Remember back in 2016 when then-candidate Donald Trump pledged that “I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people?”
Who knew there would be so many!
The removal of Kirstjen Nielsen as head of the Department of Homeland Security on Sunday night accounts for the 14th(!) member of Trump’s Cabinet to resign, be fired or move on to another job. How does that compare to Trump’s immediate predecessors? Barack Obama lost nine Cabinet secretaries in his first term; George W. Bush saw four Cabinet officials move on in his first four years. Trump has been president for 808 days. So…..
And it’s not just at the Cabinet level! According to Kathryn Dunn Tenpas at Brookings, a DC-based think tank, 66% of all senior-level staffers who came into jobs when Trump became President are now gone. That’s nearly equal to the 71% attrition for Obama’s entire first term – and eclipses Bush’s 63% rate.
Trump, for his part, insists that his administration remains the hottest club in DC.
“Everybody wants to work in this White House,” he said soon after the 2018 midterm election. “We are a hot country. This is a hot White House. We are a White House that people want to work with.”
The facts belie that claim. Not only has Trump suffered from record-setting numbers of departures in his Cabinet and senior staff, he has also struggled to fill those jobs with permanent replacements. Nielsen’s planned replacement – Kevin McAleenan – takes over the job only in an interim role. Ditto the Defense secretary. And the Interior secretary. And the White House chief of staff.
Is it possible that Trump is choosing not to fill some of the more junior roles within these departments under the belief that the government is bloated with unnecessary people? Sure! But it’s hard to make that same argument when we are talking about the HEADS of massive government entities.
Why the turnover? And the struggles to replace the people who go? Trump. He is someone who struggles to delegate decisions and, even when he does, often overrules his people – publicly. That’s, uh, not a great work environment.
The Point: Trump views himself as the one indispensable cog of his administration. And he treats the people who work for him as interchangeable parts, usually of little value.