“What does the endless death watch for the President’s chief of staff tell us about the worst-run White House of modern times?”
From The New Yorker:
s John Kelly finally on his way out? Now that President Trump has accepted the resignation of his embattled E.P.A. chief, Scott Pruitt, the fate of his embattled chief of staff is the key drama of this drama-plagued Administration. Last July, when Kelly was appointed to the job, the retired Marine general was portrayed as a no-nonsense savior, who would “restore order” to Trump’s feuding, factionalized White House. But in recent months the question has become not whether Kelly could tame Trump but how soon Trump would get rid of Kelly. […]
Turnover among the White House staff, already record-setting in Trump’s first year, has spiked recently, now that no one is really in charge. Late last month, Martha Joynt Kumar, a scholar who has tracked White House staff during the past six Presidencies, reported that the Trump White House has an astonishing turnover rate of sixty-one per cent so far among its top-level advisers. No other Administration she has tracked comes close: Trump’s two immediate predecessors were at fourteen per cent (Barack Obama) and five percent (George W. Bush) at this point in their Presidencies. Bill Clinton, the highest after Trump, was at forty-two per cent, and that number was mostly made up of advisers who were reassigned to other senior White House roles, not fired or pushed out, according to Kumar.
The Trump Cabinet has been similarly tumultuous: Pruitt’s departure, on Thursday, adds to a list that already included a fired Secretary of State, a fired Secretary of Health and Human Services, and a fired Veteran Affairs Secretary, as well as a vacancy that was created when Kelly moved from the Department of Homeland Security to replace Trump’s fired first chief of staff, Reince Priebus. All together, Trump’s Cabinet has the fastest turnover rate of any Administration in a hundred years. Tenures are so short that Kumar is now reporting on the turnover among the second and third waves of aides. And it could be that Trump has no problem with this situation, or even with the seemingly untenable situation of having a chief of staff who is regularly reported to be on his way out. Over the past few months, Kelly has looked increasingly like a dead man walking, and “that may be what Trump wants,” Kumar told me on Thursday.
When we look back at the Trump Administration, this will be one of its most distinguishing characteristics: West Wing comings and goings without precedent, leaving policies muddled and the entire political world uncertain of whom to deal with aside from the President himself. Kelly used to leave the office every day joking bleakly that he’d never come back. Just in the past few weeks, as Kelly’s fate has hung in limbo, two other key White House advisers have announced their exits: Joe Hagin, a deputy chief of staff and an organizational specialist who brought rare institutional knowledge of how White Houses are supposed to function, from stints working for Reagan and both Bushes; and Marc Short, Trump’s chief legislative liaison and congressional-vote counter, who reportedly told colleagues in June of his plans to leave a job that could become even more crucial if the G.O.P. majorities on Capitol Hill are diminished or wiped out in November. Many others are also reportedly considering leaving, including Dan Scavino, who is one of the last of the Trump’s early campaign advisers still working for the President, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, and her deputy, Raj Shah. On Thursday, the White House formally announced the appointment of a new deputy chief of staff, the former Fox News executive Bill Shine, to oversee communications, making him the sixth person assigned that responsibility.
This, to say the least, is not normal. It might seem self-evident, but it bears repeating: Trump, whatever else he accomplishes, will certainly go down in the record books as the worst manager of the White House in modern times. And not only is this state of affairs not normal, it’s no way to run even a small organization, never mind a country. A senior European official recently told me that every time he shows up at the White House there is a new aide to meet with him, because the last one he sat down with has since been cashiered or fled. As each successive wave of aides comes and goes, what little institutional knowledge remains in the White House is further diminished.