Eighteen days have passed since Donald Trump took the oath of office to become America’s 45th commander-in-chief. His speech to the sparse Inauguration Day crowd was a fire-and-brimstone sermon focused on bringing an end to what he described as an era of unfettered disorder in American life. The president’s gloomy vision invoked “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities” and “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation” as examples of the chaos that consumed America. He promised to put an end to this disorder, saying, “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
Early reports of Trump’s time in the White House, however, indicate that is not happening. A once moderately well-oiled machine, the office of the president appears to have descended into a form of American carnage itself.
Leaks from staffers about everything from Trump’s short fuse to his disturbingly isolated existence suggest that, far from bringing the efficiency and acumen of business to American leadership, the new administration is a huge mess.
Take, for example, Trump’s initial spree of executive orders. While incoming presidents are known to act on key policy initiatives early in their tenure, none have so baldly ignored fundamental protocols. A plausible explanation for this haphazard rollout of half-baked decrees is, as BuzzFeed reported, because the Trump team was using early draft proposals from Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, who was in charge of Romney’s transition efforts, told BuzzFeed that the documents were very early stage plans on what the Romney team, if elected, would focus on. Seeing as Mitt Romney did not win the 2012 election, it is safe to say these drafts were not ready for prime time.
In addition to being poorly thought out, a number of Trump’s executive orders have bypassed key offices inside of the executive branch of government. Trump’s immigration order, which cited a terrorist attack that happened 15 years ago as justification for restricting the rights of people already issued visas and green cards from seven countries (none of which included the 9/11 attackers’ countries of origin), was hurriedly pushed to the president’s desk. According to The New York Times, Gen. John Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, was being briefed for the first time on the immigration ban while Trump had his pen in hand, signing the measure.
Shortly after signing the immigration ban, Trump signed another executive order placing his chief strategist, far-right ideologue Steve Bannon, on the National Security Council — but sources told the New York Times that “he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed.” Nearly every measure signed by Trump so far has been largely ineffectual, serving as intellectually vacant bait for his most rabid supporters. His measure loosening the “burdens” of Obamacare does virtually nothing to repeal the law, seeing as any state looking to blow up its currently functioning health care system would have nothing to replace it with. Trump’s order to loosen the restrictions of Dodd-Frank, the regulations put in place after dubious practices in the financial sector brought the world economy to the brink of collapse in 2008, reads like the president has little understanding of how the law works.
Shame and switches
And then there is the internal chaos.
During the election, there were regular reports of infighting in Trump’s highly unorthodox campaign machine, and it appears as though that atmosphere has been brought to the Oval Office. A New York Times report violently rebuffed by the president tells of staffers wandering aimlessly around the White House with nothing to do, and of meetings held in the dark because no one knows how to operate the light switches. The most befuddling piece of information from the report is the fact that Chris Christie, the disgraced governor of New Jersey, was laughed out of Trump’s transition team for proposing a semblance of order to the administration.
Another story from Politico suggested that the White House was rattled by Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of the gum-guzzling Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live. According to Politico, Trump didn't send off his usual anti-SNL tweet over the weekend because of how upset he was that Spicer was portrayed by a woman. Spicer, along with most spokespeople for the Trump team, has done himself no favors by lying to reporters and just generally making stuff up.
The “American carnage” line from Trump’s inauguration speech has little relationship with the truth. Violent crime in America is down and as is unemployment. But his speech seems to have been more premonition than reflection. The world takes the United States less seriously each day of Trump’s presidency, the carnage of which will surely be felt by the Americans he conned to get to the White House.
Correction: This article has been updated to correctly attribute news sources.