THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN IS IN FULL NUCLEAR MELTDOWN MODE
For all the noise that Donald Trump makes, and all the amplification that noise gets from the media, it’s hard to see the campaign infrastructure that presumably exists behind it. Perhaps that’s because, as Trump aides and other sources close to the campaign revealed to NBC News, there isn’t any infrastructure. Instead, the Trump campaign is reportedly composed of a skeleton crew of a few backstabbing staffers unable to coordinate a coherent message about the presumptive Republican nominee’s vision for America.
The article, simply titled “Donald Trump does not have a campaign,” details the disarray within the campaign, which is described as “a bare-bones effort debilitated by infighting, a lack of staff to carry out basic functions, minimal coordination with allies and a message that’s prisoner to Trump’s momentary whims.” While the feuding between professional political operative Paul Manafort and neophyte campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is well-known, even more dysfunction exists below them. Hope Hicks, the campaign’s 27-year-old press secretary, reportedly works alone and without any support; a daunting task for a staffer responsible for managing Trump’s juggernaut media presence. A rapid-response team, crucial in traditional campaigns to rebut their opponents’ attacks before they damage the candidate further, does not exist. The Trump campaign struggles to publicize positive news, too: while Manafort corralled a host of local endorsements ahead of the candidate’s California tour last week, no press release ever went out, a source told NBC, because Lewandowski and Hicks vetoed every draft. And when Hillary Clinton delivered a devastating foreign-policy speech criticizing Trump’s temperament and credentials, Republican allies waited in vain to receive instructions on how to coordinate a counterattack. Trump tweeted about Clinton’s use of a teleprompter, but neither Trump nor the R.N.C. ever released an official rebuttal after the speech.
A lack of coordination isn’t the only reason Trump surrogates are in the dark. Trump himself is so mercurial, and his positions so inconsistent (and often at odds with the Republican Party’s own platform), that allies rarely know how to act or what to say. When Trump attacked Gonzalo Curiel, the judge presiding over a Trump University lawsuit, for his Mexican heritage, he refused to listen to the majority of “horrified” supporters and surrogates who urged him to apologize his comments. High-profile supporters like Newt Gingrich, who is widely considered to be a top pick for Trump’s V.P., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell either repudiated his remarks or remained silent.
But Trump hasn’t backed down. On a conference call Monday, reported by Bloomberg, Trump demanded that his supporters and surrogates ramp up their attacks on Curiel. When former Arizona governor Jan Brewer noted that Trump’s own staffers had previously sent a memo asking his allies to stop referring to the lawsuit, the New Yorker exploded. “ Take that order and throw it the hell out,” he said, according to two people who were on the call. “Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?” he asked. “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren't so smart.”
For months, Trump’s hot mess of a campaign has taken a backseat to his own cult of personality. He’s his own rapid-response team, refusing to rely on fact-checking and instead using well-crafted tweets and phoned-in interviews on cable news. Trump has also benefited from his ability to distract the media from his gaffes by generating new scandals at such a pace that the old controversies are quickly forgotten. Last week, for instance, allegations of fraud at Trump University were soon drowned out by his criticism of Curiel. Yet it is unclear how much longer the billionaire real estate mogul can continue to count on new troubles to effectively bail him out of older ones. Trump can dismiss some of the criticism of his campaign as media bias, but there’s a growing sense that his improprieties are catching up to him. And without a coherent campaign infrastructure or network of allies to beat back the constant attacks, Trump is in danger of losing his grip on the news cycle, though he certainly continues to hold it:
Even more worrying is what Trump’s inability to run a competent campaign portends for his ability to manage the White House, let alone the country. As Nobel-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz recently wrote for Vanity Fair, there is no larger organization in the United States than the federal government, and Trump has demonstrated little talent for delegation. If elected president, not only would Trump have to staff the 3,000 or so positions that are typically vacated at the end of an administration, but he would have to coordinate and manage a network of more than 2 million federal employees. Forget the belief that Trump can find 3,000 of “the best people” to manage the alphabet soup of federal agencies (many of which he surely hasn’t heard of); if the Trump campaign can’t get its own act together, there will be no amount of televised antics or bluster that could mask a federal government in similar disarray.
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