Monday, December 10, 2018


Nick Ayers, Mike Pence's chief of staff, won't become chief of staff to President Trump, reports Maggie Haberman in The New York Times:
As President Trump heads into the fight of his political life, the man he had hoped would help guide him through it has now turned him down, and he finds himself in the unaccustomed position of having no obvious second option.

Nick Ayers, the main focus of President Trump’s search to replace John F. Kelly as chief of staff in recent weeks, said on Sunday that he was leaving the administration at the end of the year. Mr. Ayers, 36, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, is returning to Georgia with his wife and three young children, according to people familiar with his plans.
The departure of current chief of staff John Kelly at the end of the year seems to have been arranged (i.e., Kelly seems to have been forced out) on the assumption that Ayers would take the job -- but now Ayers isn't taking the job.

Why couldn't Trump nail down the basic fact that Ayers wanted to leave Washington?

It's not as if Trump has mixed feelings about Ayers:
... two people close to Mr. Trump said that a news release announcing Mr. Ayers’s appointment had been drafted, and that the president had wanted to announce it as soon as possible.
And it's not as if Trump was merely playing Ayers off against other candidates. Hang on and you'll read the creepiest detail in the Haberman story:
Historically, [Trump] has signaled to competing prospects that each one is his choice, and then picks one even as he tells both that they are still in the running.

But this time, Mr. Ayers was the only person Mr. Trump had focused on since he made up his mind to part ways with Mr. Kelly. With a head of blond hair, Mr. Ayers somewhat resembles Mr. Trump in his younger days, a fact that the president often looks for as a positive signal. The president had an unusual affinity for Mr. Ayers, telling aides who expressed concern about Mr. Ayers that he liked him.
And I guess he does vaguely look like the young Trump:

Ayers reminds Trump of himself, so Trump likes Ayers. There's no evidence that Ayers has ever been in Trump's doghouse. I understand why it might be hard to tell Trump something he doesn't want to hear. But Ayers, as Haberman notes, has fuck-you money (or at least "gosh, no thanks" money):
... last year he reported a net worth of $12.2 million to $54.8 million, a sizable sum for a political operative in his 30s who has amassed his own fortune. He accumulated his wealth partly through a web of political and consulting companies in which he has held ownership stakes.
We're told that he "has been seen as a potential candidate for statewide office in Georgia." His future, or at least his immediate future, isn't in Washington. So why couldn't he get across to Trump the fact that he didn't want to take the job? Why couldn't the two of them have had a simple conversation in which Ayers expressed doubt, while Trump recognized that if Ayers wasn't sure, he needed to find another candidate, or he at least needed to give Ayers an ultimatum -- tell me yes or no by a certain date?

I think Trump is such a narcissist that he can't process an answer to a question if it's not the answer he wants to hear. Alternately, Ayers is (as all reports insist) a go-getter and a greasy-pole climber -- he didn't want to risk his good standing with Trump by telling him the truth, even though he'd have to tell him eventually.

Still, it's on Trump. I know he likes to maintain a Hunger Games atmosphere in his workplaces by periodically striking fear in people he likes at other times. I know that attacking enemies on the outside is his cardio -- it's something he needs to do every day.

But can't he have a straightforward conversation with someone who's in his good graces on a subject that crucial to his presidency? Why can't he even manage that?

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