DANA MILBANK: Here are six steps to surviving job in Trump administration
WASHINGTON -- So you are about to accept President Trump’s offer to be White House chief of staff. On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you. We were worried nobody would take the job.
You say you have no experience in government or politics. Not a problem! Nobody else in the White House knows how to run a country, either. And don’t be alarmed by those never-Trumpers who claim “Everything Trump Touches Dies.” That’s overstated. You will be ostracized, publicly humiliated and possibly imprisoned -- but you won’t literally die. At least not if you take the following precautions to maximize your job satisfaction and personal happiness:
Find a therapist. Working for Trump is bruising to self-esteem. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, in receiving his three-year prison sentence Wednesday, tearfully described his “personal and mental incarceration” in Trump’s employ. He surely felt the pain of going from being a “fine person” and a “great guy” in Trump’s eyes to a “weak person and not a very smart person.”
But with cognitive-behavioral therapy, you may feel less hurt than those before you. Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who ran ExxonMobil, was reduced from being called a “world class player” by Trump and “one of the truly great business leaders” to being “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell.” Jeff Sessions, who surrendered a Senate seat to become attorney general, went from an “honest man” to “Mr. Magoo.” Stephen K. Bannon was “tough and smart” before “Sloppy Steve” “lost his mind.” Omarosa Manigault Newman, a “loyal friend,” turned into a “lowlife” “Wacky” “dog.”
Don’t quit your day job. Consider a leave of absence from your current job. Or maybe just call in sick. Anthony Scaramucci, one of several communications directors under Trump, lasted just 10 days. Even if you last longer, it won’t be by much. Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution says turnover among the most senior White House staffers (that’s you!) is 83 percent. And it happens suddenly: A deputy national security adviser was just ousted after the first lady’s office requested it -- publicly.
Also, a former White House official complained to BuzzFeed, “no one is really hiring people with Trump White House experience.” Possibly that’s because so many depart under accusations of domestic abuse, white supremacy, drunkenness or, in the case of former Cabinet members Tom Price and David Shulkin, feasting at the taxpayer trough. Former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is now associated primarily with Ritz-Carlton lotion, “tactical” pants and a soundproof phonebooth.
Get married, or join a celibate religious order. Trump once boasted that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases was his own “personal Vietnam”; his aides now find that dating is their own personal Syria. People who work for Trump cannot get dates. Politico reported that “Trump supporters swipe left” could be “the single most common disclaimer on dating app profiles in Washington.”
Open Uber Eats and Instacart accounts (under a pseudonym). Take sensible precautions to minimize the inevitable shunning that comes with the job. Embattled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, right after defending Trump’s soon-to-be-abandoned family-separation policy, unwisely dined at a Mexican restaurant -- where she was heckled.
As Sarah Sanders found, even Virginia is unsafe for Trump people. And the chuckling (if not the heckling) will follow you after the job, as Washington paragons-cum-punchlines Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer know. You should feel free to blame George Soros if anybody is rude to you in public. But better to lie low, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin does: Booed at UCLA, he canceled an appearance at his alma mater, Yale.
Get a lawyer. Very important! Do not wait until you’ve broken the law. Five former advisers to Trump -- Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos -- have already accepted guilty pleas or been convicted, and several more -- Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner -- could be in jeopardy, too. With so many scandals enveloping so many in Trump’s orbit, the best criminal-defense lawyers are already spoken for.
Above all: Have fun! There are great names in the graveyard of former Trump officials. John F. Kelly, H.R. McMaster and Flynn were much-decorated generals before their humiliations, and Gary Cohn was a Wall Street titan before his. But you, Trump’s third chief of staff in two years, are not burdened by a good reputation, so there’s little to lose. Worst case, you wind up in jail, which isn’t so bad. You wouldn’t be able to get a date anyway.