Jeffrey A. Rendall
Is the trouble Donald Trump is experiencing with filling out his administration due to his not having enough friends?
The annual arrival of Good Friday reminds us all that even the most exalted of individuals can find himself without supporters when times get tense. Donald Trump is certainly not Jesus in any sense of the word or concept but there is one slight analogy here – the savior died on the cross because he was betrayed and keeping promises denied by those around him when he needed their help the most.
Everyone wanted Jesus to be what they thought he should to be – liberator, teacher, arbiter, provider, governor, philosopher, miracle worker, enforcer of the law and last but not least, scapegoat. None of these things were his mission and Jesus wouldn’t change to please anyone or even to save his life. In the end Christ was virtually friendless – at least among the powerful – but he accepted his fate as necessary to save us from ourselves.
Something similar can be said for the president today – that he’s friendless among the powerful – though many of his follies are of his own doing and others are due to simply relying on the wrong people for guidance.
Byron York of the Washington Examiner writes, “Trump’s style has led to an acute staffing problem across the administration and also to high-profile infighting in the White House. The former means that Trump cannot assert full control over a massive federal bureaucracy that is already inclined to resist him. The latter has led to an almost comical situation in which the president has piled portfolio upon portfolio on trusted son-in-law Jared Kushner – now commonly referred to as one of the most powerful men in Washington – who had no preparation for the responsibility.”
As harsh as this assessment sounds, there’s a lot of truth in it. Federal departments remain woefully understaffed with Trump’s cabinet members sometimes being the only presidential appointees showing up for work every day.
York elaborates, “To give a few examples, there are 113,000 employees in the Department of Justice, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the only Senate-confirmed Trump appointee there. There are 742,000 civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and Defense Secretary James Mattis is the only Senate-confirmed Trump appointee there. There are 105,000 employees in the Agriculture Department, and there are no Senate-confirmed Trump appointees there.”
In other words, by failing to take advantage of presidential privilege to populate his administration with people inspired to carry out his wishes, Trump is leaving the cupboard dangerously bare. Instead he’s apparently relying on career civil servants to execute his orders. No doubt most do their jobs the same as they would for any president; others are probably gumming up the process as much as they possibly can get away with.
Needless to say the Trump administration cannot function without effective leaders “on the ground” overseeing the bureaucracy. If this was a war you wouldn’t fight it without officers – or trust the command of your forces to “neutral” (or possibly hostile) participants.
Finding the right people should be priority number one. There is nothing more important in the long run.
A number of conservatives, including ConservativeHQ’s Richard Viguerie, have gone to some length to point out Trump isn’t doing himself any favors by dragging out the appointment and hiring process – or even worse, trusting the Washington establishment to do the job for him.
It only makes sense – if you don’t have reliable conservatives conducting the searches you aren’t going to find conservatives to do the work.
It goes without saying Trump’s strongest base of support is from his conservative/populist backers. Almost all of the Ted Cruz supporters I know took on Trump’s cause just as fervently a year ago when our guy didn’t end up the Republican primary winner. All worked hard to get Trump elected and celebrated his inauguration just as enthusiastically as if our first choice had won.
A lot of those same people are anxiously awaiting phone calls in reply to the multitudes of applications they’ve sent in. I know for a fact there is a deep pool of conservative talent to be tapped virtually at the asking.
York’s fascinating article is certainly worth reading in its entirety if you have time. In it the reporter compares Trump’s situation to Chairman Mao’s China.
“[V]eterans of the Long March held a special status; they had been with the Great Helmsman for the entire journey. The situation is much the same in any American political operation, where candidates value people who have been with them all the way. In TrumpWorld, that’s nobody – outside the president’s family and a few assistants from Trump’s company.”
This is largely true, though certainly there are more backers going back to the beginning of the political portion of Trump’s career. If for nothing else, at least a quarter of Republican voters were with him from the start. Institutional Washington was much slower to get on the Trump train, but that doesn’t mean many people from traditional conservative organizations aren’t ready to assist him now.
If anything, it appears Trump’s slow gravitational migration towards Kushner’s orbit has moved him closer to the establishment.
Admittedly I only know what I’ve read about Kushner – that he’s young, bright, loyal and comes from a pedigreed background. While the president himself says he feels very comfortable with the “common man” it’s unknown if Jared feels the same. Steve Bannon does – and Bannon has the type of background Trump should be relying on, including military service.
As fine a man as Jared Kushner looks to be he does not have the sense of what won Trump the presidency in the same manner Steve Bannon does, even if Kushner was there for Trump’s version of the “Long March.”
Nearing the end of President Trump’s first 100 days it’s imperative that he realize there are many Judas Iscariots out there who would be more than willing to sell him to his enemies for 30 pieces of silver.
Trump must trust someone to guide him through this mess. He can’t drain the swamp without equipment, and the “machinery” is in conservative personnel.
The alternative is stagnation and failure, a political malaise without a friend in sight. On this holy weekend of renewal, let’s hope he grasps the message.
Reprinted with permission from ConservativeHQ.com