Trump faces grow­ing Repub­li­can un­ease

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

As fel­low Repub­li­cans la­bored to re­peal Oba­macare this week, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­peat­edly swerved off-topic, es­ca­lat­ing con­cerns in his party about his abil­ity to gov­ern the coun­try six months af­ter tak­ing of­fice. While sen­a­tors grap­pled with health­care, Trump banned trans­gen­der peo­ple from the mil­i­tary. He re­galed a Boy Scout jam­boree with a tale from a New York cock­tail party. He in­dulged an ob­scene tirade by his flam­boy­ant new com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor.

In the end, the Se­nate’s ef­forts col­lapsed in a predawn vote on Fri­day, mag­ni­fy­ing the in­ef­fec­tive­ness that of­ten goes with the chaos around Trump, the con­stant storm of tweets, the White House in­fight­ing, the self­in­flicted wounds. “We’re see­ing clear ev­i­dence that all of these dis­trac­tions are stand­ing in the way of their abil­ity to achieve leg­isla­tive ac­com­plish­ments,” said Repub­li­can strate­gist Alice Stewart, a top aide to Se­na­tor Ted Cruz’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign last year.

In the lat­est twist, Trump late on Fri­day named US Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly as his new White House chief of staff, re­plac­ing Reince Priebus, who has been in a feud with Trump’s new com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor An­thony Scara­mucci. Among some es­tab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans, there were signs that pa­tience with Trump was wear­ing thin. His na­tional se­cu­rity team, seen as a bedrock of nor­mal­ity, in­creas­ingly is frus­trated. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser H R Mc­Mas­ter and Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son were de­scribed by sources as un­happy with their han­dling by the White House.

De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis was com­ing to grips with Trump’s abrupt de­ci­sion on Wed­nes­day, via a tweet, to ban trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als from mil­i­tary ser­vice. The Pen­tagon said it would not ex­e­cute the or­der with­out more guid­ance. Repub­li­can strate­gist Char­lie Black said Trump needs to let an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of pos­si­ble ties be­tween Rus­sia and his 2016 cam­paign run its course and not keep talk­ing about it. Rus­sia de­nies med­dling, and Trump de­nies any col­lu­sion.

The Rus­sia probe has fed pub­lic spats with At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, quar­rel­ing among aides and at­tacks on Robert Mueller, the spe­cial coun­sel run­ning the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “He should be talk­ing about pol­icy and stick­ing to is­sues for a while,” Black said. “There are still some good things that could get done in Con­gress like tax re­form. He can help fur­ther those things if that’s what he talks about.”

Fiz­zled Ef­fort

In the Se­nate health­care fight, Trump phoned Repub­li­can sen­a­tors and urged them to sup­port re­peal of Oba­macare, but the ef­fort fiz­zled, a sign there was lit­tle po­lit­i­cal ret­ri­bu­tion to fear from a pres­i­dent with a sub-40 per­cent ap­proval rat­ing. A mod­er­ate House Repub­li­can said Trump let down the Oba­macare roll­back ef­fort by not go­ing out and sell­ing a plan. For Trump, a busi­ness­man and for­mer re­al­ity TV show host, the pres­i­dency is his first elected of­fice. “This is­sue was out­sourced to Con­gress. It was never re­ally sold. I think that was part of the rea­son why it was a fail­ure,” said Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Char­lie Dent.

As the Se­nate fight was com­ing to a head, Washington was sud­denly mes­mer­ized by a pro­fan­ity-laced rant from Scara­mucci, who tore into Priebus and Trump strate­gist Steve Ban­non in an in­ter­view in The New Yorker mag­a­zine. Stunned aides stopped what they were do­ing to read the ar­ti­cle on­line. The rant has so far gone un­pun­ished. In­side the White House, there was a sense of gen­uine con­cern and be­wil­der­ment about what Scara­mucci’s fu­ture might por­tend.

For­mer White House press sec­re­tary Ari Fleis­cher said the ten­sions did not seem to trou­ble Trump. “The pres­i­dent’s man­age­ment style seems to be to en­cour­age fac­tion­al­ism among peo­ple be­low him. He seems to place value on watch­ing peo­ple fight,” Fleis­cher said. Aside from sack­ing Priebus, it was un­clear how Trump planned to pro­ceed to re­gain his foot­ing. With health­care stalled, Trump has his sights set on tax re­form with no con­sen­sus on how to pro­ceed. Top aides are split on how deeply to cut taxes. It is the same mod­er­ates-ver­sus-con­ser­va­tives split that doomed the Oba­macare roll­back. — Reuters

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