True cost of rampant White House turnover: Inexperience breeds incompetence

True cost of rampant White House turnover: Inexperience breeds incompetence
© UPI Photo

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's top adviser on Asia to serve as deputy national security adviser United Auto Workers strike against GM poised to head into eighth day Trump doubles down on call to investigate Biden after whistleblower complaint: 'That's the real story' MORE has a staff infection.

The departure of Omarose Manigault Newman is just the latest sign of disorder in the White House. A recent Brookings Institution study shows that there has been more turnover in the Trump administration than there has been in any of other previous five presidential administrations. 

The turnover in Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was a sign of trouble to come. He went through three campaigner managers: Corey Lewdowski, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortUkraine could badly damage both Donald Trump and the Democrats Lewandowski refuses to say whether Trump has offered him a pardon Democrats return to a battered Trump MORE, recently convicted of bank fraud, and Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayOcasio-Cortez calls out Democrats for refusing to impeach Trump George Conway rips Trump: Ukraine allegations are 'over the top' Clarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump MORE. The past is prelude to the present in Trump World.

ADVERTISEMENT

Round and around, the White House staff goes. Where everybody lands, nobody knows. Three Trump Cabinet-level appointees left their jobs in 2017. No Cabinet member left in the first year in any other of the previous five presidential administrations.

 

Trump’s first secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceTom Price: The fiscal crisis at hand The Hill's Morning Report — Hurricane headed for Florida changes Trump's travel plans The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks MORE, crashed and burned for flying first class too often. Trump's original chief of staff, Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusPoliticon announces lineup including Comey, Hannity, Priebus Sunday shows - White House stresses Trump's determination in China trade fight as GOP challenger emerges Priebus: Left's 'wacko ideas' are opportunity for Republicans in 2020 MORE, left after losing an internal White House power struggle. John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE entered the administration revolving door and left his job as secretary of Homeland Security to fill the chief of staff vacancy.

Another three Cabinet-level appointees left in 2018 for a grand total of six high-level departures since Trump's inauguration. The president has made his displeasure with Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick Democrats press Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' MORE quite clear. The only reason Sessions survives is that his departure would lead to an uproar about the Justice Department's investigation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign.

The instability of Trump's A Team of high-level staff appointees has been remarkable. Brookings identified 67 positions in this category and more than half (37) of the original appointees have already left their jobs. This is a much higher burn rate than the turnover in the staff of recent presidential administrations.

Anthony Scaramuchi, we hardly knew ye! The "Mooch" is the classic example of the instability of the Trump regime. In an administration where turnover is as common as "lock her up chats" at a Make America Great Again rally, Donald Trump's second of three communication directors won the exit door prize with an 11-day tenure. 

According to Brookings, 14 of the 37 departed staffers resigned under pressure. The high burn rate is due to two factors.

Trump grew disenchanted quickly with some of the people in his administration. Trump famously said he would "surround myself only with the best and most serious people." The turnover suggests otherwise. 

Every week is shark week in the Trump White House. The internal bloodletting in there is vicious; even by Washington standards. Priebus was the victim of a three headed power struggle between he, alt right avatar Stephen Bannon (no relation) and the power couple, Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump officials mull plan to divert billions more to border wall: report California trip shows Trump doesn't always hate the media Trump's 'soldier of fortune' foreign policy MORE. Reince was the odd man out in this meange a trois and Bannon was pushed out soon after Priebus got his walking papers.

Why is so much turnover so dangerous? Because we have a president without government experience and a revolving cast of top administration officials who aren't around long enough to get their bearings and to learn their jobs. Inexperience breeds incompetence. 

The world is a dangerous case and it's no time for a game of musical chairs in the White House. Trump's performance in the international area has been shaky at best. The administration's failures in foreign policy have hardly been surprising given the high turnover in the key players. The first national security adviser, Michael Flynn was an early casualty. Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTillerson: Netanyahu 'played' Trump with misinformation Pompeo sees status grow with Bolton exit Trump blasts 'Mr. Tough Guy' Bolton: 'He made some very big mistakes' MORE barely lasted a year and his replacement, Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo: Countries should reject China's demands to repatriate Uighurs Trump says he will consider releasing transcript of Ukraine call White House officials, Giuliani come to Trump's defense on Ukraine allegations MORE had to give up his job as CIA director. 

Perhaps the worst thing about the Trump presidency is its seeming incompetence. The best indication of Trump's failure is his inability to work with a Congress controlled by his own party. Presidents often have problems with Congress. But presidents whose party controls both houses of Congress can generally get the denizens of Capitol Hill to do his bidding.

Despite GOP control of the White House and both houses of Congress, only one major Trump initiative, his tax cut program has survived the gauntlet on Capitol Hill. President Obama was able to use Democratic control of Congress to get two controversial bills, ObamaCare and the American Jobs Act passed into law in his first year in office. 

If Trump fails to get his own White House in order, the next Democratic president will do it for him in 2021.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. (There is no relation to former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon). He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, a social media network for politics. Contact him at brad@bannoncr.com