Ac­count­abil­ity re­turns to the White House

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY JOSEPH CURL

Af­ter Bill Clin­ton lit­er­ally soiled the Oval Of­fice (and that fa­mous blue dress), Ge­orge W. Bush vowed to “re­store honor and dig­nity” to the White House. Don­ald Trump made a sim­i­lar pledge when he cam­paigned, promis­ing to “drain the swamp” that is Wash­ing­ton, D.C. And re­mark­ably, he’s done just that (at least the swamp mon­sters that dwell in 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue).

From June 30, 2017, to June 30 this year, 141 peo­ple who worked for the pres­i­dent have hit the bricks. That’s some 37 per­cent of the staff. Some 56 per­cent of the “high­est-rank­ing peo­ple in Trump’s White House named in last year’s pay­roll report have since left or have an­nounced they will soon leave,” the Daily Mail re­ported this month.

Many were fired or pushed out. Those sud­den de­sires to “spend more time with fam­ily?” Nuh-uh. There’s a new CEO in town, and this one not only has no prob­lem say­ing, “You’re fired,” but the one­time star of “The Ap­pren­tice” re­al­ity TV show also seems to en­joy it.

In Mr. Trump’s White House, staffers re­ally do work at the plea­sure of the pres­i­dent. Dis­please him and — poof — you’re gone.

Take for­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Anthony Scara­mucci. He was hired on July 21, 2017, be­gan work on July 25, held a dis­as­trous press con­fer­ence, made deroga­tory state­ments about fel­low staffers in a late-night phone call with a “jour­nal­ist,” and then was fired on July 31. Six days he lasted — set­ting a new record.

Plenty of other top-level staffers have also de­parted, and not al­ways of their own ac­cord, in­clud­ing chief of staff Reince Priebus, top eco­nomic ad­viser Gary Cohn, deputy chief of staff Rick Dear­born and press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer.

That’s a far cry from how things have been done in the past two ad­min­is­tra­tions. Un­der Barack Obama, the de­spi­ca­ble At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder was held in con­tempt by Con­gress and the dis­hon­est Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton was re­spon­si­ble for the deaths of four Amer­i­cans, but nei­ther was fired.

Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions have been just as bad. Re­mem­ber “Brownie”? De­spite his blun­der­ing in­com­pe­tence han­dling the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, FEMA head Michael Brown got a glow­ing re­view from Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, who fa­mously said, “Brownie, you’re do­ing a heck of a job.” He wasn’t, of course, but ev­ery two weeks tax­pay­ers shelled out thou­sands of dol­lars to keep him in his cushy FEMA job (why the for­mer Judges and Stew­ards Com­mis­sioner for the In­ter­na­tional Ara­bian Horse As­so­ci­a­tion ever even got ap­pointed to the post is any­one’s guess). It’s a dif­fer­ent story now. “At the se­cond-high­est level of com­mis­sioned White House staff — deputy as­sis­tants to the pres­i­dent — 43 per­cent of staffers named in the first Trump pay­roll report had left by this year’s update, ver­sus 15 per­cent in the equiv­a­lent time frame for the Obama White House,” the Mail re­ported. “In the third-high­est level — spe­cial as­sis­tants to the pres­i­dent — 39 per­cent left, ver­sus 24 per­cent for Obama.” You’re fired! Which brings us to Scott Pruitt. This guy is a piece of work.

“Pruitt ded­i­cated tax­payer re­sources at his con­trol to ob­tain­ing the proper per­fumed hand lo­tion, try­ing to buy a Trump Ho­tel mat­tress, try­ing to help Mrs. Pruitt be­come a chicken fran­chisee, get­ting Pruitt to din­ner on time, fly­ing Pruitt around Europe, and in the end, pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion for more than a dozen fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his con­duct,” wrote the Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner.

Mr. Pruitt was the ad­min­is­tra­tor of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency. He spent more than $100,000 on first-class travel in his first year. He de­manded a se­cure phone booth (think Cone of Si­lence) for his of­fices, which cost $43,000. The list goes on and on. Ethics was not Mr. Pruitt’s strong suit.

So last week, Pres­i­dent Trump dropped the boom. You’re fired. It was all re­ported as Mr. Pruitt re­sign­ing, but that’s not what hap­pened.

“Scott Pruitt was told by the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to re­sign,” Bloomberg News re­ported. “That’s ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter, who say the for­mer EPA chief didn’t want to leave his post. Dur­ing a phone call, Kelly told Pruitt that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump wanted him to leave af­ter rev­e­la­tions that the ad­min­is­tra­tor’s sched­ule has been al­tered to shield some meet­ings from pub­lic view. Pruitt was caught off guard by Kelly’s call Thurs­day, one source says, just one day af­ter cel­e­brat­ing In­de­pen­dence Day at the White House.”

So say what you want about the pres­i­dent. But this much is true: In Wash­ing­ton to­day, at this mo­ment, all those poseurs cash­ing gov­ern­ment pay­checks bet­ter watch out. If Mr. Trump finds out you stink at your job — and he will — you’re toast.

And the Amer­i­can tax­payer should be very happy about that. Joseph Curl cov­ered the White House and politics for a decade for The Wash­ing­ton Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twit­ter @josephcurl.

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