"Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying!” the Joker says in “The Dark Knight.” “Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos.”
Welcome to the Trump administration.
The media seem befuddled as to how the Trump administration handles its business. Upset with the idea that Donald Trump is president, the press have sought a shadow “master planner” in the White House, and they’ve settled on White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. During the campaign, they suggested that the great mind was then-Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway. Sometimes, they say, it’s White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller.
Meanwhile, they see every Trumpian tweet and utterance as 4-D chess. When Trump tweets that the media are the enemy, the media immediately assume Trump has some sort of nefarious plan to quash the First Amendment. When a shoddy report breaks saying that Trump may make federal forces available to work alongside states in cracking down on illegal immigration, they rush to the notion that Trump has formed a deportation squad. When Trump’s team rolls out a horribly flawed executive order on immigration from Muslim-majority countries, they immediately conclude that Trump is implementing a Muslim ban.
And what of Trump’s bizarre, nonsensical tweets, the ones that don’t introduce a new policy? Those are distractions, masterful attempts to hold a shiny object before the public while he plans evil deeds behind the curtain.
Then there are personnel issues. When Trump fires his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, the theories fly fast and furious. Flynn’s connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin will expose Trump, so Trump had to throw him under the bus! Trump had to know something, didn’t he?
Here’s another theory: What if chaos is just chaos?
What if there’s no master plan?
What if Trump is finding his way, one step at a time, along a path that 44 other men have traveled, some more slowly than others? What if Trump isn’t an ideologue or a philosopher – and what if nobody around him is either? What if it’s all just haphazard and chaotic, and what if we don’t yet know what this administration will look like?
Is it possible that Trump is simply doing some good things and some bad things, and that he’s saying silly things because that’s what he does? Is it at all plausible that Trump is the president, not Steve Bannon or Kellyanne Conway or chief of staff Reince Priebus or anybody else, and that because Trump’s an amateur at government he’s unsure which way to step? Could it be that Trump isn’t playing 4-D chess, that he’s just a Wookie threatening to upend the board and rip his opponents’ arms out of their sockets? He has been known to do that.
All of this is to say, let’s all take a deep breath.
Here’s the thing: Trump may not have a plan. He probably doesn’t. Those around him probably have their own plans, but they’re not the president. But you know who did have a plan? The people who constructed our constitutional system, placed checks and balances in that system and ensured that no one person could wield all power in American government. That means that even the presidency that begins most chaotically can find its sea legs, and even the presidencies that remain chaotic can’t do too much damage.
So let’s not panic. Everything’s not chaos, even if it feels like it.