Trump was always going to have trouble taking possession of the executive branch upon his election. Doing so requires hiring thousands of people and top officials who are committed to your vision. As a populist outsider who did not command deep loyalty from his own party, Trump was never going to have that kind of bench. Foreign policy in particular was going to be a challenge when dozens of Republican-leaning foreign-policy scholars and wonks signed an open letter denouncing Trump during his campaign.
I know what you’re thinking. You’d rather have Haley, McMaster, and (gulp) Jared Kushner than Trump leading on these matters. Fair enough. But some clarity about U.S. intentions is going to matter. This week, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of U.S. ally Turkey, is picking a rhetorical fight with U.S. ally Israel. If those allies get into a larger fight, do you want American policy to turn on whether or not hotel investors from Istanbul or Ramat Gan have the right phone number for Ivanka? Until the Trump administration effectively sets priorities and finishes hiring cabinet under-secretaries, it just might.
The confusion and chaos is a reflection of the man himself. America’s prosperity and power depends on its having a self-governing people. But now it doesn’t even have a self-governing president. Trump veers from one policy stance to another, seemingly when the mood strikes him. He hires personnel based not on policy affinity or competence, but on whether they look the part.