Having spent several years of my misspent youth working for politicians, both on the campaign trail as well as a House and Senate staffer, I can assure you there office politics in a politician’s office are in an entirely different league from any other work environment. It is graduate-level office politics. It’ is Major League office politics.
There are only two main goals in life: 1) to get re-elected i.e., job security and 2) to get the ear of the politician i.e., power. Friendships and alliances are formed, broken, and re-formed. You never know who is going to be the person who will stab you in the back.
Granted, there may be a few places where honesty and scruples are valued. But in four different offices, two for a Member of Congress and two for a U.S. Senator, I never encountered one. In my last position (House) I learned there were people going to the Member saying I wasn’t pulling my fair share of the workload.
Seeing the writing on the wall, and not wishing to engage in backstabbing of my own, I immediately tendered my resignation and moved out of D.C. to my parents’ house in Georgia. I had had enough. Needless to say, I was enormously gratified to learn later on that they had to hire two people to do the job I had been doing on my own.
My tenure in Washington coincided with Richard Nixon’s second term. At the time, many around Washington considered his White House one of the most dysfunctional ever. His Vice-President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign because of criminal charges pending against him for accepting and receiving bribes.
Then the infamous Saturday Night Massacre when both the Attorney General Eliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned within hours of each other rather than comply with Nixon’s request to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.
The drawn-out legal battle over releasing the White House tapes that ended with the Supreme Court unanimously ruling that Nixon must comply with the court order to release them. Many working on the Hill at the time seriously contemplated that Nixon would declare martial law and call out the National Guard before complying with the Supreme Court ruling.
There were moments of unintended humor when Nixon’s personal secretary tried to explain how she “accidentally” erased 18 minutes on one of the tapes. Or the time, while in my last House job, working for a Democrat, when a young lady came by looking for a job. Her resume listed both Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman as references. Needless to say, that piece of paper went straight into the trash can.
But despite all the controversy surrounding Nixon and his administration, no one disputed that Richard Nixon was in control and getting things accomplished. The Paris Peace Accords, which led to the end the war in Vietnam, was signed in January, 1973. This led to Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger receiving the 1973 Nobel Prize for Peace. Nixon also supported legislation that increased Social Security benefits as well as an increase in the minimum wage.
It is true that the Watergate scandal loomed over his second term as president and he achieved nothing close to his accomplishments during his first term. Yes, and there were leaks, but nothing on the scale seen today in the Trump White House.. Leaking was, for the most part, carefully controlled to support the administration’s narrative. Of course, most people only recall the most famous leaker of them all, Deep Throat, who later turned out to be the disgruntled #2 man at the F.B.I. who had been passed over for promotion. And the Pentagon Papers. Almost forgot that one.
But there were few, if any, leaks about dysfunction and chaos within the White House itself. Certainly nothing on the scale seen today. The White House was staffed by professionals who knew the score. As much as Nixon disliked the mainstream media, with good cause for the most part, you never, ever heard him or any of his staff referring to it as “the enemy of the American people.”
Today we have a White House where no one, not even the President, seems to be in charge. Instead, the Chief Executive seems to enjoy pitting one West Winger against another, in something like modern-day gladiator games. And Trump sits high up in the stands, giving the thumbs up or thumbs down, to decide who will be the winner. The presidential favorites shift from day to day in such a way that no one knows whose head will be next on the chopping block.
In fewer than six months in office, Trump has seen the departure of his National Security Advisor, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, his Press Secretary, and now his Chief of Staff. He has also placed his own Attorney General directly in his sights as the next to go. While many hope that his appointment of General John Kelly as his new chief of staff will restore some semblance of order and discipline to an administration marked by chaos, that will only happen in Trump is willing to delegate some of his authority to Kelly. If past is prologue, then that will never occur.
While Nixon was able to achieve many of his legislative goals with a Congress controlled by the Democrats, Trump has accomplished absolutely nothing with a Congress controlled by Republicans. Nixon pulled off a diplomatic triumph with the Paris Peace Accords; Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord in a diplomatic disaster.
In the meanwhile, with people like KellyAnne Conway, Anthony Scaramucci,, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaking for the administration, it becomes clearer each day that the lunatics are running the asylum.