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Posts published in “Day: September 11, 2016”

Trump 59: The advisory corps


No president can walk into office knowing everything of importance to the decisions that have to be made. Even after four or eight years, albeit better educated than at the beginning, a president still needs good advisors. Even if the advice isn't always taken - and a good president is neither bound by nor dismissive of advice from the specialists in everything from drone warfare in Yemen to medical care in rural counties - that advice is important. A good support staff is nearly as important as a good president.

You might be inclined to dismiss that a little more in the case of Donald Trump, who famously has pronounced himself to have "a good brain" and declared himself his own best advisor. There's the feeling that he may, in the end, listen to no one but himself.

In this case, that might be as well, since his gaggle of campaign operatives is the weakest in the last few generations.

Ordinarily, in both parties, you don't reach the level of working upper operational or advisory levels of a major presidential campaign without becoming one of the best in the country at that kind of work. Going back at least a couple of generations, nominees for both political parties have brought in top-flight help to run the campaigns and provide advice. That core of support often carries over into the White House; many White House staffers in recent years, again in both parties, have graduated to there from campaign jobs (much as the television series The West Wing depicted).

That's the case with the Hillary Clinton campaign, a corps with deep political and policy experience in recent Democratic campaigns. Most of the Republican candidates for president probably would have had a counterpart in place now, but the actual nominee, Donald Trump, from the beginning has scoffed at the idea of running an actual campaign organization. What do you need that for if you have rallies and free media?

Actually, you need a substantial organization for many things, but one of those, if you do manage to win the election, is to help provide a staff core for the next administration.

So what does Trump have along those lines?

The closest he has had to a conventional experienced campaign staffer was former manager Paul Manafort, who wound up being a political liability over his connections with Russia and being on the outs with others in the campaign. He was far from an optimal choice - his direct experience in American presidential politics is more than a generation in the past - but at least he had some idea of what the norms were.

Now the closest to that mark is his titular campaign manager but in effect spokesman, Kellyanne Conway, who does have useful experience as a pollster but not in any of the other jobs she seems to have been asked to do. The CEO of the campaign, Steve Bannon, has no campaign or governmental experience of any kind - he's been a stirrer of controversy and little more. And a variety of people hanging around the campaign and evidently getting Trump's ear more than many of the staffers do are no more helpful. (A few mid-level staffers do have some significant Republican Party political experience, but they seem not to be exerting major roles in the campaign.

The Breitbart web organization last year quoted Trump on the subject of where he got his advice on military action: "I watch the shows."

If his campaign careens now, you could expect a Trump White House would do the same. Or worse.