Opinion | White House

Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank

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Let's start with this fact: Nobody believes what Donald Trump and Alex Acosta told reporters about Acosta's departure as Labor secretary. Not even Donald Trump and Alex Acosta believe it.

Isn't it obvious? Acosta didn't resign, he was forced out. He didn't make the decision, Donald Trump did. He didn't step down because he wanted to spare the administration any further embarrassment, he was told to get out of Dodge to distract reporters from paying any more attention to Donald Trump's buddy-buddy relationship with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. He wasn't a "great labor secretary," he was a second-rate lawyer who should never have gotten the job in the first place.

There was no way Acosta could defend his kid-glove treatment of Epstein in 2008. There's no doubt the wealthy socialite was guilty of luring underage girls to his Palm Beach, Fla., mansion and paying them for sex. Acosta's argument that he had no choice but to accept a plea deal allowing Epstein to walk was emphatically rebutted by then-Palm Beach attorney Barry Krischer, who noted that Acosta's office had actually drafted a 53-page indictment against Epstein, which Acosta ignored.

But, of course, in the age of Trump, it was not Acosta's failure to prosecute Epstein that caused the president to dump him, it was Acosta's failure to do a better job explaining it on TV. Trump pressured him to hold a news conference, watched it from the Oval Office, didn't like what he saw, and fired him, further proving that the entire Trump administration is nothing but a giant, daily reality TV show.

Acosta made zero impact as Labor secretary. He will not be missed. What's significant about his departure is not the fact that he left, but the fact that he's the latest of nine Trump Cabinet members to leave or be kicked out in 30 months. Four left in the middle of a scandal: Tom Price, Health and Human Services; David Shulkin, Veterans Affairs; Ryan Zinke, Interior; and Acosta. Five others either clashed with Trump or walked away: Rex Tillerson, State; Jeff Sessions, attorney general; James Mattis, Defense; Kirsten Nielsen, Homeland Security; and John Kelly, Homeland Security, before becoming chief of staff. 

Note: This does not count EPA's Scott Pruitt, national security adviser Michael Flynn, or head economist Gary Cohn, who were technically not Cabinet members. Nor does it include former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and former acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. All in all, as tracked by the Brookings Institution, Trump has triggered more turnover in his first 2 1/2 years than any of his five predecessors did in their entire first terms.

On top of that, reports Brookings, as of July 8, the rate of turnover among "A" level, non-Cabinet but senior, White House aides is a stunning 76 percent. That list, of course, includes one-time Trump favorite Stephen Bannon as well as Hope Hicks, Robert Porter, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Anthony Scaramucci, Don McGahn, Ty Cobb and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Why the record turnover? Other than the fact that Donald Trump is clearly impossible to work for - his abusive treatment of everybody but Ivanka and Jared has been well-documented by several former staffers - Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, head of the Brookings presidential tracking project, notes that, in choosing senior staff, Trump clearly "valued loyalty over qualifications" and thus "suffered from a White House that has functioned in a chaotic manner." Which is a nice way of saying that Donald Trump is a lousy manager and knows nothing about governing.

Every administration has its hallmark. The symbol for the Trump White House will be a revolving door.

Press is host of "The Bill Press Pod." His Twitter handle is @BillPressPod. He is author of "From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire."

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