With the recent departure of White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, Staff Secretary Rob Porter, and chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, President Trump’s inner circle is tightening. Gone are many of Trump’s top advisers and most of Trump’s staff who had at least a passing familiarity with the word “no.”

According to the Brookings Institute, Trump’s staff turnover is at 43 percent, after little more than a year. After two years, Obama was at 24 percent and George W. Bush was at 33 percent. The White House is quickly disintegrating into an echo chamber of largely inexperienced yes-men, such as 32-year-old Stephen Miller.

Being surrounded by yes-men is unlikely to serve Trump well. It’s reminiscent of President Johnson’s cabinet, in which critics of LBJ’s massive Vietnam War build-up became increasingly outnumbered and sidelined, with disastrous results that killed the Johnson presidency and its legacy.

But don’t take my word for it – Johnson said as much himself. With the Civil Rights Act and the War on Poverty, LBJ might have gone down as a great president; but the echo chamber that produced the ruinous Vietnam War destroyed that possibility.

The only possible voice of sanity and reason still standing in the Trump White House is Chief of Staff John Kelly, and even he showed signs of the kind of instability and questionable judgment that seems to infect this White House when he went off on – and lied about – Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson last October because he didn’t like Wilson’s account of a phone call President Trump made to the wife of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger.

And when the accusation Kelly leveled at Wilson proved untrue, Kelly doubled down on it.

Kelly also showed questionable judgment when he needlessly resurrected his botched role in the firing of high-level administration aide Rob Porter after Porter’s former wives accused him of physical and verbal abuse. The story had faded when Kelly unnecessarily rekindled it.

If this is the administration’s last voice of reason, stability and sanity, the White House is in trouble.

But even Kelly may soon be gone. Kelly has been close to quitting before, and with the above-described disintegration of the White House, Kelly may soon reach his breaking point and leave. There’s even talk Trump may cut loose daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both senior advisers, amid suggestions they may have used their positions to advance their own business interests.

Imagine that.

Even without these possible departures, Trump’s impulsive behavior is likely to increase. And if those three do leave, things could get really unglued. Expect more erratic tweets, more blustery, inflammatory and insulting statements, and more major policy announcements made without consulting anyone.

Trump’s long hours of television, his trouble sleeping, the all-alone evening wandering of White House halls, talking with a captive audience of Secret Service agents, and the sometimes bizarre early-morning Tweets from a seemingly lonely and isolated President Trump are reminiscent of former President Nixon’s last days, when Nixon’s closest confidants, John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman, were gone, victims of the Watergate scandal and cover-up.

Nixon took to drinking heavily and holing up late into the evening and for hours on end with only National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. It got so bad that Defense Secretary James Schlesinger took away Nixon’s ability to unilaterally launch a nuclear strike.

Trump has a solid record of hiring inexperienced people of questionable expertise, or even competence. Ben Carson, Steve Mnuchin, Rick Perry, Wilbur Ross, Hope Hicks, Anthony Scaramucci, and Omarosa Manigault-Newman come to mind. And now it seems Trump employed a lawyer of questionable competence to draft the non-disclosure agreement that was intended to bar porn queen Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, from talking about the alleged 2006 affair she had with Trump.

According to Michael Avenatti, Clifford’s attorney, only an incompetent lawyer would draft an NDA that didn’t require Trump’s signature, an oversight that may eventually render the NDA null and void. If this is the quality of Trump’s legal help, he will be in for a rough ride with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who gives every sign of being very competent.

And Clifford’s silence was reportedly bought with $130,000 of Trump campaign funds, a possible violation of federal election law that is eerily reminiscent of former President Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) using campaign funds to hush up the Watergate burglars.

Then there is the sudden announcement of a possible summit between Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong-un, which many have seen as a ploy to get the Porter firing, John Kelly’s inept handling of that firing, Gary Cohn’s departure, and Stormy Daniels off the front page.

But so far the summit has all the hallmarks of a strictly amateur affair. According to one Korea expert, there has been no preparation for the summit and no sign that any preparation is imminent. Meanwhile, almost 14 months into the Trump presidency, South Korea remains one of no less than 57 countries with no U.S.

ambassador, and there is no permanent Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. This is not because Democrats are stonewalling nominations, as Trump and other Republicans claim. In what may be the most volatile and dangerous part of the world, Trump has no nominations for either slot. And Trump recently confused North and South Korea.

It will be interesting to see whether what appears to be off-the-cuff, shoot-from-the-hip diplomacy, with little or no preparation, will yield any results.

History would strongly suggest otherwise. It didn’t work very well for British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who suddenly jumped on a little propeller plane and rushed off to Adolf Hitler’s famous alpine retreat of Berchtesgaden to talk with Herr Hitler about his increasingly alarming aggression.

If Trump feels alone now, just wait till he sits down with Kim Jong-un with only Stephen Miller to tell him what the hell is going on.

Lawrence Reichard lives in Belfast. He was a full-time reporter for the Staten Island Advance and has been a freelance writer since 1981.

filed under: