Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sunday Week in Review, Staffing Edition

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

He had some staffing issues.

Trump spent a good deal of his recent Phoenix rally making grandiose assessments of the size of the assembled crowd. What the TV cameras didn't show, but what Trump could see, was that the convention hall he spoke to was largely empty and the crowd dwindling as he spoke

Presumably this is why Trump fired George Gigicos, the advance man responsible for the rally. As he did with James Comey, Trump had his former bodyguard Keith Schiller deliver the message rather than confront Gigicos directly. Days later, Schiller himself was on his way out, quitting in frustration because new rules laid down by chief of staff John Kelly prevented him from being able to walk into the Oval Office or call Trump directly.

(Trump, for his part, has resorted to using his personal phone to skirt Kelly's discipline.)

It seems likely that Gigicos will be promptly replaced, since campaign rallies are of paramount importance to Trump. Schiller probably won't be: he played no actual role in the operation of the White House, nor did he contribute to Trump's physical security once he came under Secret Service protection. He seems to have been on the government payroll mostly as a sort of security blanket for Trump, who has surrounded himself as much as possible with those who have promised absolute personal loyalty (and has fired those who haven't). 

Jobs that do have actual responsibilities (but in which Trump has no personal stake) have gone unfilled at an unprecedented rate under Trump. Facing criticism from within his own safe zone--Fox & Friends--Trump retorted that the jobs were unimportant and that he was saving the government money by not filling them. Among the jobs Trump considers too minor to fill are the deputy director of FEMA and a number of staff positions in that agency. 

Among the jobs Trump does apparently consider important, and which he filled this week, is the chief enforcement officer of the Department of Education's Student Aid Enforcement Unit. The new hire, Julian Schmoke Jr., will be in charge of policing fraud in for-profit higher education. His most recent job was with DeVry, a for-profit educational company that frequently committed fraud. This follows a pattern with Trump: he also nominated a Labor Secretary whose business was a serial violator of labor laws, and a nonscientist as the USDA's chief science officer. And--just in time for Labor Day--he nominated as head of the Mine Health and Safety Administration a coal executive whose company received two "pattern of violation" notices from that same agency for its serious and ongoing safety problems.

Why are these bad things?

  • A president is responsible for the quality of people he entrusts with the job of helping govern the United States.
  • Breaking a law is not good experience for enforcing a law.
  • A presidential candidate's popularity has more to do with how many people show up to a campaign rally than the guy who books the hall.
  • Lashing out at others for your own shortcomings isn't a good management style in or out of government.
  • Some jobs actually do require competence.