Edi­to­ri­als: The war for Trump’s ear

He’s grow­ing in of­fice, but he must be wary of out­grow­ing what got him here

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY -

There’s an omi­nous rum­ble of war in Korea, there’s al­ways an omi­nous rum­ble of war in the Mid­dle East, but in Wash­ing­ton we’ve al­ready got the real thing. The com­bat­ants are tak­ing no pris­on­ers and the rules of the Geneva Con­ven­tion do not ap­ply.

This war is ugly, likely to be bloody and won’t ever end, be­cause to the victor goes the ul­ti­mate turf and ter­ri­tory, the ear of the pres­i­dent.

Don­ald Trump’s pas­sion for mak­ing Amer­ica great again is not some­thing that eas­ily trans­lates into pol­icy. He re­lies on ad­vice from key aides, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, a select group of out­siders, and his fam­ily. They nat­u­rally can’t all agree on what “mak­ing Amer­ica great again” means. It’s easy to in­scribe some­thing on the front of a base­ball cap.

Mr. Trump’s so­lu­tion is to tell am­bi­tious aides to work out their dif­fer­ences, or he will. White House in­trigue is as old as the White House and noth­ing ex­cites a White House cor­re­spon­dent like gos­sip and tat­tle. Tales are spun in what the trade calls “dope sto­ries,” as in in­side in­for­ma­tion, but only a dope be­lieves ev­ery­thing he reads. Dope sto­ries are rife with anony­mous sources, and such sourc­ing is some­times nec­es­sary but it’s dif­fi­cult for a reader to know what to make of the dope.

The first tar­get of the dopesters was Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. There were daily tem­per­a­ture read­ings of both the pres­i­dent and Mr. Priebus to see how closely they matched. He was blamed for ev­ery pol­icy mis­step. Now that is so yes­ter­day, and Steve Ban­non, the pres­i­dent’s chief po­lit­i­cal strate­gist, has be­come chief tar­get. The gos­sips say his walk­ing pa­pers have been pre­pared and are soon to be de­liv­ered. (But maybe not.)

For ev­ery leak there’s a leaker, and the ob­ject of the game is to find out who the leak­ers are. “In­formed spec­u­la­tion” points to a co­terie of New York­ers tied to pres­i­den­tial son-in-law Jared Kush­ner, and to Gary Cohn of the Na­tional Economic Coun­cil, who is said to lust for Reince Priebus’s job. The New York­ers want Mr. Trump to mod­er­ate his views, to be kinder and gen­tler, and spend more time work­ing on is­sues im­por­tant to “peo­ple like us.”

Mr. Cohn was once chair­man of Gold­man Sachs, one of the pur­vey­ors of the Wall Street stink that the pres­i­dent once de­nounced with pas­sion and fer­vor. In those dis­tant days he was ea­ger to carry Hil­lary Clin­ton’s purse af­ter it was padded with green stuff from “peo­ple like us.” Now he can ed­u­cate the pres­i­dent about how wrong he is about abor­tion, im­mi­gra­tion, rad­i­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism and the rest.

Steve Ban­non’s mere pres­ence in the West Wing is a con­stant re­minder of the fact that the unem­ployed blue-col­lar stiffs in the dy­ing towns of Penn­syl­va­nia, Ohio, Michi­gan and the Rust Belt were ex­actly who put Mr. Trump in the White House.

Mr. Trump, like ev­ery pres­i­dent be­fore him, finds gov­ern­ing much more dif­fi­cult than cam­paign­ing, and he’s en­ti­tled to choose his ad­vis­ers, even a daugh­ter and a son-in-law. All pres­i­dents take coun­sel where they find it. Jimmy Carter once fa­mously said he looked to his daugh­ter Amy for ad­vice on arms con­trol, and she was only 13 years old.

Don­ald Trump de­serves more credit than many are will­ing to give him for win­ning the elec­tion. Get­ting to be the pres­i­dent of the United States is not easy; only 44 men be­fore him have done it. One of this pres­i­dent’s strengths is his will­ing­ness to gather around him men and women who have op­posed him in the past. But he has to be wary of those who want to trans­form him into a re­spectable low-en­ergy “states­man” with a fine po­lit­i­cal pedi­gree. They’re the losers he of­ten dis­dains. He should re­mem­ber that “you al­ways go home with the one who brung you to the dance.”

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