Is Trump in control — or out of control?
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Is President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFreedom Caucus member condemns GOP group pushing 'Anglo-Saxon political traditions' MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's new free speech site to ban certain curse words Secret Facebook groups of special operations officers include racist comments, QAnon posts: report MORE's unique behavior calculated — or pure seat-of-the-pants emotionalism?

1. With all the talk about "draining the swamp" during campaign, let's examine where the Trump presidency is headed.

2. Trump’s appointments are decidedly conventional, and therefore not revolutionary.

3. Yes, many are hardline and conservative on the political spectrum, but they are not challenging the way Washington does business.

4. Case in point: Jay Clayton, a partner at the Wall Street white-shoe law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, is to be the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission — which oversees Wall Street.

5. Is that draining the swamp — or putting the fox in charge of the henhouse?

6. Are three Goldman Sachs high-level appointees draining the swamp, or just more of the same?

7. Are several billionaires in the Cabinet likely to want to challenge the very political and economic system that helped them make their fortunes?

8. True, there are a couple of truly revolutionary appointees: Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency and campaign CEO Steve Bannon on the White House staff.

9. But overall, this new administration is a very conservative, pro-business, traditional GOP collection. It is not a direct assault on the federal bureaucracy or the D.C. culture.

10. In fact, that D.C. culture is embodied in the selection of Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff and RNC spokesman Sean Spicer as press secretary. Both are creatures of the D.C. establishment. Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSecret Facebook groups of special operations officers include racist comments, QAnon posts: report Oddsmakers say Harris, not Biden, most likely to win 2024 nomination, election Personal security costs for anti-Trump lawmakers spiked post-riot MORE and his staff, too, are long-time Washington insiders.

11. All of this is not to say that Team Trump won't challenge the status quo. In fact, they will aim to shake things up.


12. But the president-elect himself sends conflicting signals and is decidedly inconsistent.

13. Both traits are entertaining and also cause head-scratching.

14. And neither is conducive to good governance, where consistency and constancy are invaluable.

15. Now, let us move to a corollary: How to run a presidency?

16. Trump is not acting or behaving the way a proper president should.

17. He is — and he doesn't know it yet — behaving in a way that will eventually undermine his own credibility and his presidency.

18. His war again the U.S. Intelligence Community, which is comprised of our 17 intel agencies including the CIA, NSA, FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency — is ill-conceived, shortsighted and politically suicidal.

19. His bromance with Russian President Vladimir Putin is fraught with potential trouble, with almost no ultimate upside.

20. I mean: What exactly can Russia do for us?

21. Trump says Russia can help us defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Really? Are the Russians adept at winning in the Middle East?

22. Do we really want them militarily on the ground in Iraq? In Libya?

23. They are currently withdrawing from Syria.

24. Has Trump thought through what "working with the Russians" really means?

25. Can they help us tame a greedy China?

26. No. They cannot.

27. China is Russia's largest purchaser of oil. Why would Putin want to endanger that relationship to help the U.S.?

28. So far, Trump seems like he is too enthusiastic for Putin's approval — too accepting of Putin's calculated flattery.

29. And Trump is too trusting in the belief that Putin behaved honorably in our election hacking scandal, and thus too distrustful of our — and soon his — Intelligence Community.

30. Can you imagine how Putin — a former KGB operative and sworn enemy of the U.S. and the CIA — is licking his chops over an incoming American — president who declares war on the CIA?

31. If Putin isn't religious, he might become so because only God could have delivered such an easy and ripe target for him to exploit.

32. Trump showed his astounding naivete this week when he complained — in a tweet, of course — about a leak to NBC News of the Putin report.

33. He even said he's asking the House and Senate Intel Committees to investigate this leak.

34. Oh, boy. If he is so unsophisticated as to be shocked or angry that the very same Intelligence Community he denigrated earlier in the week is leaking to get ahead of a story, it's going to be a long four years.

35. Trump supporters often say, "He is so smart; such a master political chess player that he is 10 steps ahead of everyone else." Really?

36. Or, instead, is he a sharp marketer who ran against the single worst nominee in history and barely won the Electoral College? And has now misinterpreted that narrow victory, repeatedly claiming a "massive landslide"?

37. Is he misunderstanding the change movement itself that he rode to victory?

38. Answer: If the economy improves — especially for those unhappy Red State voters — then Trump can tweet and preen away to his heart's content.

39. But if things bog down; if events take the nation off track; and/or if bad things happen and they are in any way tied to Trump's behavior, then watch out.

40. Let us all hope and pray for the best, but indeed be prepared for unexpected events that could imperil our nation.

John LeBoutillier is a former Republican congressman from New York, co-host of "Political Insiders" on Fox News Channel (Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m. Eastern) and a longtime contributor to The Hill. He is also co-host of REVOLUTION: The Podcast, available on iTunes.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.