In a DailyKos article, Frank Vyan Walton had this to say about Steve Bannon, President Trump's chief strategist and senior adviser: "Steve Bannon has no previous government experience. Steve Bannon is not an attorney. But Steve Bannon is apparently now the author of the fiats from on high that are tumbling out of the Trump White House like a pile of rocks smashing their way down a hill."
Walton bases this in part on what White House aides told Politico: that the Trump team of Bannon and policy advisor Stephen Miller (a political operative who wrote most of Trump's major campaign speeches) have made "almost no effort to consult with federal agency lawyers or lawmakers as they wrote these executive orders" for Trump to sign. This includes the one on immigration and travel entry that is causing so much turmoil and confusion at airports -- and apparently even at high levels of the government, as in conflict between the Homeland Security Department and the White House.
Some lawmakers have complained about the lack of legal scrutiny and input of voices of experience. People with no governing experience are putting out executive orders that may conflict with existing law. The impetus seems to be to create the impression of great momentum in fulfilling campaign promises, rather than crafting orders that will be effective. For example, the immigration order includes only vague language about funding and says nothing about the role of Congress in approving funds.
Another seemed to be simply an aspirational statement about "increasing the size of the military," with lots of superlative adjectives but no concrete directives about how to do it.
But some of the executive orders are unconscionable, and many people are already being seriously hurt -- along with our nation's image and ethical standing. The immigration order is perhaps the worst of these so far. Refugees that were already placed and expected by a sponsoring community are now being turned away. An Iraqi man who has worked with the U.S. for 10 years as an interpreter was refused admittance to the country at JFK airport.
Walton says: "Besides the problem of 'looking like you're getting things done' when you’re really just spinning your wheels with impractical and unworkable ideas, we basically have a rank amateur adviser writing executive orders for a rank amateur President." And I would add this: The rank amateur writing the orders has a very dark vision of the problems facing our country -- and a strong opinion about who their opposition is (the "establishment" and the media) and of the solutions.
It goes beyond inexperience and dark vision, however. Walton continues: ". . . these guys seriously don’t know what they’re doing, and the entire country is at risk while they learn these hard and costly lessons over and over again." One order quite possibly violates the Civil Rights Act. The order that threatens to cut off all federal funds to "sanctuary cities" is probably unconstitutional.
What Bannon and Trump are doing, however, is stoking up the appearance of fulfilling campaign promises to keep their political base satisfied. And Trump has such power over the Republican Party now -- with that signing pen, which they prize above all else -- that they would be loathe to impeach him.
I'm beginning to wonder whether we have one mad man in the White House -- or two. Trump and Bannon. How much longer is Reince Priebus likely to last? The last few days suggest that Bannon is winning the struggle to influence Trump. And that cannot end well.