Avoidable Resignations in DC, An Unavoidable Resignation in Germany

A better president wouldn’t have hired two wife beaters. Martin Schulz had to go.

Republican officials, including House speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, speak with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 20, 2017
Republican officials, including House speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, speak with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 20, 2017 (White House/Benjamin Applebaum)

Donald Trump has recently lost two more staffers: Rob Porter and David Sorensen. Both have been accused by ex-wifes of domestic abuse.

The reason this is a big story is that the president and his staff have given contradictory statements about what they knew, when they knew it and whether or not Porter in particular deserved the benefit of the doubt.

The specifics are of little political consequence, but the scandal does underscore what a terrible manager Trump is (although we already knew that) and what a terrible effect he has on the people who work for him.

  • David A. Graham argues in The Atlantic that Team Trump doesn’t have a chaos problem. It has a dishonesty problem. “Insofar as the administration is engulfed in chaos, it is a result of its inability to tell the truth.”
  • Conor Friedersdorf writes in the same magazine that Trump has corrupted the conservative movement. “I expect that its moral failures will echo across American politics for years, undermining the right’s ability to credibly advance its best and worst alike.”
  • Ezra Klein blames Trump’s volatility in Vox. “No one knows quite what he will do or say or want, and so staffers spend their days working on deals and plans that they know could be wrecked by a tweet or a late-night phone call or something the president saw on Fox & Friends.”

Lucky Trump

Eliot A. Cohen, one of Trump’s most prominent Republican critics, argues that the president has been lucky in one regard: foreign policy.

He did not experience any external shocks and paid no visible price for alienating the United States’ friends.

But the world isn’t better off for his efforts either:

Instead, the preexisting fissures in the international system are either the same or getting worse; no US adversary is noticeably weaker and some are getting stronger; and the president’s behavior has devalued the currency of the United States’ reputation and credibility. Sooner or later, his luck will run out. And when it does, the true costs of the Trump presidency will become clear.

Schulz steps down

Martin Schulz has stepped down as leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) after first vowing never to serve Angela Merkel, then accepting the foreign ministry in her government and then giving up the post under left-wing pressure.

Tilman Pradt argued here last week that Schulz was trading credibility for power. “Given the fate of its sister parties in Europe,” he wrote, “the SPD should have been aware of the dangers of putting personal ambitions over party politics.” Resignation was inevitable.

Andrea Nahles, the party’s leader in parliament, is expected to be confirmed as Schulz’ successor at a party conference in April. A former labor minister, she is more left-wing than the outgoing boss.

Rutte loses foreign minister

Another resignation in the Netherlands: Halbe Zijlstra, an ally of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, has stepped down as foreign minister.

Zijlstra was forced out after it emerged he had fabricated a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin several years ago. In fact, it was his old boss at Shell, the Anglo-Dutch energy company, who met with Putin in 2006.

The lie was especially painful because the Dutch are leading the investigation into the 2014 crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Russia contests the Netherlands’ assertion that the jet was shot down over Ukraine by a Russian surface-to-air missile.