Almost as soon as Trump came down the escalator in Trump Tower and declared war on the American political system, establishment types on both sides have been placing blind hope in a series of neutralizing forces—that he was a fever that just had to burn out, that voters would slowly wake up to the threat he represented, that Republican delegates would rebel and install a saner alternative at the convention, that he would eventually pivot towards something resembling orthodoxy, and that, finally, his cabinet picks and advisers would be able to temper his worst instincts.
Trump has shown a small willingness to bend to respected advisers—Gen. Michael Mattis seems to have been successful in convincing Trump that torture is actually bad—so it should come as no surprise that Republicans are placing all of their hopes in those closest to the president-elect. On Tuesday night, The New York Times published a fascinating look at incoming Chief-of-Staff Reince Preibus’s role in the administration. Preibus apparently has already played a stabilizing role in Washington, acting as a go-between between Paul Ryan and Trump when Ryan needed help in aborting a Republican attempt to neuter the Office of Congressional Ethics. According to the Times:
This is the way that many mainstream Beltway Republicans, and more than a few tremulous Democrats, pray the Trump White House will work. In a city bracing for convulsive change, Mr. Priebus has emerged as an unlikely symbol of stability, someone who they hope will domesticate the new president and transform his storm-the-gates campaign into a normal, functional White House that can “make America sane again,” in a phrase making the rounds this week among congressional Republicans.
Preibus may have been successful here, but it was in getting Trump to criticize unruly congressional Republicans, not in checking his own instincts. The OCE anecdote reveals what Preibus will probably be good at: acting as a conduit between Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. But there’s nothing yet to suggest that Preibus is the mythical Trump whisperer—someone who can get Trump to behave, or to check his worst, most destructive instincts. It’s likely that person doesn’t exist.