Attending five Donald Trump campaign rallies in Indiana last year was to witness a fledgling political figure connect with Hoosiers just as Barack Obama had done eight years prior.
Trump rallies were streams of consciousness in which he articulated the desires, grievances and hopes for the part of our state bearing witness to the withering of Main Street.
Trump gathered and surfed a 19 percent plurality here that became the foundation to the greatest upset in presidential history. And with this victory, Trump established the premise for great hopes. He would go to Washington, attack and shatter the congressional inertia, drain the swamp and charge up a second century of American dominance.
If you were to script the opening six months to a presidency, you couldn’t have found a more deflating scenario than what we’ve just witnessed.
While Trump supporters believed he was “telling it like it is,” we’ve found a president who has little regard for the truth and has routinely resorted to “alternative fact.” On Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey said Trump lied a half dozen times.
He has undercut his own staff and appointees, from Vice President Mike Pence to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his most ardent early supporter, who already has offered to resign. He has been contradicting his own cabinet secretaries on matters ranging from national security to the immigration “travel ban.”
Trump talks about a tax reform bill advancing in Congress when one doesn’t even exist. Trump didn’t study or understand the details of the American Health Care Act that passed by one vote in the House and faces an arduous path in the Senate, with 28 million Americans facing loss of coverage.
When Trump spoke before NATO last month, he summarily deleted a reaffirmation of Article V, which requires all members to aid another under attack, blindsiding Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, who had specified and urged its inclusion.
His White House political operation has been amateurish. It is led by senior adviser Steve Bannon, who desires to tear down the established structures. At times throughout history, such a teardown is required, but there has to be something built in its place and capable constructors who can accomplish the mission.
The great movers and shakers of our time, like President Ronald Reagan, surrounded themselves with talented people, like James Baker, Michael Deaver, Mitch Daniels and George Schultz, who always stayed on message and made sure the trains ran on time.
In contrast, Trump’s staff spent weeks insisting his immigration executive order wasn’t a “travel ban,” but Trump used that term in a tweet, criticized his own Department of Justice and may have damaged his prospects with the U.S. Supreme Court.
His management skills have been exposed. After campaigning on an ardent law-and-order platform, Trump dismissed some 46 district attorneys and has yet to nominate a single successor. Indiana’s two lead federal prosecutor offices are vacant.
Only five of 53 top jobs at the Pentagon have been filled. Two nominees for Army secretary have withdrawn, as has one for Navy secretary. According to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, Trump has not picked a nominee for 442 out of 559 key positions requiring Senate confirmation.
At the State Department, only eight of 120 positions have been filled. The U.S. hurricane season has arrived, and there are no nominees to head FEMA and NOAA.
Trump has had success in the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, and FBI director Christopher Wray this week was well received.
A growing chorus among Republicans are begging Trump to give up Twitter. Former GOP rival Carly Fiorina urged Trump this week to “stop tweeting,” saying the tweets are “insulting” and “distracting” and “very destructive.”
From the conservative Washington Examiner, commentator Quinn Hillyer called for a cabinet intervention.
“Their message to Trump should be blunt: Unless he starts acting presidential, stops undermining them, seriously curtails his tweeting and learns and respects basic ethical guidelines, they will all resign together while warning the country that the president is temperamentally (and perhaps intellectually) unfit for office," Hillyer said.
A liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has conjured the notion of a “President Pence,” writing: “The contrast between the reckless president and his responsible understudy has me thinking, not for the first time, how much better things would be if Pence were president.”
Trump supporters should be sending this critical message to our president: You articulated what we felt, we voted for you and charged you with a mission.
It’s time you take that charge, surround yourself with capable and credible staff and act like a president who will change the world.