By Rick Wilson
Rick Wilson is a Republican political consultant, a Daily Beast columnist and the author of “Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever.”
February 1 at 12:16 PM
Twenty months ago — four months into President Trump’s tenure — I tried my best to warn members of his team that even at that early stage, if you worked for Trump, it was time to quit. Whatever initial enthusiasm you had for the man, whatever your ambitions, however indispensable you thought you were in the attempt to smooth his rough edges, the smart move was to get out.
“Do it now,” I wrote, to preserve your professional reputation or a semblance of dignity.
But if, at this stage, you’re like former White House aide Cliff Sims, recently out with a book about Trump’s discombobulated “Team of Vipers” — but still tellinginterviewers how “proud” you were to work for him — you’re too late.
If you’re former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R), currently on the talk-show circuit, regaling us with tales of Trump’s hubris — mere weeks after interviewing for the White House chief of staff job — you’re too late. If you’re former congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), and you just accepted the job of acting White House chief of staff — your third Trump administration gig — the word “acting” in your title is an insufficient fig leaf. You’re definitely acting, just not in the way you think.
If you’re former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R), flailing as you leverage your past credibility to mount Trump’s legal defense, you’re not just too late, you’re pathetic. If you’re national security adviser John Bolton, at this point you’re a prop. If you seek redemption some day, after leaving the administration, I hope you have a verifiable story to tell about persuading Trump to stand down from an ill-advised missile strike.
There was a window of time during which giving Trump a chance was justifiable out of a sense of duty to country. You might have been vindicated for doing so if Trump had surprised us all and made good on his boast that, “with the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office.” But that window closed. You had ample opportunity to see, up close, the capriciousness, vainglory and allergic reaction to facts that the rest of us saw from afar. If you’re just now disavowing Trump, or explaining away your support for him, don’t bother. You own it. Leaving 2016 to 2019 blank on your LinkedIn page won’t save you from disgrace.
Sure, you might get a book deal. And you’ll probably find private sector employment — K Street is still a cozy hideout for plenty of Washington rejects. But history will remember you as an enabler, not a truth-teller. If you were still employed by the president or tap dancing on his behalf at any time in recent months, his stink is on you, and it won’t wash off.
There are exceptions, of course: The civil servants who staffed government departments before Trump’s time in office, and who will remain after he leaves, certainly deserve no blame. Economic adviser Gary Cohn left the White House after fighting a losing, but noble, battle to rein in the White House’s delusional trade-war faction. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis performed a public service by writing a resignation letter that cut ties with Trump in the clearest possible terms: “You have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours” is Cabinet-speak for take this job and shove it.
At best, though, most of the rest are Omarosas, passing off the obvious as insight: When Omarosa Manigault Newman left the White House staff, we didn’t need her to tell us that Trump spouts race-baiting drivel. He’s done it out in the open for years.