Trump's worst sin against Ronny Jackson

In 2005, President George W. Bush stunned his supporters by nominating his White House counsel and former personal la...

Posted: Apr 25, 2018 10:22 AM
Updated: Apr 25, 2018 10:22 AM

In 2005, President George W. Bush stunned his supporters by nominating his White House counsel and former personal lawyer, Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court. While Miers was beloved by staffers inside the White House, even right-wing commentators considered Bush's decision reckless.

"However nice, helpful, prompt and tidy she is, Harriet Miers isn't qualified to play a Supreme Court justice on 'The West Wing' let alone be a real one," Ann Coulter wrote at the time.

Meanwhile, Democrats attacked the pick as an example of cronyism.

After what Bush later called "three terrible weeks," Miers phoned the president. It was late at night and Bush was working in his office in the Treaty Room. Miers told Bush she wanted him to withdraw her nomination.

"I put my friend in an impossible situation," Bush later recounted in his memoir, "Decision Points."

"If I had it to do over again, I would not have thrown Harriet to the wolves of Washington."

Bush soon chose Samuel Alito, who had elite legal credentials. Conservatives cheered the pick, and though Alito still had a rough confirmation process, the Senate confirmed him.

The Miers debacle has served ever since as a cautionary tale for presidents. The main lessons were that presidents should pick personnel for top positions who were a) at least minimally qualified and b) not viewed as cronies.

As with so many lessons of previous presidencies, the Miers episode seems quaint in the age of President Donald Trump. Trump has appointed his daughter and son-in-law to senior positions in the West Wing. His picks for top cabinet positions have been sent to the Senate with little or no vetting, putting Congress more firmly in charge of a scrubbing process to which the White House previously paid a great deal of attention.

The Presidential Personnel Office, which is in charge of recruiting potential administration officials, has been hobbled by inexperience and incompetence. In a devastating investigation, The Washington Post recently reported that the leadership of the office, rife with cronyism, includes "a college dropout with arrests for drunken driving and bad checks and a Marine Corps reservist with arrests for assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing an officer and underage drinking."

So few could have been surprised that Trump chose Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, to run the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs. Like Miers, Jackson was well-liked by White House staffers. Like Miers, both the right and the left found the pick shocking and embarrassing.

Given the impulsiveness of the decision, it was predictable that Jackson, the subject of apparently no White House vetting, would run into trouble in the Senate. On Monday, a hearing on his nomination was canceled amid vague allegations of professional misconduct and it became apparent Jackson's nomination was in grave danger.

On Tuesday afternoon, Trump delivered what may have been the final blow. In a rambling stream-of-consciousness answer to a question about Jackson's status, Trump, as he often does, narrated the drama over his VA pick as if he wasn't the president who nominated him.

"I said to Dr. Jackson, 'What do you need it for?'" Trump told reporters. "So we'll see what happens. I don't want to put a man through who's not a political person. I don't want to put a man through a process like this. It's too ugly and too disgusting. So we'll see what happens. He'll make a decision."

All of this was Trump's fault: he picked someone without the proper experience or vetting. Then, when the decision blew up, he shrugged and wondered in public why his nominee would want to be put through such a process in the first place. He spoke like a bystander who had nothing to do with it.

If Jackson withdraws, as seems likely, the difference between how Bush and Trump handled their missteps is instructive. Bush stuck with her until she withdrew on her own, never hinting in public that he had made a mistake. (Miers stayed in her job at the White House for more than another year.) He later took responsibility for putting her through the ordeal. Bush's sin was extreme loyalty to a personal friend.

With the Jackson pick, Trump has managed to be simultaneously reckless, thoughtless and disloyal, by publicly undermining his friend at the first hint of trouble.

To borrow Bush's analogy, it's as if Trump fed someone to a pack of wolves and then asked him why he wanted to be eaten alive in the first place.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 996341

Reported Deaths: 16245
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1343262101
Lake658231151
Allen57160791
Hamilton45963460
St. Joseph43954607
Elkhart35546503
Vanderburgh31975473
Tippecanoe27694256
Johnson24821440
Hendricks23647353
Porter22735362
Madison18538404
Clark18383248
Vigo17274300
Monroe15117197
LaPorte14987249
Delaware14931256
Howard14574286
Kosciusko12166147
Hancock11597175
Bartholomew11447179
Warrick11225188
Floyd10983214
Wayne10840248
Grant9898217
Morgan9361176
Boone8819115
Dubois8210129
Dearborn815492
Henry8107150
Noble7944106
Marshall7786134
Cass7462119
Lawrence7379168
Shelby7115114
Jackson691788
Gibson6480113
Harrison641591
Huntington630299
Knox6269105
DeKalb623796
Montgomery6184109
Miami586595
Putnam573477
Clinton567171
Whitley558055
Steuben550473
Wabash5250101
Jasper520475
Jefferson504695
Ripley492485
Adams472773
Daviess4596112
Scott433968
Greene421196
Wells419787
Clay418460
White414261
Decatur4118101
Fayette402186
Jennings383260
Posey374243
LaGrange352078
Washington352049
Randolph339999
Spencer336442
Fountain331858
Sullivan326652
Starke310868
Owen310169
Fulton304566
Orange290562
Jay278445
Perry264452
Franklin262742
Carroll258232
Rush257232
Vermillion254254
Parke229726
Pike227343
Tipton225659
Blackford187840
Pulaski181155
Crawford158122
Newton155648
Benton150117
Brown144047
Martin137319
Switzerland133911
Warren120116
Union106615
Ohio84012
Unassigned0532

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1494160

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1623021662
Cuyahoga1442512412
Hamilton1042291409
Montgomery729771240
Summit607921094
Lucas55462904
Butler50923707
Stark457361053
Lorain34972568
Warren32373369
Mahoning30168672
Clermont27861321
Lake26543434
Delaware23920162
Licking23442283
Trumbull22420552
Fairfield22117241
Greene22014311
Medina21673305
Clark19567349
Richland18260280
Portage17616247
Wood17174220
Allen15672269
Miami15305296
Muskingum14481174
Columbiana13656263
Wayne13538263
Tuscarawas12415298
Marion11760175
Scioto11336154
Pickaway11264141
Erie10613180
Ross10425196
Lawrence9638137
Hancock9504149
Ashtabula9410197
Belmont9086197
Geauga8795157
Jefferson8455191
Huron8193139
Union809156
Washington8009137
Sandusky7677145
Athens767072
Knox7571138
Darke7530151
Seneca7184144
Ashland6776125
Auglaize664896
Shelby6392111
Brown627382
Crawford6159130
Mercer606793
Defiance6059102
Fulton590596
Highland587199
Madison585776
Clinton575190
Logan569092
Guernsey568467
Preble5640121
Putnam5238108
Williams516784
Perry511761
Champaign502971
Jackson495470
Ottawa477886
Coshocton468382
Morrow449056
Pike429962
Fayette420760
Adams409987
Gallia409865
Hardin409276
Van Wert362378
Henry357171
Holmes3549122
Hocking350378
Wyandot316561
Carroll295459
Paulding275145
Meigs257849
Monroe212153
Noble195646
Morgan190132
Harrison177842
Vinton161724
Unassigned05
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