Commentary: Trump’s team isn’t the big problem

By John Krull 

INDIANAPOLIS – New White House Chief of Staff John Kelly may have the toughest job around.

Somehow, Kelly must instill professionalism and discipline into a president and his staff who believe those qualities are for sissies. This will be no easy task.

John Krull, publisher,

But it’s clearly necessary.

Even Karl Rove – the master of the political dark arts who helped elect Republican George W. Bush president – has been lamenting the dysfunction in President Donald Trump’s White House.

“(Trump) is in a lot of trouble. This week was the most tumultuous week we’ve seen in a tumultuous presidency,” Rove told “Fox News Sunday.”

Given that Rove is a GOP stalwart speaking on a forum that fluctuates between friendliness and fawning regarding President Trump, his comments reveal the depth of the concern within Republican ranks.

“He’s going to have to reduce the drama, reduce both the sniping within and reduce the leaks, and bring some discipline to the relationships,” he added.

Rove is right, but that likely won’t be enough to solve the Trump administration’s problems.

This president’s team is far from first-rate. It’s comprised of people with little or no political or public policy experience and a limited knowledge or understanding of the larger world, much of that gained through the narrow prism of their business experience.

They’re flailing not just because they don’t know much about the environment in which they must move and work, but because they don’t know what they don’t know and they really don’t care to learn.

The Trumpistas like to say they’re resisting temptation, which is nonsense. Given the number of plutocrats the president has made part of his administration, the notion that this bunch can fight the urge to grab anything they want is laughable.

Besides, even if that were true, every successful general and strategist for millennia has understood that knowing the enemy is essential to defeating him or her.

But, even if Team Trump suddenly were to become minimally competent, the challenge still would remain.

If the proposed solution to this president’s problems always is to “let Trump be Trump,” the difficulties will continue.

Six months into Donald Trump’s presidency, it’s easy to see why his business career always was like a roller coaster ride with the brakes off, the rails greased and the safety systems thrown away. It was an experience filled with thrilling plunges, but just as many derailments – bankruptcies, lawsuits, criminal investigations, etc.

That worked for him as real estate developer and reality TV show star, but it hasn’t as president of the United States.

And it won’t.

What Trump has yet to grasp is that the country doesn’t work for him. He works for us.

He can’t fire members of Congress, which is why making clumsy and ludicrous threats and insults such as the ones he delivered to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, is self-defeating at best. The same goes for shaking his fist at and demeaning the nation’s judges when they rule against one of his half-thought-out policies.

Both Congress and the judicial branch have the power to push back hard when the president gives them a shove. And they’ve started doing so.

Congress, through the impeachment process, even has the authority to fire him. That moment won’t come because Democrats, who are powerless, demand it, but rather because Republicans decide they don’t want to have to carry The Donald’s weight any more.

The cure for what ails the president is what Kelly offers.

Professionalism and discipline.

Any political problem this president has can be solved by returning to the agenda that got him elected. Instead of indulging in childish Twitter rants, he should focus all his attention and energy on job creation and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.

If Americans – particularly those in the rust belt states that put him over the top – see high-wage work returning to their communities, they will forgive him almost anything else.

Also, the Republicans who are growing restive and concerned about his instability and plummeting poll numbers will be reminded that they’re not likely to win without him.

And if Donald Trump can’t listen to his new chief of staff and stay on both task and message?

Well, he may learn that professionalism and discipline aren’t for sissies, after all.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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