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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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 66646

Reported Deaths: 1874
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5599118
DeSoto363230
Harrison249836
Madison241464
Rankin227633
Jackson226942
Jones188558
Forrest177856
Washington164641
Lee142839
Lauderdale140792
Neshoba128592
Lamar120214
Oktibbeha111838
Bolivar110834
Warren108932
Lowndes107437
Panola105412
Sunflower102425
Scott99820
Lafayette96416
Copiah95028
Pike92836
Leflore92562
Holmes89048
Grenada84321
Yazoo82912
Pontotoc8218
Lincoln80941
Simpson79530
Leake78625
Monroe77853
Wayne76421
Coahoma74312
Tate72028
Marshall6889
Marion65720
Union62716
Winston62016
Adams61725
Covington61213
George5595
Newton54211
Pearl River54038
Tallahatchie53010
Attala52125
Walthall49819
Chickasaw45920
Noxubee45311
Alcorn4195
Calhoun4179
Prentiss41710
Tishomingo4095
Claiborne40413
Smith40413
Clay39413
Hancock38814
Jasper3879
Tippah36013
Itawamba35810
Tunica3337
Clarke32625
Montgomery3213
Lawrence3197
Yalobusha31310
Humphreys29111
Quitman2621
Carroll26111
Greene24111
Kemper23214
Perry2327
Jefferson Davis2316
Amite2306
Webster22812
Wilkinson20513
Sharkey1975
Jefferson1957
Stone1944
Benton1431
Choctaw1334
Franklin1242
Issaquena261
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12969243
Mobile9836206
Montgomery6609148
Madison531433
Tuscaloosa419073
Unassigned356061
Baldwin350224
Shelby326035
Marshall313035
Lee266045
Morgan236918
Etowah210431
DeKalb179813
Calhoun176113
Elmore171538
Walker152064
Houston138612
Russell13582
St. Clair132817
Dallas131823
Limestone131813
Franklin127020
Cullman122012
Colbert117113
Lauderdale115717
Autauga108621
Escambia107516
Talladega100913
Jackson9684
Tallapoosa85479
Chambers84038
Dale82723
Blount7884
Chilton7886
Butler75836
Coffee7566
Covington73420
Pike7037
Clarke6629
Barbour5735
Lowndes57124
Marion57024
Marengo55315
Hale47326
Bullock46311
Winston45011
Perry4404
Bibb4265
Wilcox42610
Monroe4194
Randolph39610
Pickens3929
Conecuh38810
Washington38612
Sumter36018
Lawrence3481
Macon33414
Crenshaw3143
Choctaw28112
Cherokee2707
Henry2593
Geneva2570
Clay2525
Greene25011
Lamar2202
Fayette2045
Cleburne1261
Coosa1012
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