I hereby renounce any snark I have aimed at the current administration regarding its inability to staff the executive branch of government because, if the good people at ProPublica are as right as they usually are, the country is better off if we don’t allow these dolts to hire anyone at all. Apparently, since the inauguration, we’re all writing checks to the unbalanced.
A Trump campaign aide who argues that Democrats committed “ethnic cleansing” in a plot to “liquidate” the white working class. A former reality show contestant whose study of societal collapse inspired him to invent a bow-and-arrow-cum-survivalist multi-tool. A pair of healthcare industry lobbyists. A lobbyist for defense contractors. An “evangelist” and lobbyist for Palantir, the Silicon Valley company with close ties to intelligence agencies. And a New Hampshire Trump supporter who has only recently graduated from high school.
I remember when the biggest personnel scandal in Washington was when the Justice Department under C-Plus Augustus got turned into a hiring hall for the graduates of wingnut universities and law schools. Och, as Mr. Dooley said, thim was the days!
Curtis Ellis was a columnist for WorldNetDaily, a website best known for its enthusiastic embrace of the false notion that President Obama was born outside the United States. A column headlined the “The Radical Left’s Ethnic Cleansing of America” won Ellis an admiring interview with Steve Bannon, now Trump’s top aide. He is a longtime critic of trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Ellis was hired Jan. 20 as a special assistant to the secretary at the Labor Department. Asked about his role in a brief phone interview Tuesday, he said: “Nothing I can tell you.”
Naturally, the former occupants of the steadily draining swamp have found new habitats as well.
Timothy Clark, a senior adviser to HHS Secretary Tom Price, ran his own political consulting firm in California. His past clients included PhRMA, the powerful trade group that represents the pharmaceutical industry. Keagan Lenihan, also a senior adviser to Price, was a director of government relations at McKesson Specialty Health, a firm that supports independent health providers. Disclosure records show Lenihan directly lobbied HHS. For Lenihan, the new post represents a return trip through the revolving door between government and the private sector, and a reunion with an old boss. Before registering as a lobbyist, she was a senior legislative assistant for Price, when the now-HHS secretary was in Congress. Asked about the three HHS staffers, an agency spokeswoman said: “We are not confirming or commenting on personnel at this time.”
I don’t think the people who chanted “Drain The Swamp” at all those cool mass gatherings of the economically insecure did so in anticipation that, as the swamp drained, the administration would become the leachfield. Why this is happening—beyond, of course, the most basic explanation that we installed incompetent vandals last November—was made plain in Bloomberg News. If you’re not willing to sign aboard the Pequod in mind and body, you’re not welcome there.
The White House’s reasons for the holdups vary, but questions about loyalty to Trump played a role in at least two cases, some of the people said. Mnuchin’s pick for the Treasury’s top lawyer, Brent McIntosh, got an especially tough vetting by the White House personnel office after his Twitter feed was flagged as potentially critical of Trump. The trouble with his Twitter account, now set to private, wasn’t actual comments made by McIntosh, but news articles he had highlighted for his followers, according to people familiar with the situation. A partner at the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm, McIntosh originally backed former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s failed run for Republican candidate in last year’s presidential race. As the White House’s scrutiny intensified, McIntosh, who is well-known in conservative Washington legal circles, had several supporters contact administration officials to vouch for him, the people said. His friends stressed that his Twitter account didn’t show any anti-Trump sentiment. Rather, they argued, McIntosh’s tweets showed he strongly opposed Democrat Hillary Clinton.
I’m sure the self-criticism sessions and subsequent show trials will be highly entertaining. Perhaps a new reality show is in development. In any case, that whole “best and the brightest” thing seems to have run its course.