Firings speak to Trump’s character

The president hires the worst and fires the best


(Flickr Creative Commons: Gage Skidmore)

By Dan Riley

When Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, my dad would often remark on the example he felt Ronald Reagan set through the Regan administration —surrounding himself with expert advisors and letting those experts have their due influence on domestic and foreign policy decisions rather than letting his own relative lack of expertise dominate the administration’s actions. This was said, of course, during the short-lived post-election period during which it was popular to posit that Trump deserved a chance. My view of Reagan is not as favorable as my father’s, but I can appreciate the sentiment behind not fearing the inexperience of certain politicians when it is complimented by the smart hiring of experienced staff. On the campaign trail, Trump promised that he would have “the best people.” However, with Trump seemingly unable to retain those “best people,” their departures speak to the state of his presidency.

In his first year, Trump’s staffing turnover rate was 34 percent, not including any turnover that took place within the past month. His administration has been punctuated by a series of high profile departures and firings from the White House and larger federal government: National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, FBI Director James Comey, Communications Director Hope Hicks, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and now former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe—only to name a few. Clearly, if Trump ever had the best people in the first place (he didn’t), then he cannot keep them in the White House. Save for Defense Secretary James Mattis, I suppose there is something incompatible about being qualified for your job and working in this administration.

The manner in which Trump fired some of the more recent staff is telling. Tillerson, like many others, was fired via tweet, yet was notified while while on the toilet, according to Chief of Staff John Kelly. Then there is the recent firing of McCabe, who, after months of criticism and smearing from the president, was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions mere hours before he would have earned his full pension. This firing is petty and vindictive; denying McCabe his pension which was earned over the course of 21 years out of spite is a hateful act. This is the businessman president many in the Republican establishment have yearned for: behold the power of corporate toxicity in Washington.

Maybe McCabe can sue for wrongful termination and win back his pension, but this is about more than McCabe—he worked for the FBI for 21 years; his career had reached its conclusion with or without retirement benefits. First and foremost, it is about the Russia investigation. Removing McCabe is another way of slandering the FBI and Robert Mueller, as McCabe himself claims. Further, the big picture isn’t the 21-year FBI careerist, but rather the agent starting their ninth year at the FBI who just took out a new mortgage while saving to pay for their kid’s college education, who now knows that cooperating in investigations against Trump might result in an early end to their career. This firing is an intimidation tactic, plain and simple.

If rumors circulated about other politicians, accusing them of firing staff in the same unprofessional and undignified way that Trump and his staff have been rumored to have done, I would hesitate to read into it as anything more than palace intrigue. In the context of an insatiable media landscape that is constantly looking for its next big headline, some politicians and leaders deserve the benefit of the doubt. But the president certainly isn’t one of them.

To say Trump has revealed his character through the recent firings would be an overstatement; there is nothing left to reveal and there hasn’t been for a long time. He has always lived this life. His nature has always been conspicuous. Frankly, there are times when I cannot help but laugh at how Trump seems to unfailingly make the worst decision in any given circumstance. And while I would like to have faith in history’s ability to render righteous judgment on his life, I know that there is no truth that Fox News cannot distort and pervert, in much the same way that the truth of Reagan’s presidency has been distorted into one of a conservative golden age that ignores his legacy of shoddy economic policy and staggering wealth inequality. Nevertheless, Trump firing his staff in a spiteful, malicious and unprofessional way is representative of the man he is at his core.

Dan Riley is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]