Trump in the White House Rose Garden yesterday. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP
I wrote yesterday about President Trump's war with the truth, after a stunning string of false statements during double-header press avails. But his war with his own Cabinet, over his own ideas, is equally stunning.
It's a feature, not a bug, of this White House for Trump to say one thing about policy, and for his Cabinet or hand-picked officials to say or do the exact opposite:
- Yesterday, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai subtly shot down Trump's threat to revoke NBC broadcast licenses: "I believe in the First Amendment."
- SecState Rex Tillerson says North Korean diplomacy "will continue until the first bomb drops"; Trump tweets that he's "wasting his time."
- SecDef Jim Mattis tells Congress that holding onto the Iran nuclear pact is in the interest of the national security of the United States; 10 days later, Trump threatens cancellation.
- Trump blames "both sides" for racial violence in Charlottesville; Tillerson says the president "speaks for himself," and economic adviser Gary Cohn says the administration "must do better."
- Trump threatens extreme action on immigrants, Muslims, "Dreamers," trade, NATO and more, but aides and advisers wind up softening or delaying most — with the notable exception of the Paris climate deal.
Why this matters: This dynamic — like the spreading of fake news or false statements — makes it hard for the media, Republicans and his Cabinet to determine when to take the leader of the free world seriously.
Sound smart: This is not a plot of evil genius to keep friends and foes guessing. It's the inevitable output of an improvisational president who often says whatever pops into his head.