Kirstjen Nielsen and John Mattis.
Jay Caruso, The Independent
Another day, another member of the Trump administration leaves. The latest departure is Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen. Summoned to the White House on Sunday evening, Nielsen reportedly didn’t have any intention of quitting. But Trump wanted her out and so she “resigned.”
Interestingly enough, in her resignation letter, she says nothing of Trump, writing, “It has been my great honor to lead the men and women of the Department as its sixth Secretary.”
Nielsen became an increasing indirect target of Trump’s railing about the chaos at the border with the president promising to get “tougher.” Nielsen’s greatest sin, it appeared, was to inform the president that federal laws and international protocols limited her ability to do whatever Trump demanded.
Trump’s dismissal of Nielsen raises the question of how he expects to do anything “tougher.” Nielsen will have the legacy of enforcing Trump’s strict family separation policy. It’s difficult to imagine anyone coming in and being more stringent than her.
If anything, it shines a light on just how deluded President Trump is at it relates to the operation of the federal government. At best, one can say the government moves methodically and can’t deal with Trump’s impetuous moves that zig, then zag, move forward and back just as quickly.
Trump’s penchant for acting on impulse is part of the reason his administration is in such tatters a mere two years after getting sworn in. Turnover in an administration is common, but it typically happens after a president gets re-elected and before the start of the second term begins, leaving time for an orderly transition.
Nielsen’s departure marks at least the sixth time (not counting those who moved from one role to another) a cabinet secretary left the administration after getting forced out, fired or resigning. If the public learned anything from Trump’s first two years, it’s he doesn’t have much patience, a necessary requirement when implementing sweeping changes to policy.
Trump sees laws and regulations limiting his power as a nuisance, and thus he rants and raves to get what he wants, or, worse, fails to inform the very people in charge of the policies he wants to implement, making knee-jerk Twitter announcements.
Trump’s ham-fisted attempt to withdraw troops from Syria cost him arguably the brightest and most reliable cabinet secretary he had, James Mattis. Mattis resigned, and Trump reversed his decision for the withdrawal several weeks later. Had he consulted with top military advisers at the time, Trump might have avoided the embarrassment.
And the president hurts the case he made to American voters that he “chooses the best people” to work for him by acting this way. During the 2016 campaign, he boasted his work in the business world required he hire people to assist in realizing his vision be “the best” at what they do.
In addition to Nielsen, Trump managed to force out or fire political colleagues including Tom Price, Ryan Zinke, Jeff Sessions, David Shulkin, and Rex Tillerson. By contrast, through the first two years of the three previous administrations, only Clinton had one cabinet-level change when Secretary of Defense Les Aspin resigned in 1993 following the death of 18 US soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Keeping those wheels greased assists in helping to carry out the president’s agenda, and Republicans in Congress can’t help but get frustrated at President Trump’s ability to rock the boat at a time when the situation demands steadiness. For Trump, the buck doesn’t stop with him. Everything is always someone else’s fault or the fault of something beyond his control such as the “fake news” media.
Unfortunately, Trump likely won’t change and that’s why he’s stuck with so many people holding down “interim” and “acting” positions. If the current pace keeps up, Trump will go into an election year with a skeleton crew cabinet and people unwilling to take over those empty spots. There’s nothing to indicate it won’t happen — and that’s not only bad for the president but for the country as well.
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