March 16, 2018

White House Chaos Is the New Normal

Tillerson, perhaps McMaster, Shulkin and Sessions — administration turnover seems endless.

President Donald Trump’s dismissal of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday and this morning’s report that National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is soon to be fired are just the latest indicators of a White House in upheaval. Others like David Shulkin and Jeff Sessions may follow. The moves reflect a chief executive who is apparently still having challenges finding the right mix of people to fill key positions within the administration. While some observers have levied criticism against President Trump for the manner in which he fired Tillerson, his decision to fire the former Exxon executive wasn’t a surprise and many of his moves are actually positive.

It was no secret that the two men weren’t close and seemed to be at odds on many issues. They never seemed to be on same sheet of music when it came to developing and implementing policy, whether it was North Korea, Russia or even trade decisions. However, the termination of Tillerson reflects something more about Trump. He is a man who seems to thrive on chaos, whether it be in his professional or personal life.

Trump has spent the majority of his adult life courting chaos and it has worked for him. He has lost and created fortunes, married three times, and been the subject of endless tabloid gossip. A staple of the New York City social scene before becoming president of the United States, he relishes being in the limelight and being the center of attention at all times.

He has never had to answer to shareholders in his life because the Trump Organization has always been a privately owned international conglomerate. Trump has been conditioned over a lifetime to hire and fire when he wants and how he wants.

Which leads to his problems in attracting top-level talent for positions in not only his Cabinet but in his administration as a whole. While Trump has been treated poorly by numerous outlets on a myriad of topics during his first year in office, they have accurately covered the administration’s problems in finding and keeping talent.

According to The Week, “A full 37 Trump-appointed staffers have resigned, been fired, or been reassigned, since Trump took office.” To put that number in perspective, that is double the rate of Ronald Reagan and three times the rate of Barack Obama.

All of us who work for a living understand the dynamics of what happens to an organization or business that doesn’t have the appropriate number of personnel to do the job they have been assigned. Things get missed, people wait out “temporary” bosses, frustration sets in and eventually teamwork suffers. We wouldn’t want that in our place of work, but that’s exactly what’s happening in our federal government.

And while it’s true that the Democrats have not facilitated progress on a few nominations, the Trump administration has failed to fill key positions not requiring Senate confirmation. To fill those positions requires vetting and time but Trump seems not to be concerned, which is troubling for the Republican Party.

With midterm elections only 235 days away, the Grand Old Party is finding itself in a potentially very precarious situation. If either one or both houses of Congress flip to Democrat control, the personnel process will only get bogged down that much more, which only hurts the country as a whole.

Trump’s first year in office has seen numerous successes but in his second year he must prioritize filling key posts. If he fails to address this issue he is unnecessarily putting his administration at risk as well as the future of the Republican Party. It’s time for the personnel carousel to slow down.

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