With his staff exhausted, his agenda in tatters and multiple investigations snapping at his heels, President Donald Trump needs to pause, slow down and proceed with caution and thoughtfulness, say advisers.
“The problem, of course, is that Trump is going to be Trump,” conceded conservative writer Jonah Goldberg. The New York Times said Saturday that while many around the embattled president know that the chaotic, breakneck pace at which he conducts himself is destructive to his aims — no matter how effective it was on the campaign trail — there is little anyone can do to influence the former reality TV game show host.
“President Trump was determined to leave his mark on Washington quickly. Now the city is leaving its bruising mark on him, with the same astonishing swiftness that has been a hallmark of his lightning-strike political career,” wrote the Times’ Glenn Thrush.
“Mr. Trump has worn out opponents, journalists, members of Congress, foreign leaders, his staff — and now himself — with a breakneck barrage of executive actions, policy proposals and reversals, taunts, boasts and drowsy-hour Twitter assaults, all meant to disrupt American politics as usual,” Thrush said.
But the relentless series of gaffes, blunders and bombshells of recent weeks have left Trump and his team shell-shocked and off their game. White House staffers told the Times that the administration seems to be at the mercy of a force that operates at the same rapid-fire, unrelenting pace as their boss. And now they can’t keep up.
“What unnerves Mr. Trump and his staff the most is the eerily familiar tempo of these disclosures. It is as if some unseen adversary has copied Mr. Trump’s own velocity and ferocity in an attempt to destroy him, several people close to the president said. Sources are shuttling all kinds of information about Mr. Trump to reporters at a pace the White House cannot match,” wrote Thrush.
“Washington feels like a kiddie soccer game — tons of frenzy but no strategy,” said Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (NE), a vocal critic of Trump and his administration.
Frustrated staffers have tried to intervene with the president, “They have suggested that he calm down, spend less time on Twitter, and avoid making decisions too quickly.”
“But catching their breath is no easy feat while working for a president who posts Twitter messages impulsively, often cuts off briefers after a few minutes and issues iron commands on spur-of-the-moment emotions,” Thrush said.
Texas Tech professor and social media analyst Brian Ott told Thrush, “The velocity at which this is happening right now is absolutely unprecedented. News is breaking so fast the stories are stepping on each other.”
“During the campaign, Donald Trump never stopped to refuel, and he speeded up through every caution flag,” said Brian Fallon — press secretary to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign — to the Times. “But when you run every single race at a daredevil pace, well, eventually you are going to get into a pretty violent wreck.”
“For Trump, at this point, social media isn’t helping — it’s an accelerant,” said former Pres. Barack Obama’s first White House Counsel Bob Bauer. “I think the Watergate example is overused, and we don’t know where all of this will lead, but just think about the slower pace of that investigation.”
He continued, “It took a long time for people to know what Nixon was thinking and feeling. Then they heard those tapes. Nixon’s fortunes declined markedly when people heard it all in real time — all those four-letter words, his disrespect for institutions, his crudity. Trump is tweeting all of this in real time. Just think about that. He’s creating tapes with those tweets.”
Trump is currently on his first overseas trip as president, stopping first in Saudi Arabia, then going on to Israel and Europe.