Cabinet Members: Don’t Quit on Trump
The exodus of chief executive officers from two of President Donald Trump’s advisory councils led him to disband the panels Wednesday. That’s no great loss: The councils mostly served political rather than policy purposes. But for those who serve in the highest ranks of government, the issue is different, and quitting is not the answer.
It’s hard to fault anyone for resigning in disgust over Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. His failure to speak with moral clarity has emboldened hate groups that espouse racial and religious segregation, and worse. His inability even to acknowledge the moral dimension of the episode -- “I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane,” he said, in castigating both groups of demonstrators -- betrays a deep ignorance of the responsibilities of his office, the nation’s long struggle with discrimination, and the guarantees of the Constitution.
Nevertheless, it is imperative that any president be surrounded by a smart, capable and responsible team. Without one, the country runs grave risks that implicate not only its own future, but the world’s.
With Trump in charge, it’s especially important to have White House aides and cabinet members who can contain the damage done by the president. Time and again, officials have walked back false or inflammatory comments on major issues such as North Korea, Qatar, NATO, and Russian interference in the 2016 election. The clarifications and disavowals are a necessary check on Trump’s recklessness and outright dishonesty.
All presidents face crises, sometimes of their own making. At some point, it might be a matter of life and death to have people around Trump who can protect the country and the world from his dangerous instincts.
When John Kelly took over as chief of staff last month, he reportedly told White House aides he expects them to put country first, the president second, and their own priorities last. That was a sound directive, and it should apply to all administration officials. Trump may give them good reason to quit -– in fact, he already has. The nation needs them to stay.