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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Trump leaves little doubt who’s really in charge in the White House

Who’s really in charge here?

It’s something many conservatives have been wondering ever since accounts surfaced last weekend that President Donald Trump was unhappy with the new restrictions on personnel access and information he receives under the barely month-old tenure of General John Kelly as his White House Chief of Staff.

Trump BannonIn an attempt to rein-in the highly publicized chaos in the West Wing prior to his arrival, Kelly clamped down not only who gets in to brief Trump but also on the news the president sees and the counsel he entertains regarding political matters. Apparently Trump doesn’t like the added constraints …and who could blame him?

Daniel Chaitin of the Washington Examiner reported, “President Trump lambasted chief of staff John Kelly after staffers suggested to their boss that he stray away from political distractions that could impede his policy agenda, according to a report Friday.

“Kelly was the senior most aide in the room when Trump directed his ire at him some time after Trump's wild rally in Phoenix last month in which he again assailed the media, among other things. Kelly reacted calmly in the face of Trump's frustration.

“Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, later told fellow staffers that he had never been talked to that way in his life. Sources told The New York Times he would not endure that kind of treatment again.”

Nobody likes to be yelled at but this simply looks to be the dressing down of a convenient bystander by a president frustrated with the shackles of business-as-usual being placed upon his would be earth-shattering movement to revolutionize Washington. Chaitin further noted Trump recently praised Kelly for the job he’s doing and appreciates the “time to think” Kelly’s new rigid rules have provided him.

Fair enough. Though it must be emphasized it’s still early in Kelly’s White House service a narrative is emerging that should concern conservatives and Republicans who took to Trump’s trailblazing message last year.

Chaitin’s article also suggested Kelly was the driving force behind the ousting of former senior adviser Steve Bannon and assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka last month. Now it appears Kelly is laying the groundwork to additionally terminate Trump’s communications director for the Office of Public Liaison, Omarosa Manigault.

In other words, a good many of the people who traveled the long road with Trump last year campaigning to Make America Great Again are falling victim to the unbending norms of Washington politics led by a Marine General who seems to favor order and calm over enterprising new ideas that threaten the status quo or upset the harmony in the White House. No one’s claiming Trump couldn’t streamline his operation a bit, but at the same time, there is little incentive for the president to accept the notion of “that’s the way it’s always been done” as a reason to trash every operating method that’s made him a lifelong success in the first place.

There’s also evidence Trump is still consulting Bannon for advice when Kelly isn’t looking. Good. I suggested when Bannon was unceremoniously drummed out of the administration a few weeks ago that it didn’t necessarily preclude Trump from talking to the Breitbart leader whenever he felt the urge to get straight-up guidance from someone who doesn’t stand to personally gain from a presidential decision.

It’s comforting to know Trump still values the thoughts and opinions of the man who was perhaps the ideological soul behind the New Yorker’s unprecedentedly successful outsider campaign.

There’s also little doubt Kelly’s new emphasis on discipline and scarcity contrasts heavily with Trump’s tried and true management style. Back in February Politico’s Annie Karni reported that Trump had a very open-door policy. “[Manigault’s] level of easy access marks a break from the previous administration, where President Barack Obama and his gatekeeper chiefs of staff kept at bay the number of aides, even senior officials, who simply walked in without an appointment. In contrast, Trump may have set up the most accessible Oval Office in modern history.

“Along with Manigault, White House officials say, the list of aides with walk-in privileges includes chief strategist Steve Bannon, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, chief of staff Reince Priebus, son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, and counselor Kellyanne Conway…”

The list of permitted walk-ins didn’t conclude there but if recent reports are to be believed Kelly is running the current ship a lot closer to the way Obama’s chiefs of staff handled it. And Trump apparently isn’t taking it sitting down.

