WASHINGTON – Once again, the dishonest haters in the fake news media are dishonestly and fakely hating on President Trump, this time by falsely claiming that nepotism and cronyism are bad.
They say the president should not name his personal pilot, John Dunkin, to run the $16 billion, 47,000-person Federal Aviation Administration. And they are offended because Ivanka Trump, asked whether she believed her father’s denials of sexual misconduct, called this an “inappropriate question to ask a daughter.”
Dunkin has the requisite qualifications to run the FAA, namely that he is, in the president’s view, “a smart guy and knows what’s going on.” And neither Ivanka nor anybody else should be asked about Trump’s alleged misconduct, because it didn’t happen. We know this because Trump denied it, strongly.
But I will grant that there is a problem with nepotism and cronyism in the Trump administration: He isn’t hiring enough friends and family.
Because he has been hiring too few people related by blood, marriage or friendship, he has wound up with unreliable “professionals.” A study by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution found that first-year turnover of senior Trump administration officials was 34 percent, much higher than under any other president in nearly 40 years.
The obvious solution: more use of the friends-and-family plan. A family-based system may not work for immigration, but it works perfectly for staffing a presidency. I have this from an independent authority: Eric Trump. He said last year that nepotism is “a beautiful thing.”
And it is working beautifully. Beyond the formal roles in the White House for Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner (responsible for everything from Middle East peace to reinventing government), and the informal roles played by Donald Jr. and Eric (responsible for antagonizing the special counsel), Trump’s friends-and-family plan has served him brilliantly. Members include:
Dan Scavino, Trump’s onetime golf caddie, now White House director of social media.
Hope Hicks, a former model who helped with Ivanka’s fashion line, now the White House communications director.
Keith Schiller, Trump’s former bodyguard, first head of Oval Office operations and now a $15,000-a-month security consultant to the Republican National Committee.
Linda McMahon, professional wrestling magnate and Trump friend, now Small Business Administration chief.
Robin Bernstein, Trump friend and a founding member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, named to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
Boris Epshteyn, a friend of Eric Trump from Georgetown University, named a White House spokesman before taking a job in TV.
Kyle Yunaska, Eric’s brother-in-law, named to a senior Energy Department job.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, longtime friend of Melania Trump, whose firm got $26 million for help with the inauguration.
In addition, Trump pals Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Wynn and Omarosa Manigault all had brief but remarkable tenures in Trump world. Trump has also extended the family-based employment program to the friends and family of friends: Ben Carson’s son, White House Counsel Donald McGahn’s wife, Rudy Giuliani’s son, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ husband and sister-in-law, and various other friends’ spouses, siblings and offspring.
I can state unequivocally that every one of these hires has been excellent.
Trump will be even more successful when he makes the following personnel changes:
His hairstylist, experienced in complex structures, will run the Army Corps of Engineers; his personal driver will run the Transportation Department; and Trump Organization chief legal officer Alan Garten, fresh from the company’s fight for control of the Trump International Hotel Panama, will replace the hapless Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
Melania Trump’s florist will run the Agriculture Department, and her parents will oversee the Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who acknowledged paying a porn star who alleged an affair with Trump, will become attorney general. Stormy Daniels, the porn star, will become the comptroller of the currency.
Because Trump has indicated that good golfers should be entrusted with guns, pro Ernie Els, who has played with Trump, will run the Pentagon.
And Scaramucci will make his triumphant return, replacing as press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who inexplicably softened Trump’s boast Monday that he would have charged, unarmed, into a Florida high school to stop the Feb. 14 mass shooting. She said Trump meant “he would be a leader.”
The Mooch would have asserted unequivocally that Trump not only would have overpowered the shooter but also would have stormed the beaches of Normandy, fasted with Gandhi, marched with King, gone to prison with Mandela, saved more Jews than Schindler and burned at the stake with Joan of Arc.
That’s what friends are for.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.