There's trouble in paradise -- if "paradise" is "Donald Trump's historically-unpalatable and logistically-shambolic presidential campaign." After quite a bit of media tongue-wagging about how Trump was finally getting serious by bringing on some seasoned professionals and transitioning to a "more presidential" tone, Trump has reportedly rejected the advice of his top new seasoned professional, Paul Manafort, effectively stripping him of power. Politico has details:
Donald Trump is bristling at efforts to implement a more conventional presidential campaign strategy, and has expressed misgivings about the political guru behind them, Paul Manafort, for overstepping his bounds, multiple sources close to the campaign tell POLITICO...Now Trump is taking steps to return some authority to Manafort’s chief internal rival, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski...campaign insiders say it has become increasingly clear that Trump, for all his boasts about his ability to become more “presidential,” is simply unwilling or perhaps unable to follow through, and resents efforts to transform him...After Trump’s resounding victory in last week’s New York primary, for instance, Manafort handed the candidate a speech he’d written for him that aimed for a more presidential tone, according to two campaign sources. Trump took a quick look at it and told Manafort he’d consider using such a speech down the road, but in the glow of his huge win in his home state, he preferred to wing it...Multiple sources said that Trump in recent days has re-empowered Lewandowski to handle the campaign’s finances and make some hiring decisions, partially reversing changes Manafort laid out this month when seizing some decision-making authority from Lewandowski.
You might say that Lewandowski figuratively grabbed Manafort by the arm and yanked back some control of the campaign. And thus, the legions of Trump followers who've spent the last week expressing great joy at how marvelous it was that "Mister Trump" was shifting to a new phase of the campaign by altering his tone and conduct (which the candidate himself confirmed was happening) are now doing virtual backflips that Trump is refusing to shift to a new phase of the campaign, declining to alter his tone and conduct. In cults of personality, the central Hero Figure can do no wrong. And speaking of the man who admittedly surrounds himself with "unsuccessful people" and never hires anyone who's smarter than he is, Politico reports that Trump has become alarmed by some of Manafort's connections:
Around the same time, POLITICO revealed that Manafort brought in a handful of operatives who had ties to his lobbying firm, which had developed a niche representing a roster of controversial international clients who have been collectively described as “the torturers’ lobby.” In particular, multiple sources said Trump was bothered by news stories about Manafort’s representation of Saudi Arabia and for a group accused of being a front for Pakistani intelligence. “I don’t think he was aware of the extent of the work that Paul has done in foreign countries that have not always been friendly to the United States,” said a Washington operative with close relationships to the campaign.
So Trump was taken aback by easily-googleable facts about Manafort that he only discovered after hiring the guy to effectively take over his campaign? What a brilliant manager. Trump is surely destined to make great deals, driven by his preternatural smarts and savvy assessment of complexities. And he apparently heard about Manafort's problematic past on the news, much like a certain sitting president whose insular arrogance and self-regard Trump somehow surpasses. Meanwhile, the PR tug-of-war between Manafort and Lewandowski has bubbled over into dueling news leaks for days on end. Here's a Lewandowski loyalist (maybe even Lewandowski himself) pointing out that Manafort's supposed expertise was delegate-wrangling:
The operative pointed out that since Manafort joined the campaign, it has continued to struggle to keep pace with Cruz’s superior operation to recruit delegates free to back their preferred candidate if a first ballot at a contested convention yields no nominee. Citing Trump’s poor showing in delegate battles over the weekend in Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, South Carolina and Utah, the operative said “this is the narrative that Trump has tried to get away from and that was supposed to be Paul’s job.” During his Sunday appearance on Fox News, Manafort appeared to shift blame for recent losses to the campaign’s original core staff, explaining “most of the conventions that happened yesterday were set in state — stages a month or two ago and before frankly I was involved.”
Lots of finger-pointing back and forth, but the results are unchanged: Team Trump is getting crushed in the delegate game by the Cruz campaign. Reversing that trend was, in fact, the reason Manafort was brought on in the first place. Instead, we've been treated to a delicious parade of internal-power-struggle process stories, with warring Trumpian factions sometimes sniping at each other in public:
What an effective and professional operation Donny McManager is running over there. Why would anyone be anything but fully confident that this band of feuding incompetents is fully prepared to take on the billion-dollar Democratic attack machine in the fall? On the bright side, they'd enter the battle with a candidate who's only viewed negatively by approximately two-thirds of the American people. I'll leave you with Trump and Co. flexing their 'screw being presidential' muscles:
Oh, and please consider this closing quote from the Politico story: "'That's Trump. If you try to force him into a box, he's going to climb out of the box just to prove it to you,' said one operative close to the campaign. 'If you say he's going to be more presidential, all you did is make him less presidential.'" Just the sort of temperament you want in the commander-in-chief to he planet's most powerful military, amirite?