In this day of wild events in the Trump White House, featuring the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and all sorts of finger-pointing from the president on down, one pointed finger requires some attention. It’s wielded by breitbart.com’s Matthew Boyle, or perhaps his close-to-POTUS sources, and it’s aimed right at White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.
In Breitbart World, Priebus is identified with the “GOP establishment forces inside President Donald Trump’s White House [who] forced out National Security Adviser retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn,” so there could be an element of simple factional payback here. But Boyle goes on to blame Priebus for basically all the trouble the new administration is encountering in trying to impose its will on Washington and the country at large.
You might think Priebus would be well below, say, Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller and Donald McGahn on the list of people responsible for the chaos surrounding the abruptly released travel ban on January 27. But no:
Reince is responsible, ultimately, for the rollout of the immigration executive order,” one source said. “He failed to get [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions on the calendar in the Senate in time for what he knew would be a highly controversial executive order. He was supposed to be this wizard in dealing with congressional Republicans, but has not been successful in getting anything serious done.
So McGahn, the Stephens, and ultimately Trump weren’t to blame for rushing out the travel ban before the legal infrastructure was in place to implement and defend it. Priebus was also somehow supposed to force immediate Senate confirmation of Sessions, presumably the moment Trump was inaugurated. Boyle applies the same strange reasoning to blame the chief of staff for the trouble Republicans at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have encountered in figuring out how and when to repeal and replace Obamacare. Seriously.
[Priebus] is not effectively working Republicans on Capitol Hill like his friend House Speaker Paul Ryan to push through key legislative items that Trump campaigned on, like the repealing and replacing of Obamacare and tax reform among other initiatives. Sources close to the president question whether Priebus will be able to stomach pushing through major pieces of legislation down the road, like the president’s infrastructure plan, a plan for the promised border wall, or the building up of the military among other things.
Also breaking late Monday was the revelation that House conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Committee—led by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), a key Trump agenda ally on Capitol Hill—are now going to pressure House GOP leadership on repealing Obamacare faster since Ryan, and by extension his friend Priebus, have failed to get the Trump healthcare agenda moving in the first few weeks of the new administration.
Apparently Priebus is responsible not only for failing to crack heads throughout Washington to make everyone snap to and implement the president’s imperial will instantly. He is also responsible for the stubborn resistance of objective reality, since the big problem with Obamacare repeal-and-replace isn’t a bunch of Republicans sitting around while there is work to be done, but the simple fact that you cannot keep GOP promises (including Trump’s) to replace Obamacare with something cheaper and better without costing a lot of people their health insurance. That’s the problem with “tax reform,” too, since even supply-side “dynamic scoring” fans are reluctant to claim you can slash corporate and individual taxes without the kind of domestic or defense spending cuts Trump has more or less ruled out.
For what it’s worth, Bannon called the story “absurd” in an email to The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray. However, Vox’s Andrew Prokop views Breitbart’s take on the problems of the administration as an exercise in factional projection, with the “Bannon Wing” of the Trump White House attributing the chaos it has wrought to, well, someone else — namely the top figure in the inner circle who was not part of the original band of “disrupters” who made the long march through the primaries with Trump. That could be the case. But it’s also quite plausible that someone with a big title will have to take a fall whenever Trump is perceived to have stumbled. After all, The Boss is never wrong.