President Donald Trump’s unconventional governing style has led to conflicts within his administration but ultimately contributed to his success, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said at an event hosted Tuesday evening by Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service.
At the event, Priebus acknowledged his attempt to maintain order as the chief of staff in Trump’s White House was often thwarted by Trump’s loose managerial style.
“He likes to stay loose and see what happens and make decisions by putting people around him on a particular subject that don’t agree with each other,” Priebus said. “He wants the smartest people to fight it out, and then he makes a decision. And I think the decisions have been good.”
Priebus spoke on Trump’s political philosophy and unorthodox governing style in an event in the Healey Family Student Center Social Room. The event was moderated by GU Politics Director Mo Elleithee (SFS ’94) and former Trump White House Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh Shields, a GU Politics fellow.
Priebus cited Trump’s accomplishments, which appeal to his Republican base, as evidence his unconventional leadership style has not impeded his success.
“You have the tax cuts, you’ve got the Supreme Court and you have a total deregulation and a dismantling of almost everything that Obama did by executive order,” Priebus said. “Those, if you’re a Republican, are great things. The decisions that he’s made have made him a pretty historic president in only a year.”
Priebus acknowledged Trump is, in some ways, not like any other Republican president. Trump is “extremely unique” in his personal style, Priebus said, and his campaign themes refocused the Republican Party on a populist message.
“President Trump’s been very good for the party in the sense that it’s returned to the idea that the American workers are worth fighting for. That we’re not about Wall Street — we’re about people that are making tools and working with their hands and have been forgotten,” Priebus said.
However, Priebus also said the president’s actions in office fall in line with the conventional Republican Party ideals of restraining the federal government.
“Look at what the president did in the first few weeks through executive order, forcing every department to look at itself and cut out wasteful regulations and wasteful spending, to reduce its size, to have a hiring freeze,” Priebus said. “That’s the type of care and feeding that someone like me would actually see as caring for big institutions.”
Discussing Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election, Priebus said the campaign won in part by reaching out to minority communities and staying faithful to the Republican Party’s traditional base.
“The president and the campaign funded an operation on the ground in Hispanic, black and Asian communities for not just a six-month period before the election, but for four straight years,” Priebus said. “It’s just a fact of life that you cannot grow a party by subtracting people out the door.”
Trump performed slightly better with minority voters than the last Republican nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, did in the 2012 election. However, Trump also received widespread condemnation for inflammatory rhetoric concerning immigrants, saying of Mexican immigrants in a June 2015 speech launching his campaign: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
But despite all that is different about Trump, Priebus said not much is different about the Republican Party or the country than before Trump landed in the political arena. He said much of the media narrative about Trump is overstated.
The Trump administration will not redefine the political positions of the Republican Party permanently, Priebus said.
“I think post-Trump, the party returns to its traditional role and its traditional platform. It’s a Trump brand and he owns it and he has a way of protecting it,” Priebus said.