Imagine you’re a 26-year-old Republican. (I’ll give you a minute.) You’ve worked for the Republican National Committee since graduating from college. Beyond all expectations, a reality TV host with no political experience who runs a controversial family real estate business in NYC (and claims, with no proof, that he and it are worth billions) won the 2016 presidential election. You cry. You accept a job in the Trump administration because it puts you in the White House.
Two-and-a-half years later, you lose your coveted job working for the most powerful man in the world for having one too many Sauvignon blancs at a dinner with reporters where you spilled a few embarrassing tales about the man’s children. The firing is splashed all over the news. You’re another casualty in a rotating cast of hired-and-fired characters from this administration.
However, unlike a crazy-rich, powerfully connected former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who was fired by tweet while sitting on the toilet, for example, you’ve just started your career. What happens now? You aligned yourself with a mendacious, cruel and blatantly unfit president. What reputable company will hire you?
This is what happened to Madeleine Westerhout, Trump’s former executive assistant and Director of Oval Office Operations. Just 28, she was fired a few weeks ago for being too loose with information. Unlike Tillerson, she likely doesn’t have friends to shuffle her ASAP into a K Street lobbying group. Loose lips sink careers.
So many people have been either fired or resigned from this administration that your head spins. As of Sept. 5, 2019, President Trump’s “A Team” turnover stood at more than 75%. John Bolton was the latest example.
Normally, having the White House on your resume ensures a plethora of open doors and your choice of lucrative careers. Presidential alumni go on to many prestigious posts in academia, politics and tech, or open their own consulting firms with clients lined up out the door. But what about those in early or mid-career? Can they survive the stain of working for the most divisive, unpopular president in history? I’m not so sure. Working for Trump in your 20s and 30s leaves you with limited options.
After all, Trump has ruled over the most toxic, mean-spirited administration in US history. From caging immigrant children to gutting the Environmental Protection Agency to taking billions from military projects to build his wall, working for him paints you with a dirty brush. And remember, while large corporations tend to stay away from controversial hires, even many small companies now do not to be linked to Trump — unless they’re already a Trump-supporting company.
So where do these people go? Hope Hicks, she of luscious hair, was an anomaly. Last year, she was offered a position so outside of her qualifications, it was clearly a loyalty hire. At age 30, she was named executive vice president and chief communications officer of New Fox, based in LA. Clearly someone had her back.
But Sean Spicer, he of large inauguration crowd sizes, wrote a book no one read and had a short-lived career as a visiting lecturer at Harvard. Now he’s on Dancing with the Stars:
Now there’s a career.
Being hired at the White House — not just in the administration but close to the center of power — used to mean that you were connected, talented and capable. Those jobs are the most prestigious, given to the top campaign workers, and, once they leave, they used to be hot commodities, with many offers available to them. Not so much for the Trump White House. Last April, Buzzfeed found not many companies interested in hiring someone from the Trump administration. They didn’t want the public backlash or worse:
“Things are still pretty bleak inside the White House,” the source said. “I’ve talked to several people in the last week trying to find a way out, but they can’t get out because no one is really hiring people with Trump White House experience. Not a fun time to say the least.” That’s especially pronounced for more junior staff.
It’s also hard to say if the lack of companies opening their doors because of the Trump administration or because so many of these White House aides are wholly unqualified for anything in the first place. We know this administration had trouble filling positions with qualified people and opted instead for Trump loyalists. And in Trump’s mind, loyalty is more important than qualifications, anyway.
It’s not just White House insiders risking ruined reputations — it’s agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which was pulled into the mess that Trump caused when he undercut the National Weather Service over Hurricane Dorian.
BREAKING: NOAA has sided with President Trump, rather than its own scientists: https://t.co/9fFQpFrtbs
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) September 6, 2019
After a week of being mocked by the press and pretty much everyone for Sharpiegate, I suspect that Trump demanded a senior-level NOAA employee come out publicly and state that he was right all along. What a sad day for a supposedly nonpolitical, science-based, well-respected organization. Now the NOAA looks like every other Trump acolyte. Another tragedy caused by the idiot in office. I feel bad for the poor sucker who had to sit next to Trump as he held up that sharpie-enhanced forecast. His reputation can now join the other White House aides on the trash heap.
At some point, when does one’s reputation mean more than working for the President? Here’s more from Buzzfeed:
Several sources said it has been especially hard for mid- and lower-level aides to find new jobs, but even some senior-level staffers are struggling — particularly those who either got their jobs after working for the campaign and were new to government work or those who have gotten dragged into the Russia investigation.
Keeping their future career prospects in mind is also one of the reasons why Republicans are turning down opportunities to work in the administration. Middle-aged Republicans who would typically jump at the chance to work in a GOP administration are foregoing the opportunity in part because they don’t want to jeopardize their future career options.
“I have another 15-20 years of working in town,” said one prominent GOP lobbyist. “The risk is just not worth it.”
There are, of course, Trump diehards like the odious Stephen Miller, who already has his dream job of kicking out all non-white people from America. Still, I believe there will be a brutal reckoning for all who truly thought that working for the Trump administration would be their golden ticket to a successful, lucrative career. I’d feel sorry for them, but I don’t. They willingly hooked themselves into one of the most embarrassingly inept presidents in history. I’d wish them the best of luck, but that’s a waste of a wish.
I have no sympathy for those who thought the policies of this corrupt president, and his equally corrupt administration, were correct and just.