Do it his way

AP reports a shift in Trump, from however reluctantly taking some guidance from his aides, to getting sick of them and doing whatever he wants. Last week in West Virginia he threw his prepared speech up in the air. BO-RING.

This president has never been one to stick to a script, but that abandoned speech illustrates a new phase in Trump’s presidency. He is increasingly at odds with his staff — and growing wise to their tactics.

One favored staff strategy: Guide the president to the right decision by making the conventional choice seem like the only realistic option. Except now, 14 months into his administration, Trump is on to them, and he’s making clear he won’t be boxed in.

That was the message that an irritated Trump delivered to his national security team last week in a classified meeting about U.S. involvement in Syria.

Trump’s advisers, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, were advocating for an ongoing U.S. military presence to provide stability. They aimed to rely on the same playbook they used last year in persuading Trump to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan indefinitely. They would paint a dire picture of a pullout, of regional chaos benefiting Russia and Iran, and the potential resurgence of the Islamic State group.

But even before they could begin their pitch in that meeting Tuesday, Trump headed them off, saying he wanted to remove U.S. troops immediately. The ensuing heated argument put new distance between the president and his team and left the military with a mandate, if not a formal order, to remove U.S. troops from Syria within six months.

Of course, military advisers give their advice from a military point of view. There are all kinds of institutional reasons for them to choose the advice they give, and the institution in question is the military, which has its own well known dangers. We’re supposed to be civilian government. But the trouble is, Trump is Trump. His biases are not likely to be an improvement on military biases, and he has infinitely less knowledge and experience. The US does keep getting itself entangled in wars that go on forever and do harm to millions, and from the outside it can seem best to just get out – but it could still be the case that just getting out would do even more harm. It’s complicated. The thing about Trump is that he seems to assume that because he was elected therefore he is the best qualified to decide. He thinks the president has and should have dictatorial power and that he as president necessarily knows more and better than anyone else.

No and no.