It’s been a rough few days for the new administration. Team Trump is on defense, and they seem content to stay there.
Facing nearly unprecedented opposition from the Democrat-media complex, President Trump and his young administration are taking on water from all sides.
But despite the bad headlines, the belated departure of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser was actually a positive thing, offering an opportunity for an important course correction.
The position of national security adviser is one of the most important in any administration, as that person has several crucial roles, including briefing the president on national security matters; balancing the interests of the defense, state and homeland security departments, along with the intelligence agencies; and managing the information flow to the president’s desk. All this while managing the NSC staff itself.
In the end Mr. Flynn proved ill-suited to the job he was given.
But with multiple reports that Mr. Trump has already sought out the highly capable Vice Adm. Robert Harward, a onetime Navy SEAL, as Mr. Flynn’s replacement, the president has already moved to put one big personnel problem behind him.
Questions about the Trump campaign and Russia continue to grow, and congressional Republicans are getting antsy. I support investigations into these questions, just as I support an investigation into recent leaks within the national security community. Leaks may be patriotic, but in certain circumstances, they are likely illegal.
While Mr. Trump may wish to improve relations with Russia and work with the Kremlin against ISIS, most Capitol Hill Republicans have no hope for real cooperation with the regime of President Vladimir Putin.
The simple fact is that not one Republican ran for Congress last fall on a platform of closer relations with Russia.
Instead, Republicans ran on repealing and replacing Obamacare, confirming conservative judges for the Supreme Court, reforming the tax code and reducing regulations in order to grow the economy, reduce the federal deficit, rebuild the military and secure the border with Mexico.
As we prepare to cross the 30-day mark of the new presidency, each of these priorities is advancing below the surface, but precious time is being wasted.
Where is President Trump’s legislative agenda?
I understand that repealing and replacing Obamacare is complicated and requires absolute Republican unity. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price hasn’t even been on the job an entire week, and his senior team is not in place. But repealing Obamacare won’t get any easier the longer they wait.
On taxes, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady did excellent work unifying congressional Republicans behind a reform blueprint last year, a blueprint that is currently being translated into legislative language. But now we hear that Gary Cohn, chairman of the White House’s Council of the Economic Advisers, is writing his own tax bill, which of course Capitol Hill Republicans should consider. The goal of passing major tax reform by the end of August is a good one, and the work must accelerate.
Recent bilateral visits by British Prime Minister Theresa May, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Wednesday’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were all important and positive, and will likely yield results in the coming months. Building personal relationships with world leaders is important for a new president.
It is undeniable that the pace set by this White House is dizzying, but it is also true Mr. Trump is facing greater organized opposition than any president in history. There was no honeymoon. No 100 days. No bipartisan support — however brief — for the new guy.
Democrats opposed his Supreme Court nomination before he made it. Irresponsible congressional Democrats are talking about impeachment.
Democrats appear unwilling to work with Mr. Trump even on areas where they agree, like trade and infrastructure.
What to do? President Trump needs to go on offense. He needs to develop his agenda, with specifics, and sell it to the public.
The White House appears mired in turf battles and internal rivalries that do nothing but undermine Mr. Trump. Competing voices offer differing “official” statements, sometimes within hours of each other. White House leaks have been rife. Steve Bannon absurdly sits on the National Security Council and has his own strategy group for national security.
President Trump was elected as an outsider, but he will succeed by behaving more conventionally as our head of state.
The White House needs to slow down, get everyone on the same page, weed out the staffers who are only out for themselves and get back on offense. I do not envy the job facing the many patriots serving in this administration. They are facing a wider range of urgent challenges than any administration in modern history, but lost time can never be recovered.
Where will they be in a month? Where do they want to be in a month?
• Matt Mackowiak is the president of Austin-based Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. He is the host of a new national politics podcast, “Mack on Politics,” produced in partnership with The Washington Times. His podcast may be found at washingtontimes.com/mackonpolitics.
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