His recent commencement addresses are examples of his self-obsession. Presidents have used such occasions to describe America’s role in the world, articulate the principles that guide their approaches to diplomacy and war, announce shifts in doctrine and policy. The prepared remarks for Trump’s speech to the Coast Guard Academy had some of this flavor. They mentioned the importance of our armed forces to American confidence and strength, they reiterated that Trump wants to enforce our national borders and interdict drugs before they reach our shores. Unfortunately the speech won’t be remembered for any of that because the president went off script to attack the media and claim that none of his predecessors has been treated as badly as he. (This is the same man who spent five years questioning the validity of his predecessor’s birth certificate.) The talk at Liberty University a few days earlier was a well-written paean to outsiders—an encomium to the man delivering the speech.
No staff shakeup that leaves unresolved or unmanaged the flaws of the principal, that does not address Donald Trump’s penchant for self-immolation, will have any positive effect on this White House. You cannot blame your communications staff for flawed messaging when they are afraid to leave you alone in a room with visitors and shake in their boots when they see you walk toward the residence at the end of the day. You cannot lament the disorganization of the West Wing when you refuse to establish and adhere to clear lines of authority. You cannot bemoan the lack of recognition you receive for your achievements when you create distractions for the media to latch on to. Until someone in the White House is willing or able to tell the president no, until the president listens to that person and respects them to such a degree that he does not turn against them within 24 hours, the atmosphere of paranoia and hysteria that has enveloped Washington will not subside.