President Trump needs to make some huuuge changes, and soon
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Who exactly is running the White House?

As President Trump and his coterie departed on their first foreign trip, a plethora of conservative and liberal political leaders, pundits and citizens were asking themselves this simple question. And who can blame them? In the wake of the myriad missteps emanating from the White House daily, many are beginning to worry that this presidency is in danger of being in serious peril. 

The events of the last two weeks alone, from the firing of FBI Director James Comey to the revelations that Trump may have revealed classified information to the Russians, are strong indicators that the administration is struggling with the basics of governing and a president who is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of his position. But what’s been more distressing to watch than Trump’s perfunctory behavior has been his lack of self-awareness about how his actions affect his own team. 

The uneven and underwhelming performances of chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sean Spicer and national security adviser H.R. McMaster are primarily the result of a staff that is being undercut by their boss. Trump’s mercurial, and sometimes vituperative, actions have not only battered his staff’s confidence, they are starting to erode something more important: the American citizen’s trust in their own institutions.

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Americans are increasingly frustrated by their ineffective national government and the toxic environment that has enveloped Washington. Many voted for Trump because they thought he would be able break through the gridlock. Unfortunately, Trump’s dangerous improvisational style and his lack of understanding of the basics of governing has only exacerbated the dysfunction in the nation’s capital.

 

The Trump decision-making matrix seems to have more in common with an Etch-A-Sketch than a deliberative process. Rather than embracing the challenges that come with the highest office in the land and diligently applying himself to the most demanding position in American politics, he acts like a little boy who keeps turning the knobs furiously and gets upset when the picture doesn’t turn out the way he envisions it. So, what does he do? He shakes the toy and starts the process all over again.

A perfect example of this type of behavior is his effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (widely referred to as ObamaCare). While there is enough blame to go around for the initial debacle, as Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats MORE (R-Wis.) and the House caucus did him no favors, Trump’s behavior during the process showed an individual who was unsure of himself and not ready for prime time. Instead of taking the time to learn the issue and sell it to the American people, he threatened members of his own party to support the flawed legislation. Rather than using the power of the bully pulpit to help shape public opinion, he decided to just be a bully.

Following Ryan’s decision to not even bring the first bill to the floor for a vote, Trump decided to double down on the repeal of ObamaCare. Within a few weeks, he launched another effort at repeal versus taking the time to conduct an intensive review of the first failed attempt. While this legislation was eventually passed on a strict party line, many analysts view the effort as being severely flawed (no CBO score) and a Pyrrhic victory for Trump. Most importantly, Senate Republicans view the bill as being dead on arrival in the upper chamber and won’t even look at it as a template for future action.

Back in D.C. from his overseas trip, Trump will find a nation that is yearning for adult leadership in the executive mansion. In his short time in office, Trump has polarized an already divided country and has shown a particular zeal in lashing out at anyone or anything that is critical of him. Trump seems more comfortable launching a mini-tirade on Twitter rather than furthering democratic debate. Sadly, he seems more comfortable chasing headlines rather than doing the work of the American people. Unfortunately, these character flaws are overshadowing the successes he and his team have accomplished.

The American author James Allen wrote, “Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him.” The current circumstances in D.C. reveal a man who needs to radically alter his behavior. Trump needs to look in the mirror and realize that change starts with him. He can’t declare bankruptcy or sue his way out of this.

It’s rather a simple choice: He can either start acting like the president or continue his decline and, in the process, adversely affect the prestige of the republic and the American presidency. 

The decision is yours, Mr. President. 

Todd Johnson a retired Army officer and former policy analysis instructor at the Naval War College. He covers national politics and defense issues and has written for a variety of publications and journals, including Defense News, The Journal of International Security Affairs, and The Royal United Services Institute Journal.


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