Trump's Honeymoon is Over
Jacob Heilbrunn and Daniel McCarthy discuss Donald Trump’s poll numbers, Afghanistan and more.
Editor's Note: In our latest Facebook Live interview (please like our Facebook page to see more of these events) Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of the National Interest, and Daniel McCarthy, editor-at-large of the American Conservative, discuss Donald Trump's latest poll numbers and what to expect in the next few months of his presidency.
Daniel McCarthy recently wrote on the slow burn inside of Trump's White House. An excerpt of the article can be found below:
There’s a slow burn smoldering in Donald Trump’s White House, as, one after the other, high-profile advisors depart and cabinet secretaries increasingly give voice to their discontent. Will it turn into an inferno?
Last Friday, just a week after Steve Bannon’s exit from the administration, it was Sebastian Gorka’s turn. Over the weekend, the floods swamping Houston and Trump’s pardon of Jim Arpaio—the controversial former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona—dominated the headlines. But even up against those stories, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made news by telling Fox News Sunday that “the president speaks for himself” in the statements he’s made about the recent violence in Charlottesville.
Maybe Tillerson misspoke: perhaps he meant that Trump had been clear enough in his own words that he did not need Tillerson to reassure Fox’s Chris Wallace that the president was in full accord with “the American people’s values.” Yet given that the White House’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, had explicitly criticized Trump’s Charlottesville response in an interview published in the Financial Times just two days earlier, Tillerson’s remarks could only add to the impression that top administration officials have a new willingness to assert themselves—against the president.
When asked whether he had considered resigning over the president’s Charlottesville comments, Cohn said he had “come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position,” and while he would “not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job,” he nonetheless felt “compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks.” Cohn did not accept that “both sides” were to blame for the mayhem in Charlottesville: “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities.”
The internal damage the administration has sustained from the president’s ad hoc responses to the bloodshed in Charlottesville may outstrip the harm to Trump’s standing with the public. (Some polls actually had Trump’s numbers with his base improving after his rebarbative remarks.) There may be more to what’s going on here than just Cohn’s or Tillerson’s personal objections to the president’s language, however. The new outspokenness of top-ranking Trump officials comes just as Gen. John F. Kelly is subjecting the White House to greater discipline in his role as chief of staff. Bannon’s and Gorka’s departures seemed to be part of Kelly’s housecleaning, and the general has instituted firm rules concerning what kind of visitors and information sources are to be allowed to come before the president. Has Kelly emboldened the other “grown-ups” in the administration?