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President Trump and the baby-sitters club

He screams at the television, and at Republican legislators, demanding that somebody make it stop

Elizabeth Williamson | NYT 

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump | AP/ PTI

“You treat me like a baby! Am I like a baby to you? I sit there like a little baby and watch TV and you talk to me?”

to Paul Manafort in “Devil’s Bargain,” by

Why does Mr. Trump’s team treat him like a kid? He is the president of the United States and, as he says, “you’re not.” He lives in the White House, where he gets two scoops of ice cream instead of one for dessert. He is commander in chief, eating “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake” with the Chinese president while he fires missiles at Syria. As he told the Russians, “people brief me on great intel every day,” with lots of pictures and “tweet-length sentences.” He has a “beautiful Twitter account.” Uh-oh!

Mr. Trump’s staff can’t control him, so they coddle him. They make sure he starts his day with a packet of good news about himself, compiled by Republicans who get up early to search for positive stories, headlines, tweets or, failing those, flattering photos. “Maybe it’s good for the country that the president is in a good mood in the morning,” one of the Republicans said.

Mr. likes “unstructured time” to watch TV. His favorite station is but he’ll watch any show where they talk about him. If they say something bad about him, he tweets. That makes everyone nervous. His staffers try to limit his screen time during the day and keep him from “calling old friends and then tweeting about it.” But then it’s off to bed with his phone, and “once he goes upstairs, there’s no managing him.” Uh-oh!

Mr. says being president is harder than being a real estate tycoon, because, “These are heavy decisions,” and when you’re the president, “people want more and more.” They also try to stop you from doing things you want to do. Boo!

Failing to pass any big legislation, tangling with the courts on his executive orders, worrying about the investigation into his team’s contacts with Russia makes Mr. grouchy. He screams at the television, at staffers, and at Republican legislators, demanding that somebody make it stop. But when Mr. Trump’s advisers tell him what he might do, he likes doing the opposite — like when he fired James Comey, the director of the , or stared at the solar eclipse. After he blurted out secrets to Russian officials in the Oval Office, his team worried about “leaving him alone in meetings with foreign leaders.” H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, tries to correct the president and keep him out of trouble. The president calls General McMaster “a pain.”

When Mr. has one of those “moods where sometimes he wants to blow everything up,” his staff takes him outside. He sat in an 18-wheeler in the White House driveway one time. “Honk, honk!” went the horn. He sat in a red fire truck, too. “Where’s the fire?” Mr. asked Vice President Mike Pence. “Put it out fast!” Mr. went to Saudi Arabia, where they gave him steak and ketchup and put his photo on the side of a building. But most of all Mr. likes when his staff plans field trips to rallies in red states, where he can campaign for president again.

Those rallies are fun, but back at the White House, nothing gets done and the president’s worn-out minders are warring among themselves.

So they got John Kelly to be the White House chief of staff and enforce new house rules. Mr. Kelly makes sure the Oval Office door stays closed, keeping the president inside and the staff and random buddies out. No more visiting Mr. without an appointment — that means you, too, Ivanka! No more back-stabbing. No more slipping the president goofy website stories that he confuses with facts. No more secretive executive orders, and no official phone calls without Mr. Kelly on the line. No more impromptu events. No more Mooch. And no more Bannon.

But Mr. keeps getting into trouble. He says the wrong things about neo-Nazis, and threatens to shut down the government unless Congress gives him money for the border wall that he said Mexico would pay for. He is bullying his allies and stomping all over his agenda. And, oh, does he tweet and yell.

Mr. Kelly is a tough guy. He was a general in the Marine Corps and commanded American troops in Iraq. He has gotten the White House staff under control, but not the president. A few days ago, he said he wouldn’t even try. Uh-oh!
©2017 The New York Times News Service

First Published: Mon, August 28 2017. 08:55 IST