered in the introduction to the M.B.A. program that all our students take," said Lindred Greer, of Stanford Graduate School of Business, to Stewart. "Not to consult thoroughly with top cabinet officers before deciding on the order 'is insane,'" added Greer.
Said Greer's Stanford colleague, Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior: "Trump’s executive actions as president 'are so far from any responsible management approach' that they all but defy analysis."
Harvard Business School's Jeffrey Polzer further observed that good management "requires an openness to being challenged, and some self-awareness and even humility to acknowledge that there are areas where other people know more than you do. My sense is that Trump takes no one’s counsel but his own. That’s bad management, period."
Here I part from the good professor. That Trump's management is "bad" is indisputable. Just look around, the fallout is everywhere; never before has a presidential rollout been greeted by such domestic disapproval and global contempt. It's also true that Trump believes no one knows more than he does about — anything. This, he has humbly divulged himself. But does the president take "no one's counsel but his own"? In a way, one could answer yes; Trump's egregiously limited mental capacity has him convinced of his own and singular righteousness. Still, in another, deeper way, one must answer no; and the answer springs from the afore-cited Politico observation that "the president will make a decision based on one conversation" — that being the last one he's had.
Yesterday, proof of this oft-mentioned Trumpian attribute came down thunderingly when he flipped on Israeli's illegal settlements. For some time it was his "considered" opinion that the settlements should go forth. He then had a conversation with Jordan's King Abdullah II, and presto, he "shifted gears" and "warned the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off new settlement construction." In neither instance was there ever any real Trumpian there there. "His own counsel," turns out, is nothing more than the last voice he hears.
And that renders nothing but administration chaos, which are bound to endure. Donald Trump's mind is a breathtaking blank, one subject to the ever-shifting, colliding opinions of others. Because he has no grounding in any field of knowledge except that of the slick con, there is no coherent continuum of authentic Trumpian opinion. There exist only his monstrous self-adoration and certitude that he's always decisively right — and he'll be just as right tomorrow, when he, on the counsel of the last known other, decides the mind-blowing opposite.