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Opinion

Opinion: Scaramucci was a symptom, but President Trump is the problem

Even for the Trump administration the reign of chaos that has engulfed the White House in the past few days is unprecedented. And while Anthony Scaramucci’s exit is a good sign, the core problem remains.

Perhaps it is Donald Trump's secret goal to set a new record for the shortest tenure and the quickest exits of White House staff in US history. Should that be the case, then his administration is right on track to achieve its mission with Monday's surprise ouster of recently appointed communications chief Anthony Scaramucci.

But the removal of President Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer, his chief of staff Reince Priebus and his newly minted communications director within days of each other is in reality too serious to poke fun at. They all occurred under circumstances that would be rejected as too scripted by the acclaimed political television drama "The West Wing."

Feuding White House

The incessant intrigue that has been the one constant in Trump's White House has left it completely rudderless and chaotic in a time of numerous domestic and international challenges. But instead of what in normal times would be the role of the White House - crafting a coherent policy agenda for the administration and establishing a process to work with the various departments and agencies and Congress – Trump's White House has been preoccupied with feuding and backstabbing.

And while the political and professional inexperience of many key Trump aides certainly has helped to create it, it is not the main reason for the inability of this White House to get the Trump presidency on track.

The main reason, make no mistake, why this White House has been largely dysfunctional until now, is the president himself. That's because President Trump not only handpicked most of the staff himself, often against the advice of experienced observers, but also that he appears to think that a cut-throat culture that mercilessly pits individuals and factions inside the White House against each other, will produce a good outcome. It doesn't.

Michael Knigge

DW's Michael Knigge

No chain of command

As problematic as the culture Trump as president helped establish at the White House is his inability to demand, or even allow a clear chain of command that does not involve him at every step.

Trump's alter ego Scaramucci had not only predicted the ouster of his rival Priebus but had bragged about reporting to Trump directly, and not as is customary, to the chief of staff. The president relishes the ability to meddle in everything and not follow established protocol.                                    

Coupled with Trump's penchant to stir up trouble via Twitter and his - let's call it...unusual - way of looking at current events – it amounts to making the White House and by extension his administration ungovernable.  

Kelly's powers    

The latest case in point came this morning when Trump ended a tweet pronouncing "No chaos in the White House” only hours before Scaramucci's exit.

That begs two questions. Does the president really believe what he tweeted himself? If so, that is a big problem. And secondly and even more importantly, will President Trump allow his new chief of staff John Kelly to rein in not only the White House staff, but the president himself?

Given what we have seen so far from the president in his first six months, I would not bet on it. And while it is impossible to predict almost anything involving this administration, if this effort to establish order in the White House fails again, then it could well signal that the Trump presidency really is doomed. 

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