THE revolving door that is the current US White House continues to spin as President Trump sacks yet another member of his staff, this time Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. If there ever was an example of the antithesis of job security, a position in the White House has to be it.
It certainly calls into question Donald Trump’s judgment of character – that he can appoint people to some of the most important posts in the US administration presumably on merit, and then fire them again before they’ve even had a chance to hang up their shingle, as the Americans say. The skip (or dumpster to give it its transatlantic name) of suddenly obsolete letter-heads waiting to be recycled must be full to overflowing.
In his chat with the media after the announcement was made, I thought I heard President Trump saying something to a reporter to the effect that, while he had dismissed Tillerson, “there were plenty of good people out there” (with which to replace him).
And that’s how he seems to run his White House – like a glorified mail order service: he appoints someone, gives them a few months or maybe even only a few weeks to see if they fit, and if he doesn’t like them, he simply sends them back and orders a replacement.
I can’t believe someone hasn’t suggested this already, or maybe they did and I missed it, but someone should make Donald Trump sit down and watch, non-stop, every episode of all seven series of the US drama The West Wing in the hope that it will teach him how the White House should be run and what it means to be truly presidential because, on current form, he clearly has no idea.
Fictional communications director Toby Ziegler and press secretary CJ Cregg would be spinning in their graves – if they were real and if they were dead – at the daily disasters resulting from Donald Trump’s liberal, uncensored and unfettered use of the Twittersphere.
And while we’re on the subject of The West Wing, in a 2003 episode Speaker of the House, Glen Walken, briefly assumed the presidency after President Bartlett was forced to recuse himself when his daughter was kidnapped. Splendidly played by actor John Goodman, whose silhouette would be indistinguishable from that of Donald Trump, viewers might have been forgiven for fearing for the presidency as Walken brought his highly abrasive and confrontational style to the White House. Talk about fictional history repeating itself 15 years on!
The current White House has become little more than a soap opera – the “whiter than white” house – and it is doing nothing for the credibility of the US government. How can foreign governments establish a working relationship with the United States when, from one day to the next, they have no idea who they will be working with as they wake to the sound of the exit door slamming shut yet again?
Tuesday morning’s news headlines on the BBC were that, on the subject of the Salisbury nerve agent attack, Theresa May was planning to speak with Rex Tillerson. Too late.
And someone commenting a couple of days ago on the proposed talks with North Korea, suggested that the US needed to have an experienced diplomatic structure in place before entering into such talks which, they said, it didn’t currently have.
Whatever they might have had, they now they have even less following Tillerson’s departure unless his replacement Mike Pompeo can get up to speed very, very quickly, and is still in the job when the talks take place. Of course it was all Donald Trump’s idea anyway so maybe he doesn’t need anyone else – just him and Kim Jong-un in a room together. Now that’s a room where you really wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall!
It has to be said that there’s one good thing about there being a time difference between the UK and the east coast of the United States and it’s this. Typically we wake up to the news of the Donaldine goings-on, which are often bad enough, but if the very worst were to happen (he being the one with the nuclear codes and his finger on the button), thankfully we’d never know about it because on this occasion we probably wouldn’t wake up in the first place – and there’s a comforting thought.
Neil McNicholas is a parish priest in Yarm.