The Best People

You might have missed this, but Il Trumpe’s chief of protocol (a State Department position), Sean Lawler, is in trouble for, among other things, carrying a whip around the office to intimidate his subordinates. You might wonder, “How did he get past the vetting?” Well, one of those doing the vetting explains (boldface mine):

To be completely honest, when I reviewed Sean Lawler’s background documents, I was relieved. I had pored over dozens of nominee files during my tenure. A lot of them were really horrible

Yet here was a Trump administration nominee who had spent 30 years in government service, including 20 years in the Navy. He even had experience in protocol issues—that is, experience relevant to the job for which he was nominated. In the climate we were working in, this was a rarity, and a relief. I looked for awful incidents or brushes with the law in his record (one nominee I vetted had reportedly been under a restraining order for placing a shot-up paper gun range target in the office of her husband’s doctor). There were none…

Trump’s career Foreign Service nominees were fine and generally raised no difficult issues. But his political nominees raised a lot of issues. So we were desperate for “easy” nominees, because we loathed being painted by Republicans as blocking nominees for no good reason. We wanted to reserve our umbrage and blocking power for those with real, serious problems.

I’ll interrupt here and note that Republican underlings would not worry about being painted by Democrats as blocking nominees for no good reason. Anyway, back to the vetting:

And there were plenty of real issues for which we had to delay or block nominees—including serious concerns about the potential for harassment and abuse of State Department employees by people who didn’t carry whips. One nominee was said to have screamed at committee staff as he waited for his State Department handler to escort him to his next meeting. Another had been accused of multiple episodes of sexual harassment in his former workplace. There was the nominee who allegedly declared that he was nominated because his father is great friends with the Kushner family and had responded to an email asking if any family members wanted an ambassadorship. It was truly awful. In this context, Lawler’s confirmation was a welcome slam dunk.

As Il Trumpe once put it, “Only the best people.”

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