Donald Trump is having trouble hiring a chief of staff — but he desperately needs one – Donald Trump’s America
One former Trump chief of staff was reported as saying:” “We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.” (Reuters: Jonathan Ernst)
Every week, when Donald Trump starred on American television’s The Apprentice, he dismissed a contestant and uttered his famous catch phrase,”You’re fired.”
Now, as the American President, Mr Trump is having trouble saying, “You’re hired.”
He is trying to fill one of the most powerful jobs in American government, that of White House chief of staff.
The person who holds the post oversees activity in the White House, acts as gatekeeper to the president, and is perhaps the most important adviser to the president, save for the vice-president and the president’s spouse.
It’s a high pressure, demanding job, and many presidents run through two or three during a four-year tenure.
General John Kelly has been seen hiding his face in his hands after one of Mr Trump’s pronouncements. (Reuters: Joshua Roberts)
But chiefs of staff become Washington figures in their own right, courted by members of Congress and both parties. Some go on to elected office, like Rahm Emanuel, who served as Barack Obama’s staff chief and then became mayor of Chicago.
Others move on cabinet positions, such as James Baker, who was chief of staff for both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and held jobs running the Treasury and State Departments.
In just under two years in office, Mr Trump has gone through two chiefs of staff, beginning with Reince Priebus, previously chairman of the Republican National Committee. He lasted just six months, and was replaced in July 2017, by John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who hung on for 18 months.
Now, General Kelly plans to leave in early January. And normally, a president could expect to be choosing from an elite, ambitious group of applicants.
‘More than 10’ possibilities
Mr Trump insists he has a list of possibilities — “more than 10,” he tweeted on Tuesday. But, the publicly named pickings seem to be slim, and in case cases, head scratching.
Some of the names mentioned include former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a Republican who once fancied himself a presidential candidate and has experience as a federal prosecutor.
Given Mr Trump’s legal troubles, Mr Christie might seem to be a reasonable choice.
But he has yet to be offered a Cabinet position, let alone a high-profile White House job, supposedly because Mr Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, doesn’t like him.
(Why would he, after Mr Christie in his capacity as New Jersey’s US attorney Mr Kushner’s father, real estate developer Charles Kushner, for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign donations in the mid-2000s. Charles Kushner spent two years in federal prison.)
NY Yankees president in with a shot?
Then, there’s Nick Ayers, a lobbyist and political consultant who is the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence. He was thought to be General Kelly’s likely successor.
But he turned down the job, leaving Mr Trump without a plan B, according to The New York Times.
That’s led to mentions of candidates who might never be considered in a calmer White House, like Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees baseball team, whose name was put into the mix by NBC News.
That apparently was news to Mr Levin, who like many baseball executives is attending winter meetings in Las Vegas.
‘Worst job I’ve ever had’
It’s clear that anyone who takes the job will be tasked with serving a mercurial boss, who doesn’t hesitate to take down and trash talk his staff even while they are still on the job.
Maybe Yankees president Randy Levine could help Donald Trump with his pitching style. (Reuters: Jessica Rinaldi/Files)
For months, Mr Trump harangued Jeff Sessions, his attorney-general. No matter it’s the country’s top legal job. He was angered at the outset of Mr Sessions’ appointment, when he recused himself from involvement in the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Mr Sessions put up with the jibes until the day after the November mid-term elections, when he was dumped by Mr Trump.
Bob Woodward’s best-selling book, Fear, explains why many want nothing to do with the Trump White House.
In it, General Kelly is quoted as allegedly saying, “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
General Kelly subsequently issued a statement saying the anecdote was “total BS” and saying he was “committed to the president, his agenda and our country.”
Once he no longer works in the White House, General Kelly presumably will be able to say whether the quote was indeed accurate.
Certainly, there are plenty of photos of General Kelly hiding his face in his hands after one of Mr Trump’s pronouncements to get the sense that there is at least a grain of truth to it.
Maybe the solution to the chief of staff opening is to air a special edition of The Apprentice: White House Edition. (AP)
Special edition of The Apprentice needed?
If there’s anyone who needs a strong chief of staff, it’s Mr Trump.
His work habits are questionable. The daily schedule released by the White House often includes just one appointment, and sometimes none.
Mr Trump is known for his long weekends spent at one of his golf courses or the Mar-a-Lago resort, and his hours on the golf course.
He’s left the impression he hates the mundane duties of his job, although he loves the perks.
Maybe the solution to the chief of staff opening is to air a special edition of The Apprentice: White House Edition.
Then, he could choose from among the hopefuls who audition for the job, assuming enough do.
Micheline Maynard is an American author and journalist.