President Trump has been increasingly criticized by all but his most loyal supporters. Impeachment talk dominates the news. Talk of a Democratic sweep in 2018 is the hope of many Americans. So what should he do to fend off such talk?
Trump should move quickly to populate the executive branch of government with quality people — and there are many who are currently waiting to be appointed. They're experienced and willing to work for this embattled president, but their loyalty to country won't last forever.
Already, strong candidates have withdrawn their names from consideration for high government posts. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's pick for deputy secretary (the position that "runs" the department), Goldman Sachs' Jim Donovan, has withdrawn his name from consideration, citing "personal" reasons. Anthony Scaramucci, a strong Trump backer and prominent Wall Street financier, was passed over for a White House job. Former Illinois congressman Michael Flanagan, an early Trump supporter and Newsmax commentator, is ready to go to work for the administration, but has heard nothing since submitting an application months ago. Barbara Cosgriff, formerly an assistant to the vice president of NASDAQ, has abundant qualifications and supports the president. She's been recommended highly, but has only received silence from the White House. I know that Flanagan and Cosgriff could help Trump.
The president's job is difficult and has many facets. Setting policy is one part. The other main job is administrative — dealing with numerous agencies and subagencies. Cabinet secretaries usually run their departments, subject to policy directives from the president. They should be trusted enough by the president to staff their departments with individuals loyal to the secretary, the president, and of course the United States. But they're not being given that trust.
Reports are that Defense Secretary James Mattis, by all accounts a great public servant, has only been able to fill the Air Force secretary's position, among all others under his responsibility. The same goes for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a giant from the private sector who is still operating with some of President Obama's holdovers.
If a president cannot fill jobs essential to the operation of government, instead insisting that all appointees pledge their loyalty to him, soon that president will not have a staffing choice, as all qualified individuals will go elsewhere — meaning that the government will be staffed by less-qualified people. The time for a president to "staff up" is early in an administration, when qualified individuals still want to serve the newly elected president and our country.
Meanwhile, the news is full of presidential missteps, whether related to Russia, early morning or late-night tweets, the James Comey firing drama or other juicy tidbits proffered by Trump. They're all distractions from the agenda Trump pledged to pursue — an agenda to enact tax, health care and regulatory reforms. Such reforms could assure Trump's reelection and support for Congress, too. Perhaps Sen. Mitch McConnell was right when he said that "a little less drama" from the White House is warranted.
Democrats, progressives and certain media outlets drool every time Trump feeds the drama, ready to pounce on any perceived misstep. Before long, the public, including those who supported a Trump presidency, will tire of it all, instead turning inward and blotting out all things political.
That would be bad for democracy and the perpetuation of the American system of government, which is only as good as the people who run it. If only ideologues run the government, and not competent Americans who love our country, the government will lose the public's faith. And with an approval rating under 40 percent, Trump cannot rely only on his supporters to bolster his presidency. He needs to show competence.
The Constitution's Article II establishes the executive branch of the federal government, which is charged with carrying out and enforcing federal laws. It includes the president, vice president, the Cabinet, executive departments, independent agencies and other boards, commissions and committees.
When he was inaugurated on January 20, Donald Trump placed his left hand on the Bible, raised his right hand and swore to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution. To fulfill that promise, he must quickly name qualified Americans to operate the federal government. That's his obligation. And while he's entitled to enjoy a reasonable grace period for filling out his administration, that time is up.
If President Trump insists on being his own one-man government, with all of his enemies poised to pounce on any perceived misstep, he'll soon discover he's on a fool's errand, and will eventually find himself back in the private sector. ♦