Something akin to the “education of Donald Trump” may be taking place. And with it, a better organized and reality-based White House. To his detractors, the president is flip-flopping. But, as Politico noted earlier today, “Trump is embracing policy and people that are much more mainstream.” In recent weeks, the president has confirmed that NATO is a “great alliance,” he has confronted Russia in Syria, he has engaged in detente with China and brought attention to the threat from North Korea, and he has continued working with Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. Perhaps when President Trump told Stephen K. Bannon, Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner and others to “work this out,” he was instructing them to figure out their roles and responsibilities and how they could work together to serve him best. And if they couldn’t figure out who was doing what, he would make it clear, at someone’s expense.
Even before that message, the White House seemed to be adjusting and adapting to the realities of governing. Positions are steadily being filled out with capable and qualified individuals. Look no further than national security adviser H.R. McMaster asserting control at the National Security Council, the elevation of Dina Powell and the discipline of the administration’s communications strategy following the Syria missile strikes, and Gary Cohn’s focused leadership at the National Economic Council.
Perhaps some sort of reconciliation is finally beginning to match people with the tasks at hand. When Trump first came to office, it was obvious the White House had too many chiefs. Some staff had impressive titles but no discernible responsibilities. They functioned like “ministers” without portfolios, wandering into meetings and critiquing the performance of others and then dishing to the press. And that is a prescription for bad morale and poor results — particularly because reporters in Washington love nothing more than to keep the rumor mill churning. So, when anonymous White House sources talk about Bannon being on his way out, the speculation is probably overstated. It is more likely that White House roles are becoming better defined and a greater number of staff are being empowered to execute their defined responsibilities.
So far, Vice President Pence’s office has been referred to as the pod of normalcy, where everyone on staff knows what their job is and what their colleagues’ jobs are and no one seems to covet the job of another. But now, the White House increasingly appears to be matching responsibilities with capabilities as well. Maybe the era of big titles but no fixed responsibilities is coming to an end. To the dismay of the liberal “resistance,” the administration is creating a more effective machine for governing. And frankly, any such organizational improvements would be good for the country.
Yet, a lot of left-wing commentators are saying don’t try to normalize Trump, he is not normal, and there must be resistance to his presidency and anyone working in his administration. Well, bad news for them: The normalization of Trump’s presidency may be happening on its own as reality and a sense of responsibility seeps into the Oval Office and those around it.