On Saturday, President Donald Trump announced that John Kelly, his chief of staff, would depart the White House before the end of the year.
The next day, Nick Ayers, Mike Pence's chief of staff and reported favorite to take Kelly's job, announced that he was resigning and returning to his native state of Georgia. That Ayers, a savvy operative with high political ambitions, would turn down the powerful post is a clear indication that many Republicans seem to realize being associated with Trump spells doom for their political future.
Writing in the Washington Post Monday, columnist Paul Waldman observed that many mainstream Republicans are starting to distance themselves from Trump—but that it's too late.
Waldman notes the absurdity of the current moment, where no one seems to want the job of chief of staff—one of the most powerful posts in Washington.
"Why is that? It isn’t only that anyone tasked with running this White House and managing this president is destined to fail," he notes.
"It’s also that if you care about your future in politics, it’s never too early to start distancing yourself from Trump. Because once he’s no longer president — perhaps in 2021, or perhaps even sooner — everyone who worked for him, supported him, or stood by him is going to be in an extremely uncomfortable position."
"In Washington, where "former administration official" can be a ticket to lifelong employment and status, "former Trump administration official" or even "former Trump supporter" could well wind up being a scarlet letter," Waldman says. "It might not ruin your career, but it could come to be seen as an indicator of poor judgment and questionable integrity."
Of course, Waldman notes, anyone who's used the Trump administration to advance their career should have to face the consequences. "In a just world, every last person who voluntarily entered the employ of this president would be forever subject to the scorn and contempt of all their fellow citizens. But that probably won't happen."
The likelier scenario is that once the Trump administration ends, Republicans will attempt a white-washing project to pretend it wasn't that bad for the party and the country. The public should hold them accountable.
"Every Republican who works for Trump, who supports him, who defends him, who justifies him, who excuses him — all of them are responsible," Waldman notes.
"All of them are implicated in his misdeeds, not least because it was obvious before he was elected what kind of president he’d be. If when this is all over they don’t pay a price for what they did, we should all be ashamed."