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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Child Who Holds the Nuclear Codes

In Defying the Odds, we discuss questions about Trump's qualifications for the presidency. Nearly four months in, those questions persist.

NATO is scrambling to tailor its upcoming meeting to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span. The alliance is telling heads of state to limit talks to two to four minutes at a time during the discussion, several sources inside NATO and former senior U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy. And the alliance scrapped plans to publish the traditional full post-meeting statement meant to crystallize NATO’s latest strategic stance.
...
“It’s kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump,” said one source briefed extensively on the meeting’s preparations. “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re freaking out.”
Shane Goldmacher reports at Politico:
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus issued a stern warning at a recent senior staff meeting: Quit trying to secretly slip stuff to President Donald Trump.
Just days earlier, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming, according to four White House officials familiar with the matter.

Trump quickly got lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an internet hoax that’s circulated for years. Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it. 
Stef W. Knight curates information at Axios:
  • No more TV: Aides said they try to give Trump "better choices" or jam his schedule with meetings to keep him away from reading about or watching himself on TV (and then tweeting about it). An advisor told Washington Post, "Once he goes upstairs, there's no managing him."
  • Show and tell: Aides know Trump responds best to visuals. Typically, when someone wants to sell him on something they use props, according to Jonathan Swan. An official once told NYT, "The president likes maps."
  • Maps: In fact, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue used a map showing the "Trump country" areas of the U.S. that would be hardest hit by NAFTA's termination to convince Trump to keep the trade agreement, according to Washington Post.
  • No friends until work is done: Reince Priebus has tried to stop Trump's many visits with random aides, family, friends and reporters to the White House — which visually annoys the chief of staff — by filling up his schedule with ceremonial events, according to NYT.
  • Play time: Priebus has been busy making room in Trump's schedule to do whatever he wants. As NYT put it, "He has reduced the pace of public events and, like a Montessori teacher, modulates structured work time with the slack periods Mr. Trump craves."
  • Censoring polls: During the campaign, aides got used to digging up the two polls consistently favorable to him — Rasmussen and LA Times tracking poll, according to Swan.
  • The happy news: Staffers include positive, local news clippings in Trump's morning briefings instead of the possibly more negative headlines from a national paper, they told the Post.
  • The bad guys: When aides want to ensure someone doesn't get a job, they know to print out everything negative they've said about Trump. They know he's especially sensitive to disloyalty. This is partly what happened to Cathy McMorris with the interior secretary position.
  • No more tweets: Toward the end of the campaign, stories surfaced that aides had finally convinced Trump to let them handle Twitter.
  • Listen first: A confidante told Politico "If you're an adviser to him, your job is to help him at the margins. To talk him out of doing crazy things."
  • Simplifying: When it comes to making a policy or strategy decision, aides told Politico that it's best not to give Trump too many different options, but instead, thoroughly explain one, favored option and how the press would cover it. "You go in and tell him the pros and cons, and what the media coverage is going to be like."