President Donald Trump needs to bring his staff under control by empowering a strong chief of staff and giving him or her the "authority to run the place," James Baker, who served as President George H.W. Bush's chief of staff, said Thursday.
"I'm not saying it shouldn't be Reince Priebus," Baker told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" of the Trump's current chief of staff. "Reince Priebus did a very fine job running the RNC (Republican National Committee) and he did a good job in the campaign, but he needs to be empowered."
The White House has had several achievements already, but there are too many "power centers" involved.
"They overlap and they overlap across domestic and international things," said Baker. "Everybody is fighting for turf and jockeying for position, and he [Trump] really needs to get a handle on that."
Baker remembered that "we had a little of that" during President Ronald Reagan's first months.
"President Reagan was pretty good about saying 'here's the way it's going to be,'" said Baker, who also served as chief of staff and as secretary of the Treasury under Reagan.
Meanwhile, Trump got high marks for the first leg of his overseas trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, but criticism for his comments and actions during the NATO summit in Brussels, and Baker said that's understandable.
"The Atlantic alliance has been the foundation of peace and security in Europe for over 40 years," said Baker. "It's really important that we keep it going, and keeping it going and healthy means you have to manage it, you have to work it, and you have to stick with it."
Baker said there were "plenty of disagreements" when he was in office, but "you don't take those disagreements public," like Trump did with his speech to the NATO leaders. "There are ways to get that done."
Baker said Trump has not reached out to him since winning the election, but he did meet with him in May. But if he did meet with the president, he'd tell him it would be good if he hired a "peer" who could tell him no sometimes.
He noted that Reagan wrote of him that one thing that he liked was that Baker would tell him what he thought, even though he did not want to hear it.
"George Bush said the same thing," said Baker. "That's the most important quality that I think an assistant or chief of staff certainly can present to the president. You've got to be able to say 'this doesn't make sense. Don't do it.' I'm not sure there's anybody in there now that can say that to the president."
Baker, also appearing on NBC's "Today" show, commented that Trump should not pull out of the Paris climate agreement, but should negotiate it. Further, it should be sent to the Senate, as it is a treaty.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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