...now, in full view of the country and the world, we are watching what happens when a president is elected on the basis of an incoherent and crowd-sourced agenda, one that pandered to white nationalists and stoked economic anxiety. When that same president is someone who has never managed a large bureaucracy and brings almost no close associates who have. And when some of the aides he haphazardly acquired a few months before taking office care more about their own ambitions than his own—whatever they are.
Now combine all that with the inevitable transition from a helter-skelter campaign metabolism to the grinding process of governance. What is happening inside the White House, according to a senior official who is close to the president, is a "reversion to the mean"—a correction of sorts. "When narrative gets bigger than the reality"—for an individual, for a campaign, for an administration—"there is nowhere to go but down." ...
In every White House, there are competing loyalties and rivalries. That dynamic is normal. What is unusual about this presidency is that Trump himself is not a stable center of gravity and may be incapable of becoming one. He knows little, believes in little, and shows signs of regretting what has happened to him. Governing requires saying no to one's strongest supporters and yes to one's fiercest opponents. To have that presence of mind requires a clear and unified vision from the president. "Without an ideology or a worldview, all you have is a scramble for self-preservation and self-aggrandizement," a former West Wing aide told me.
And it is a scramble without boundaries. What has been seen in the West Wing is now playing out in every Cabinet department and government agency: the competing agendas of a jockeying staff are being transplanted to the upper reaches throughout the executive branch as now Bannon, now Kushner, now Priebus, now Pence push their acolytes and protégés into hundreds of senior positions. The White House mess may soon be everywhere.