Speed Reads

The Real White House

White House aides reportedly live in fear of looking 'low-energy' or 'weak,' being mocked on SNL

The resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn tops a rocky, action-packed first 25 days of the Trump administration. But despite regular assurances that things are settling down in the West Wing, "the chaos and competing factions that were a Trump trademark in business and campaigning now are starting to define his presidency," The Washington Post reports, citing "interviews with a dozen White House officials as well as other Republicans." The portrait painted by these mostly anonymous sources is of a White House where face time with President Trump is crucial, leading to a lot of unproductive loitering outside the Oval Office, and status is everything. The Post's Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker offer some examples:

Some senior officials are worried about their own standing with the president, who through his casual conversations with friends and associates sometimes seems to hint that a shake-up could come at a moment's notice. Aides said they strive to avoid appearing "weak" or "low­ energy" — two of Trump's least favorite attributes.

Staffers buzz privately about who is up and who is down, with many eagerly gossiping about which poor colleague gets an unflattering portrayal on NBC's Saturday Night Live. For the past two weeks, it has been White House press secretary Sean Spicer. But aides said Trump was especially upset by a sketch that cast White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon as the Grim Reaper manipulating the president — who was ultimately relegated to a miniature desk, playing dolefully with an expandable toy. [The Washington Post]

Jockeying for pole position isn't unusual in new administrations, but panicking over whether you will appear on a sketch comedy show is odd. So are the serial falsehoods, uncoordinated policy rollouts, and strained relationship with the president's own party on Capitol Hill, says George W. Bush administration official Steve Schmidt. "The incompetence, the sloppiness, and the leaking is unprecedented." And much of this plays out on live national TV, where aides know that Trump gets a good portion of his information.

Trump's team is headed by these newly minted "big, national personalities where everything they do is amplified," Ed Rollins, another veteran GOP strategist, tells The Washington Post. "The real problem here is you have a bunch of people who were pretty much unknown four months ago, and now they're all characters on Saturday Night Live.'" You can read more at The Washington Post.