Chaos is a great word.
Derived from Greek for “vast, gaping void,” it became a dramatic way to convey disorder. And it fits a headline.
The word saw constant use over the first weeks of the Trump administration. His travel-ban order caused confusion and ran afoul in court. His national security chief was ejected and replaced amid conflicting reports. His nominee for labor secretary withdrew.
A top general openly spoke of “unbelievable turmoil” in government. The public received bursts of inaccurate information — much of it straight from the president himself.
So we call it chaos. But please — a little perspective.
Jimmy Carter clashed early with Congress. Aides to Ronald Reagan cited intramural White House rivalries. Bill Clinton saw nominees withdraw, and the health care plan drafted by Hillary Clinton crashed and burned.
Those commanders-in-chief and others sure looked disorganized to outsiders.
President Donald Trump might draw snark for calling his leaky regime a “fine-tuned machine.” But his most persuasive surrogate, longtime friend Thomas Barrack, insists on the effectiveness of Trump’s methods.
“He’s the best instinctive manager I’ve ever seen,” said Barrack, a private equity real estate investor. “He has this ability of going into a cappuccino down under the foam.”
“So he wants the chaos?” CNN asked.
“Absolutely,” Barrack replied.
Others perceive it differently, of course.
Bert Spector, a business professor at Northeastern University, cited “chaos” in a commentary published this week, stating that the president was never really a CEO before.
“That is, he didn’t run a major public corporation with shareholders and a board of directors that could hold him to account,” Spector wrote. “Instead he was the head of a family-owned, private web of enterprises.”
Other presidents lacked such experience, and some may rationalize that democracy can be messy and lockstep order would be foreign and worrisome.
But political critics find chaos a potent concept to hurl at a target, since it goes beyond disagreement to the issue of competence.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) went on CNBC and said: “We don’t need the chaos, the conflict, the fighting. . . . People in Ohio and around the country want him to get to work.” And so on.
During the GOP primaries in 2015, rival candidate Jeb Bush called Trump a “chaos candidate” after the nominee-to-be proposed temporarily banning all Muslims from entering the U.S.
“He’d be a chaos president,” Bush warned. “He would not be the commander-in-chief we need to keep our country safe.”
There’s still plenty of time left to see whether so-called Trump chaos is a disorder worth branding.