- As business leaders abandon President Donald Trump's business councils, the White House faces a host of challenges.
- Business support was seen as greasing the wheels of the GOP agenda.
Donald Trump's White House is on fire — and not in a good way.
The leading figures in American business are embarrassed to be associated with the president, even though he has promised to cut their taxes and regulations.
Now his "Manufacturing Council" and "Strategic and Policy Forum" have been disbanded. That those bodies weren't doing much to begin with mirrors the Potemkin quality of the Trump White House itself.
On-camera events, like the one aides failed to pull off on infrastructure on Tuesday, seek to create the illusion of progress on a policy agenda. But here's where the White House really stands, now that corporate America is bolting for the door:
Nearly seven months after Inauguration Day the administration still hasn't proposed an infrastructure plan.
Neither has the administration proposed a plan for tax reform, the next big issue on the horizon.
Nor has the administration ever proposed its own health-care plan to replace Obamacare. Trump keeps hectoring Republican congressional leaders to continue trying after their efforts failed, even though they want to move on.
And the administration has yet to lead Congress toward agreement on a plausible 2018 budget or a path to raising the federal debt limit this fall in order to avoid an economically damaging U.S. default.
The president's administration is hobbled by a lack of top personnel. Of the 587 most important posts that require confirmation by the U.S. Senate, the Partnership for Public Service says Trump has failed even to nominate a candidate for 62 percent of them.
The staff Trump does have is riven by factional infighting, and powerless to control their undisciplined boss in any event. From outside the White House, they hear friends and associates call on them to salvage their reputations by resigning.
Countering any impulse to do so is the competing imperative, articulated by then-communications director Anthony Scaramucci during his brief tenure, "to save America from this president" by remaining. As a middle ground, some have settled for leaking stories to the media of their displeasure with their boss.
Others are distracted by a more immediate problem: accelerating investigations by Congress and the Justice Department of ties between Trump associates and Russians who interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign. That brings both legal jeopardy and lawyer's bills.
Special counsel Robert Mueller appears to be bearing down, seeking to question White House aides as well as 2016 campaign operatives. That makes the question of whether Trump sought to obstruct justice by firing FBI Director James Comey a dangerous one for the president himself.
Republican leaders in Congress have little appetite for confronting Trump directly. But his sympathetic statements about the "Unite the Right" march in Charlottesville, Viriginia, that featured white supremacists and neo-Nazis embarrasses them just like business leaders. It also raises the odds Democrats bent on impeachment win control of the House in 2018.
Trump has isolated himself by appealing only to his shrinking base. His approval rating stands well below 40 percent, with just 23 percent in a recent Quinnipiac poll registering "strong" approval. A 55 percent majority strongly disapproved.
The base is large enough to frighten Republican politicians fearful of challenges in party primaries. And Trump is buoyed for the moment by rising stock prices and the solid economy he inherited from former President Barack Obama.
But his base is not large enough to frighten business leaders. And their reaction is a measure of the emergency Trump faces now.