Those who fail to learn from their own mistakes are doomed to repeat them, and sure enough, Donald Trump just repeated one of his most costly mistakes. Shortly after taking office, Trump tried the naive strategy of scapegoating one of his own people at a time to try to fend off the Trump-Russia scandal. All it did was embolden those who wanted to force him to keep sacrificing his own people. Now he’s making that same mistake again – with his cabinet.
When several of Trump’s cabinet members were caught wasting taxpayer money on exorbitant travel, Trump made the scandal go away for a time by scapegoating HHS Secretary Tom Price. But now that everything is going wrong for Trump and he’s in need of scapegoats, he’s begun firing cabinet members left and right. First he fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a guy he never really liked anyway, seemingly just for kicks. Then he fired quasi-cabinet member H.R. McMaster for no good reason.
These are three people Trump never liked or trusted anyway. In his mind it was no loss. But once the media began harping on how things were getting even worse at the VA, Trump felt pressured to fire VA Secretary David Shulkin in the hope of making the story go away. The trouble for Trump: now everyone knows that they simply have to make a big enough deal out of any given cabinet member’s scandals, and there’s a good chance Trump will panic and fire them. The sharks are already circling EPA Director Scott Pruitt over his corruption scandal; he’ll likely be the next to go. If we want Ben Carson gone, all we have to do is hype up his dining room furniture scandal.
The catch is that each time Donald Trump fires even more cabinet members, he tries to replace them with someone even worse. But if you’re of the view that this kind of dysfunction and embarrassment will only serve to help hasten Trump’s ouster, then all you have to do is make his cabinet members’ various scandals into big enough problems that he’ll sacrifice them one at a time. Trump made this mistake with his Trump-Russia co-conspirators. Now he’s making it again.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report