Fake news. Lying media. Pathetic Democrats. President Trump has all sorts of colorful names for the people who he believes are undermining his agenda, but he has yet to publicly identify the one man who has done more to stymie his administration than anyone else – himself.
Trump is his own worst enemy. At every step of his administration, he is the one and only man who has, without fail, thrown his own agenda off course. As soon as there was the smallest hiccup in health care planning, he lashed out. As soon as he perceives a cabinet member or elected official making a mistake, he works to alienate them. As soon as he tried to pass a discriminatory travel ban, his very own tweets showed up in the court decisions to slow it down.
This self-destruction seems to stem from three factors – he has no filter, he has no capacity to learn from his mistakes, and he does not know how to govern. His lack of filter certainly helped in the presidential election that he can’t stop talking about, given that it came across to many as the more positive trait of “authenticity.” However, words matter far more in government than in politics. America’s allies need to know that what the president says is true, and by lying repeatedly and without remorse, Trump has undercut the country’s standing in the world and his own.
He is also making the same mistakes over and over again, the simplest of which is tweeting under duress. He could save his administration a lot of time by not repeatedly forcing them to defend short-sighted, aggressive tweets. This is not a problem that a 70-year old man should be having. It would also be wise for him to stop bullying people. That is, of course, a hard lesson for him to learn given the success he had with the tactic in the business world. Some Republican representatives and senators may be susceptible to the tactic, but there are at least a few left that care more about their constituents (or at least re-election) than the commands of a one-term president.
Those two factors foster the third, his inability to govern. He was and is wholly unprepared for this job. He has not helped himself by filling the White House and his cabinet with similarly unqualified people. Secretary Ben Carson knows nothing about housing and urban development. Secretary Betsy DeVos is not even qualified to teach a kindergarten class, much less head up American education policy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions still thinks this is the 1970s and that marijuana is one of the greatest threats to this country. He rewards loyalty, not skill. If anything, he seems to dislike being around qualified people because they highlight his own lack of ability.
These faults also lie at the heart of the historic turnover that his administration has faced and continues to face. An incomplete list of those who have quit their jobs at his side include former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who lasted less than a month on the job, former communications director Michael Dubke, former head of Trump’s external legal team Marc Kasowitz, and most recently, Press Secretary Sean Spicer. In just the last four days, there have also been reports that Sessions may soon be out and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering leaving his post before the end of the year. No administration in modern history, if not American history, has hemorrhaged employees so quickly.
This chaos at the federal level has serious implications for Georgia as well. Much of the decisions that must be made under the Gold Dome rely on federal planning and funding. Perhaps most critically, the uncertainty surrounding health care will leave state elected officials in a bind come January. It is clear now that a repeal of the Affordable Care Act will not happen anytime soon, though it is a safe bet that Trump will continue talking about it. Not only that, but he has made it unclear whether or not his administration plans to continue essential insurance payments, leaving insurers, policy makers, and citizens with little sense of what America’s health care infrastructure will look like in six months. It may all just be a game to him, but Georgians could die if he continues to emphasize an arbitrary “win” over smart health care policy.
Trump can and will complain all he wants about outside forces sabotaging his administration, but there is no great “Deep State” conspiracy. The only person wreaking havoc on his agenda is sitting at the desk in the Oval Office every day.
Tharon Johnson is a consultant with Paramount Consulting Group and a Democrat strategist.