President Trump, who often exaggerates when it comes to numbers and statistics of the “biggest” or the “most we’ve ever seen” should be believed 100 percent if he brags of having the largest number of open appointments and unfilled vacancies in the highest levels of government.
While some presidents might be justifiably concerned about this, Trump is a different kind of cat altogether, admitting he “sorta likes acting” as in “Acting Secretary of Defense” or “Acting Secretary of the Interior” or “Acting FAA Chief”…As of this week, more than halfway through his presidency, only 438 of 716 key positions have been filled. More than 150 Senate-confirmed positions are still waiting for nominations from the White House.
As Trump explains it, not filling high-level jobs gives him “flexibility.” Keep in mind we’re not talking The Guy Who Uses a Crumb Comb to Remove Stray Sesame Seeds Off the Oval Office Desk or The Woman Who Unhinges Melania’s Perpetually Clenched Jaw Every Morning. We’re talking about defense, homeland security, law and order, the economy, health and welfare, infrastructure—the big stuff.
Trump, who never seems far removed from his job as huckster host of The Apprentice, seems remarkably relaxed about the work that isn’t getting done thanks to his need for flexibility. Chill out. What’s the rush? He will swipe right and find someone in due time.
One analyst said the biggest problem in having so many vacancies in high places is it creates a “substitute teacher effect.” Max Steir, head of the Partnership for Public Service, told NBC News recently the “acting” department heads and others don’t get the same respect or feel as invested in the job as someone who has been nominated and approved by Congress.
It’s true. Nobody really watches the video on igneous rock in physical geography class when the sub is on the job.
Think back to your own school days when the beleaguered substitute tried valiantly to get your attention. If the “acting” calls a meeting will everybody just leave and go to the library if she doesn’t show up in 15 minutes?
One reason Trump may not be in a hurry to fill these jobs is he has trust issues aplenty. So, if he does find someone he thinks he can trust, he’s not shy to load them up with two jobs.
For example, Mick (“Mick”) Mulvaney is both Acting Chief of Staff and Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he bartends on “drink free til you pee” night at the Georgetown Applebee’s.
John J. Sullivan is Deputy Secretary of State and Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources. And, no, I have no idea what that last one does but it sounds like a pretty big deal.
Trump, in his best imitation of a fractious toddler demanding to tie his own shoes, often says he can do it all by himself. Maybe he thinks those high-level bureaucrats are superfluous. It’s just the government, not Mar-a-lago’s grounds crew, for heaven’s sake.