Again, who could blame him? Who’s in charge here? With people like Bannon and Gorka gone many of those remaining in Trump’s inner circle have a decidedly different perspective than Trump himself on a number of key issues, most notably immigration, trade and the true nature of Islam. The “West Wing Democrats” are trying desperately to steer Trump’s worldview away from where he came from, too.

Tony Lee reported at Breitbart last week, “Trump reportedly greatly benefited by reading Breitbart News to understand the pulse of working-class voters from across the political spectrum on key issues like immigration and trade. That enabled him to ultimately run circles around his primary challengers, whose advisers have always been unfamiliar with what concerns working-class voters.

“But, in Chris Matthews’ words, it appears that Kelly now wants to lock Trump in a cage to prevent him from understanding the issues important to his historic ‘movement.’ The West Wing Democrats apparently want Trump to cater to the 3.8%, which consists mainly of elites whose approval and affirmation they seek above all else.”

This is serious. If these observations are correct Kelly and the West Wing Democrats are trying to turn Trump’s conservative/populist insurgent presidency into something conventional Washington insiders would recognize and approve of. There are a number of problems with this calculation: one, Trump himself loathes the political class and will instinctively resist them at every turn; two, Trump’s all-important popular support will begin to erode if his supporters lose confidence in his policy direction and most importantly, three, the ruling class and #NeverTrumpers will never accept Trump no matter what he does.

He couldn’t possibly change enough to please them; it’s a fact.

Therefore Trump has zero to gain from going against what he promised on the campaign trail in order to adopt the ways of the elites and establishment politicians.

To do so would mean Trump would cease being Trump; little chance of that happening.

Needless to say the Democrats aren’t going to help their political enemy, but it might not matter – they’re pretty irrelevant these days. Matthew Continetti wrote at National Review, “Congressional Republicans may find a way to screw up. Fumbling the ball at the one-yard line is a specialty of theirs. But the prospect that GOP incompetence may rob the Trump administration of another legislative victory only underscores the fundamental point: Chuck Schumer’s big words to the contrary notwithstanding, the Democrats are irrelevant to the power equation in Donald Trump’s Washington…

“Reduced to its weakest position in decades, under heavy fire from its left flank, the Democratic party has limited tools with which to respond to President Trump and the Republican majority. Its leaders Pelosi and Schumer have relied on legislative chicanery to slow down the Republicans in the Senate and verbal criticism from the sidelines. Increasingly the fight is not between Republicans and Democrats, but between the ‘Right’ symbolized by Trump and the ‘Left’ symbolized by black-shirted, masked hooligans. And that is a fight Trump wins. Every time.”

Trump wins that fight because no matter how hard the media tries to depict it otherwise, the extreme forces on the so-called Alt-right – neo Nazis, white supremacists, KKK, etc… -- do not represent what limited government constitutional conservatives actually believe.

While it’s true Trump is no principled conservative his evolved political philosophy leans that way. Despite some liberal core beliefs Trump still appears to champion lower taxes, less government interference in the economy and protecting the traditional American work ethic. And while he’s certainly no cultural conservative Trump did appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and is in the process of formally rescinding Obama’s order on transgenders in the military.

Social conservative stalwart Kellyanne Conway still appears to be one of Trump’s trusted advisers and the president continues to lean on Vice President Mike Pence to take a leading role in the public presence of the administration.

Likewise Trump’s cabinet is one of the most conservative in history. The regulatory reform and work being done behind the scenes in the executive agencies helped lead to the announcement of 3 percent growth in the American economy for the first time since… who knows when? Obama didn’t have a single quarter of 3 percent growth in the entirety of his two terms.

Even if Americans remain divided over Trump himself they’re not wavering on his policies. In the coming weeks Congress will take up tax reform and a number of important items on the Make America Great Again agenda. The president will be advocating for them and we can trust he’ll make the right decisions.

General John Kelly and the West Wing Democrats may try to “moderate” the administration, but when it comes down to asking “Who’s in charge here?” there’s really only one obvious response: Donald Trump.

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