Friday, March 16, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He claimed, through a surrogate, that it's Chuck Schumer's fault he hasn't nominated people to fill his administration's many vacancies.

Even by Trump administration standards, this week was a brutal one for the ever-dwindling White House Staff. In the space of one 24-hour period, Trump fired his Secretary of State via Twitter, fired the #4 State Department official for confirming that Trump had fired his Secretary of State via Twitter, and lost his "body man" to a DHS investigation of his apparent gambling problem. (The last of those has what passes for a happy ending: John McEntee was forcibly removed from the White House by the Secret Service, but was immediately hired by Trump's 2020 campaign.)

As multiply-sourced stories spread about the perpetually low morale within the White House, Trump once again went into damage-control mode. By Thursday night, press secretary Sarah Sanders felt obliged to send out a late-night tweet insisting that national security adviser H.R. McMaster was not yet in imminent danger of being fired.

Today, Trump deployed his legislative affairs director, Marc Short, to the day's press briefing to pin the blame for the Trump White House's staffing woes on Senate Democrats. Short's argument was that because Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is insisting on holding procedural votes more often than had been the case during President Obama's first term, it was not Trump's fault that so few of his administration's positions were filled.

The actual reason that so few of Trump's nominees have gotten through Senate confirmation is because, more than any recent president, he has failed to nominate them. Fourteen months into his administration, more than a third of key Senate-confirmable positions are without nominees. Out of the 1,242 positions that require Senate action, Trump has made nominations for 557, of them (not counting 82 nominees rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate). 

At other, more candid moments, Trump has explicitly said that his refusal to fill executive branch positions is deliberate, calling much of the work of government "totally unnecessary."

Why should anyone care about this?

  • It's wrong to blame other people for your failures.