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Donald Trump's 'chaos' presidency reaches frightening new levels

Jeb Bush was right."He is a chaos candidate," ...

Posted: Jan 5, 2018 12:08 AM
Updated: Jan 5, 2018 12:08 AM

Jeb Bush was right.

"He is a chaos candidate," the former Florida governor said of Donald Trump at a CNN debate in December 2015. "And he'd be a chaos president."

At the time, Trump embraced the "chaos" moniker. He was chaos in the sense that he was the only candidate willing to shake up the status quo -- to freak out the squares. Chaos worked for him, as both a symbolic image of the campaign he was running and a day in, day out approach to the race. None of the candidates he ran against -- including Bush and Hillary Clinton -- could ever settle in to any sort of campaign rhythm because Trump was purposely unsettling it all the time.

But the first year of his presidency has revealed the considerable limits of a strategy that relies solely on stirring chaos. It's created uncertainty here at home, as no one -- not even Trump -- seems to know what he will say or do on a daily basis. And it's stoked instability abroad as other countries -- allies and enemies -- find themselves sifting through Trump's often-contradictory public statements and tweets for some semblance of a cohesive mindset.

The peril in this approach has been crystallized over the last 72 hours as Trump has, among other things, questioned the methods and credibility of his own Justice Department, played a game of nuclear one-upmanship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (via Twitter no less!), announced his plan to deliver "awards" for the worst of the worst in the media and broken -- in fiery fashion -- with former top adviser Steve Bannon.

Amid that chaos from within has come chaos from without: Excerpts of a new book by journalist Michael Wolff detail the first year of Trump's presidency and paint the White House -- and the president -- as a sort of bad high school drama (think "Riverdale") dominated by back-biting, big egos and little sense of continuity or strategy.

The response by Trump to the Wolff book, which isn't even formally out until next week, has reaffirmed that sense of chaos and discontinuity.

The book is filled with lies, according to the White House. But they make few specific claims -- or offer any specific proof -- about what exactly Wolff got wrong. (On Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did cite one specific thing as false -- the claim that Trump did not know former House Speaker John Boehner's name following the 2016 election.)

Other elements are harder to dispute. Bannon is a crazy person who was less relevant to Trump's success than he claims, according to the President after the excerpts were released. Except that, after Bannon said that Trump was a "great man" on the radio Wednesday evening, Trump was quick to note that fact when talking to reporters today.

The prevailing image created by the last three days -- particularly in the broader context of Trump's presidency -- is one that was first suggested to me by longtime Republican consultant (and never-Trumper) Stuart Stevens.

Here's how Stevens described the Trump campaign when we spoke in August 2016:

"It's like a car. Most cars do fine at 40 or 50 miles an hour. But the test comes when you take it up to 100 mph and run it all day and night. That's when problems emerge and things start to fall off. Conventions and post conventions is when campaigns must start to hit the high speeds necessary to compete in a general election. I don't think Trump or the campaign is any worse or better than a couple of months ago. They were just driving slower. As the speed increases, they can't keep it out of the ditch."

Obviously Stevens was wrong about the timing of when (or if) Trump would land in a ditch. Trump got elected president -- running the engine at (or above) its top limits every single day.

But looking back at the last 72 hours, Stevens' image of a car beginning to break down after running in the red for months on end keeps coming back to me.

Chaos, as Jeb Bush noted more than two years ago, is not a strategy. It is barely a tactic. And chaos -- even when it works -- stresses the parts of an administration tasked with carrying out the haphazard -- and often contradictory -- orders from a President who, increasingly, is facing questions about his competence.

Stress anything -- a piece of metal, a person -- too long and, eventually they (or it) snaps. Donald Trump is learning that lesson with each passing day.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20573

Reported Deaths: 878
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin6918534
Ramsey231697
Stearns192312
Nobles14572
Anoka116455
Dakota105935
Olmsted55110
Washington50626
Kandiyohi4541
Clay36623
Rice3652
Scott3462
Wright2401
Sherburne2081
Todd1970
Benton1662
Carver1612
Mower1501
Steele1400
Martin1245
Blue Earth1121
St. Louis11113
Pine850
Freeborn840
Winona7715
Carlton730
Nicollet683
Cottonwood620
Polk582
Otter Tail550
Itasca527
Goodhue522
Watonwan500
Chisago481
Dodge430
Meeker420
Crow Wing421
Le Sueur411
Chippewa400
Jackson390
Morrison380
Murray350
Becker320
Lyon310
Douglas290
McLeod260
Isanti250
Waseca240
Rock210
Unassigned199
Fillmore171
Mille Lacs161
Wabasha160
Swift150
Sibley120
Beltrami120
Wilkin113
Norman110
Kanabec111
Cass113
Faribault110
Brown112
Pipestone100
Marshall80
Pennington70
Pope70
Aitkin60
Wadena60
Yellow Medicine50
Koochiching50
Lincoln50
Mahnomen51
Renville50
Lac qui Parle30
Red Lake30
Big Stone30
Redwood30
Traverse30
Grant20
Houston20
Clearwater20
Hubbard10
Kittson10
Lake10
Roseau10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 17227

Reported Deaths: 456
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk3714108
Woodbury255524
Black Hawk167639
Linn92775
Marshall86611
Dallas84914
Johnson5987
Muscatine54339
Wapello5004
Crawford4772
Tama39023
Louisa3347
Scott3319
Dubuque31916
Jasper25616
Buena Vista2310
Pottawattamie2106
Sioux1990
Washington1798
Allamakee1184
Wright1170
Plymouth1080
Warren1060
Story941
Poweshiek888
Bremer676
Henry611
Clinton601
Boone540
Des Moines531
Mahaska526
Cedar451
Guthrie433
Taylor370
Benton371
Jones360
Monroe334
Iowa320
Clarke320
Osceola320
Shelby310
Buchanan310
Clayton303
Marion290
Webster271
Fayette260
Hamilton260
Madison241
Monona230
Cerro Gordo221
Lee220
Winneshiek210
Davis200
Lyon190
Grundy190
Harrison190
Floyd181
Jefferson150
Cherokee150
Butler150
Mills140
Delaware140
Humboldt130
Sac130
Greene130
Keokuk130
Hardin130
Howard120
Hancock120
Appanoose123
Audubon111
Jackson110
Cass110
Ida100
Page100
Clay100
Winnebago100
Carroll90
Van Buren80
Franklin80
Dickinson80
Adair80
Chickasaw80
Kossuth70
Emmet70
Lucas60
Montgomery60
Union60
Adams50
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Pocahontas40
Mitchell40
Palo Alto30
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