The Clinton White House was a mess the first few weeks. There was hardly anyone on the staff who had been in the White House before, and the result was a chaotic mess. No one knew who, if anyone, was in charge.
Then Clinton brought in two administration veterans: Leon Panetta and David Gergen, both of whom had served under Gerald Ford and Ronald Regan. The White House is chaos, and someone needs to understand that pressure and bring things into as much order as possible. The chief of staff is supposed to be the gatekeeper to the President, but the President has to allow that person to watch the gates without interference.
That doesn’t appear to be happening in President Trump’s West Wing. The problem is, it’s not just the American people and the media who are watching: it is our enemies as well. China and Russia both appear to be fed up with the Commander in Chief and his blustering Tweets. Russia is responding to sanctions even before they are in place, and China is tired of being blamed for what is happening in North Korea.
The solutions, unfortunately, are political ones and we have in place a president and an administration that does not play politics well. Bullying in business may result in hurt feelings and tough deals to navigate, but at the Presidential level it can lead to war. We are already a country at war, and we certainly don’t need to fight on another front.
There is an internal war as well, one that must be calmed at some point. With every controversial decision, every tirade, another group of citizens becomes enraged, and many act on that rage in the form of protest. Some have already turned violent, raising questions about internal domestic struggles as well.
The Clinton chaos lasted a month, and then things calmed down. All new White House teams must endure this initial awkward transition, and most weather the storm nicely.
The Trump administration has outlasted the initial transition, but the same chaotic struggles continue. Trump claims the White House runs like a machine, but the machine seems oddly broken and inept much of the time. One hand does not seem to know what the other is doing. This can be as much attributed to the commander in chief as it can to those who serve under him.
The White House needs leadership and routine: regularity and predictability at least in some areas. It is not just dangerous because of the domestic implications or the fact that the media is watching and reporting on every aspect of the car crash as it happens, but that our enemies are watching as well.
A distracted White House in chaos means a weak one: one that makes rash decisions rather than thoughtful ones or worse yet fails to act. If those distractions and failures are the one thing they can count on, our enemies will find us easy to manipulate, and the world will be a worse place for it.