The most common complaint in any White House when it comes to how the media cover a president and his administration is that there is way too much focus on palace intrigue and not nearly enough on policy proposals.
That is, that the media's obsession with who's up and who's down in the eyes of the president winds up overshadowing the details of what and how the president is going to make laws.
But the Trump White House isn't traditional in any way -- this very much included.
This is a White House that is all palace intrigue and almost zero policy. President Donald Trump is someone who, dating back to his days as a reality star, loves to play members of his inner circle off against one another. He believes this sort of law-of-the-jungle management style brings out the best in those around him. People operate best when in combat for their work lives -- and all that.
The result? A White House in which battles between senior staffers or even between the President and members of his Cabinet are the rule rather than the exception. The personalities in the ring rotate but the (in)fighting is constant.
Witness the last 24 hours.
On Tuesday night, The New York Times reported that Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and White House chief of staff John Kelly were feuding over the latter's attempt to reform the security clearance issues within the administration highlighted by the resignation of former staff secretary Rob Porter.
Wrote Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman:
"Mr. Kushner, frustrated about the security clearance issue and concerned that Mr. Kelly has targeted him personally with the directive, has told colleagues at the White House that he is reluctant to give up his high-level access, the officials said ...
"... But Mr. Kelly, who has been privately dismissive of Mr. Kushner since taking the post of chief of staff but has rarely taken him on directly, has made no guarantees, saying only that the president's son-in-law will still have all the access he needs to do his job under the new system."
Little did we know that Kushner-Kelly was just the undercard!
On Wednesday morning, Trump himself tweeted this:
"Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren't they the subject of the investigation? Why didn't Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren't Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!"
(Trump initially misspelled Sessions' name by leaving off the last "s" and then later corrected his tweet.)
That jab amounted to the latest in a series of swats Trump has taken at his attorney general. Trump has called Sessions "beleaguered" and "very weak" via Twitter and said he would never have appointed the former Alabama senator as the nation's top law enforcement official if he suspected that Sessions would recuse himself in the Russia investigation.
This, from Dan Merica's story on Trump's latest tweet, is eye-opening in regards to the ongoing strains in the Trump-Sessions relationship:
"It was clear to people Trump was speaking with over the weekend and sources with knowledge of his feelings, though, that his disdain for Sessions hasn't gone away.
One person said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's televised announcement Friday of indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election reignited Trump's anger at Sessions.
'He will never get over Sessions recusing himself,' a person familiar with the President's thinking said."
Sessions is far from unique in falling out of favor with the President. In just the last week, there have been reports (or public examples) of Trump's ire directed at the following people: Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.
And Trump has privately fumed at a far-longer list of administration officials including Rosenstein, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Supreme Court nominee/justice Neil Gorsuch and special counsel Bob Mueller.
That list doesn't even include the various senior-level people Trump has fired or pressured out, including former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, chief of staff Reince Priebus, deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, senior political strategist Steve Bannon and, of course, former FBI Director James Comey.
Or his feuds with Republican senators like John McCain, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Mitch McConnell, Lisa Murkowski, Lindsey Graham and Dean Heller, among others.
Trump likes confrontations. He likes public back and forths. He likes insult trading. He knows that palace intrigue makes good TV -- and that's what he serves up.
Process -- who does Trump like or hate RIGHT now -- isn't a sideshow in the Trump administration. It's the only show in town.
- Donald Trump vs. John Kelly vs. Jared Kushner vs. Jeff Sessions vs. H.R. McMaster
- Donald Trump's very public embarrassment of H.R. McMaster
- Trump's Jared Kushner problem
- Trump's Jared Kushner problem
- Trump replaces H.R. McMaster as national security adviser with John Bolton
- Jared Kushner's problems are only just beginning
- URGENT - Jared Kushner's security clearance restored
- READ: H.R. McMaster's departure email to the NSC
- Death of H.R. McMaster's father being investigated as 'suspicious'
- Nurse charged in the death of H.R. McMaster's father