The departure of Steve Bannon to parts unknown means the post of Chief Strategist in the Trump administration is being outsourced to guys like me in the pundit class, and here we thought he would never ask.
The President has been successful all his life, sometimes by going his own way and sometimes by adapting to the norms of a new milieu. One of his trademark moves, which has made him a lot of money in a variety of ways, is to say: “You’re fired!” Every job working for Donald Trump, in any capacity, in any environment, on any level of salary or authority, begins as an apprenticeship. You are there to learn humbly, to extend yourself, to grow, to master new skills, to contribute to the team without causing conflict. As you succeed, the limit is set progressively skyward, but never make the mistake of thinking the sky is the limit. There IS a glass ceiling and it is always closer than you think.
By all appearances, this style has arrived in the Oval Office along with its new occupant. The author of The Art of the Deal is dealin’ and the author of The Art of the Comeback is comin’ back. The application does not fall far from the tree. Only the apt and the adaptive need apply for this apprenticeship.
All of this would be fine, even fun, if we had elected the second coming of Ronald Reagan. Instead we have the fourth coming of Ross Perot. When Perot ran as an independent candidate in 1992 and again in 1992 (an inside joke for those who remember), then as a Third-Party candidate in 1996, his opponents argued that he could never function as President without allies in either party in Congress. Trump sort of bypassed that critique by winning on the Republican ticket, but other than that he entered Washington DC as a stranger in a strange land. To top it off, his inaugural address to the people stressed that “Washington’s success is not your success.” This did not warm the cockles of the bureaucratic heart, even when it pumps nominally Republican blood.
Trump needs a modus operandi calculated to keep Republicans effective on his behalf in Congress, along with a modus vivendi so he can survive the Democrat attack machine. The only way he can hope to function in this kind of environment is to have a merry band of loyalists. He needs a White House united in purpose like none other. When he says in his hyperbolic jargon that his will be the best-run White House ever, he may not realize that he can ONLY succeed at all if he can put together an absolutely spectacular team. In a way, his White House must be the Third Party. It must be dedicated, focused, energetic, loyal and persistent. The only way he can hope to inspire such loyalty is if he gives it in return.
Remember, every person Trump brings in becomes a target. First they picked off Crowley and Flynn, then Scaramucci took down Priebus, then Spicer took off, then Scaramucci self-immolated, and on and on. The snipers take down one at a time, then move on to the next. There is only one way to stop this, and only one way to build a bridge to effectiveness with Congress. There must be a two-way street of loyalty.
“You are not fired!” That should be the new motto of the Trump White House. Like immigration, we do our vetting before we bring you in. Once aboard, you are part of a select elite, a holy order; nothing and no one can remove you from your perch. If you are Jewish and your coreligionists claim you are a Nazi collaborator, we have your back. If your wife worked in Hollywood and is being shamed by her former colleagues, we will fire back on your behalf. If you went to Yale and your alma mater are calling you names in Latin, we will summarily come louder to your defense.
We don’t need to get carried away, no blood brotherhood or fraternity hazing. But we need people to stay fired up day and night, not to stay up at night in fear of being fired the next day. The Trump motto as well as the Republican motto should be “One for all and all for one”, unlike the Democrat motto: “Free for all and all for free!”