Flynn Fallout Shows Limits to Trump's Rhetorical Dance by Luke Perry and Zach Merchant

Flynn Fallout Shows Limits to Trump's Rhetorical Dance by Luke Perry and Zach Merchant

Sydney Ember of The New York Times observed two immediate narratives resulting from the fallout of Michael Flynn’s resignation, one that blamed his missteps for losing his job, the other focused on the leaks publicizing differing accounts of whether or not he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

President Trump borrowed from both addressing the issue at this Thursday's press conference, denigrating the leakers and lauding Flynn, but making clear that lying to the Vice President was unacceptable.

Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post observed the irony of President Trump finding lying unacceptable, critiquing Stephen Miller’s Sunday talk shows debut, only to have Donald Trump echo his claims, like the president accomplished more than any other during the first month of being in office. This hyperbole blends with rhetorical love and hate in the same breath, most notably toward the media, whose ridicule was peppered with references to honor and enjoyment in their presence.

This certainly grabs people’s attention, but the president appears unwilling to accept the presidency isn’t about TV ratings, his obsession. Thousands of people still fill airplane hangars to clap for him, but the campaign is over. Trump has widespread recognition, but wants widespread admiration. That’s not easy for any president. Millions watch everything a president says. Trump loves that, but people listen too, very carefully and very critically.

If someone doesn’t grab the wheel in the West Wing soon, the new administration runs the risk of permanently damaging its chances to implement the ambitious legislative agenda it entered office with. This falls squarely on Reince Priebus, who as Alex Isenstadt and Josh Dawsey of Politico explain, struggles to control a fractious White House.

Even worse, the problem is becoming a matter of who, not if. There are no signs of the Trump presidency being pleasant, popular, or productive. The long vacant position of communications director was filled as the desired replacement for Michael Flynn turned down the job, raising the question, what’s more remarkable that the National Security Adviser resigned after three weeks or an exceptionally talented military leader balked at replacing him?

The president may be good at firing people, even “wonderful” men like Flynn, but Trump’s proven much less adept at hiring talented and experienced people, which is only going to get more difficult.

 

Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Associate Professor of Government at Utica College.

Zach Merchant (@wzmerchant) is an Arlington Public News reporter covering the greater-Boston area and currently a senior at Tufts University.

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