Saturday, October 26, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He sent a subordinate out to read a fawning statement about how he doesn't surround himself with yes men.

Today, Trump's former chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, said Trump's seemingly inevitable impeachment was the inevitable result of his surrounding himself with "yes men." Speaking at a conference in Georgia, Kelly said:

I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that. Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached. That was almost 11 months ago, and I have an awful lot of, to say the least, second thoughts about leaving. It pains me to see what’s going on because I believe if I was still there or someone like me was there, he would not be kind of, all over the place.

Trump chafed under Kelly's attempts to impose some discipline on his work hours, and for part of Kelly's tenure, the two weren't on speaking terms. But Kelly lingered on in part because Trump, who is notoriously shy about conflict when he has to face it in person, found it intimidating to tell Kelly he was fired.

Trump lashed out almost immediately, insisting that Kelly "never said that, he never said anything like that. If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does."

The first part of that claim is certainly true: Trump doesn't allow criticism, or even anything short of fawning praise from the people he sees as his inferiors.

But the idea Kelly—or anyone else—wants to climb back aboard the Trump ship even as Kelly's prediction is coming true is obviously false. Trump's current chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, refused to take the job full-time and is in an acting role. Virtually all the senior positions in the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security are vacant or filled on a temporary basis. The unprecedented turnover in senior staff has been a serious problem for Trump, as not only are his handpicked staff leaving on bad terms after having to actually work for him—or staying on only to help corral his worst impulses—but he can't get anyone new to fill what would otherwise be prestigious and powerful jobs.

Later in the day, apparently to prove that he doesn't surround himself with "yes men," Trump sent his press secretary out to say that Kelly, a four-star Marine general, was "unequipped to handle the genius of our great president."

How is this a bad thing?

  • It's a problem if the president is so incompetent that he can't hire qualified people for the most powerful positions in government.
  • Past a certain point, a need for flattery is pathological.
  • A president who can't bear to hear criticism or different viewpoints is incompetent.