The Apprentice President

Trump is proving the presidency is no place for on-the-job training.

The Apprentice President

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

By Peter Fenn | Opinion Contributor–USNews & World Report

Feb. 22, 2017, at 7:00 a.m.

Watching President Donald Trump for the last month, I have made many of the same observations as other critics: He is unstable, his ego knows no bounds, he has no allegiance to the truth and he is unquestionably ignorant of anything other than what he sees on cable news (crisis in Sweden!) or what he gets from briefings from his small and alt-right staff.

But his press conference and Florida rally of the last week show me something else. He is going to behave as president just as he behaved as the star of his TV show “The Apprentice.” He will read from teleprompters when he needs to, he will ad lib and expound on a whim when it suits his fancy, and he will lash out at perceived slights or seek to berate and put down anyone who he perceives as in his way. He will make any statement, no matter how outrageous (the press is “the enemy of the American people”), he will never apologize or admit he is wrong, and he will act as a circus reality-show performer from the stage, not as what is an acceptable president of the United States.

Thus, anyone who believes that there will be a Trump-change and that he will grow into the role of president is, in fact, dreaming. “The Apprentice” show is now “The President” show. Or, at least, it has been over the course of the last 30 days.

His press conference was jaw-dropping. The first two rows in the room were filled by family and staff, then a break before the press was seated. This was absurd and a total departure from precedent – or as Trump would say, “president.” Just as was his January appearance at the CIA, where he reportedly brought cheering and clapping staff.

At least they didn’t applaud at his press conference. At the presser, he read wild accusations from notes written for him and proceeded to attack the press. He repeated ridiculous claims of his electoral victory that he had been making for weeks, which he had to know were wrong. He made statements about General Michael Flynn’s resignation, the role of his campaign with the Russians and his own business dealings which raised more questions than they answered.

I could not help but think – as this presidency is unfolding with the fleeing of the White House for Mar-a-Lago, the continued nasty tweets, the senseless attacks on “enemies” and the embarrassing appearances – that we are experiencing one more episode of “The Apprentice.”

The other thought that occurred to me is that we are in the throes of an old adage: “the presidency is no place for on-the-job-training.” In fact, Trump is the apprentice. But there is no one to supervise him, no adult in the room to help him out, no David Gergen to guide him. Instead, he has Mr. Chaos, Steve Bannon, and his clueless, but arrogant assistant, Stephen Miller, whispering in his ear.

So we have an apprentice president in more ways than one – a P.T. Barnum showman and a man with no sense of history or ability to actually do the job. That is a dangerous, combustible combination.