WASHINGTON – The numbers are in, and it's official. When it comes to letting people go, the reality show called the Trump White House beats the daylights out of "The Apprentice."
Forty top Trump administration officials have either been fired or otherwise left their posts in the 14 months since Donald Trump became president. In comparison, Trump fired only 32 people in the first two seasons of "The Apprentice," his former reality show.
That might sound like a laugh line, and it is, but it is also much more. It's proof that, for good or bad, Trump has in essence installed a revolving door at the White House.
The latest to exit stage right include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, fired in a tweet on Tuesday, and presidential "body man" John McEntee, fired because he was suspected of "serious financial crimes." Next in line at the door appears to be Veterans Secretary David Shulkin, with Energy Secretary Rick "Oops" Perry likely to take his place.
How to explain all this?
"I like conflict," Trump said recently, in a statement that no fact-checker has disputed.
No doubt about it: Trump thinks this is good.
“The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House," Trump tweeted last week. "Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great energy!”
No matter what you think of it, the number of people leaving the Trump administration – either voluntarily or with a knife between the shoulder blades – is unusual. Looking just at the first year of Trump's administration, the Brookings Institution found that his departure rate was three times that of no-drama President Barack Obama and double that of the previous first-year leader, President Ronald Reagan.
And more than a few people in Washington disagree with Trump and think that all those quick departures are by no means a good thing.
"Some staff changes no doubt rid the White House staff of bad apples, but changes can have some clear downsides as well," wrote Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, the Brookings scholar who did that report on White House turnover. "Any vacancy requires hiring a replacement, helping the replacement learn the ropes, and other staff shouldering more work until the new hire is up-to-speed (or permanently if the position stays vacant). Those remaining face disruptions and inefficiencies during the process."
Even some Republicans appear to agree.
"Unfortunately, the departure of Sec. Rex Tillerson adds to the chaos & turmoil of this Administration. Tillerson is a good man who was dealt a bad hand & he did not play it particularly well," tweeted Rep. Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican who is retiring at the end of this term.
Then there's the fact that many of these White House departures are, to be kind, less than graceful. Political aide Rob Porter left amid revelations about spousal abuse. Health secretary Tom Price quit amid a controversy over his pricey charter flights. And national security adviser Michael Flynn didn't just walk; he took a perp walk.
All of which might prompt the fact-checkers to take a look at one thing Trump said during his campaign.
“I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people,” Trump said in 2015. “We want top-of-the-line professionals.”
President Trump sttends the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon hosted by House Speaker Paul Ryan ... The Senate Intelligence Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Army Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone to be the director of the National Security Agency ... Bill and Melinda Gates speak at a forum sponsored by Politico ... The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announces its long-range spring weather outlook ... The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine release a report titled: "The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States."
The New York Times reports that Republicans are freaking out over their loss in a special House election in a heavily Republican Pennsylvania district ... Meanwhile, Vox notes that health care was Democratic candidate Conor Lamb's top issue ... The Washington Post notes that support for gun control has hit a 25-year-high ... Harvard magazine looks at the end of expertise and its consequences ... And the conservative National Review notes that Fox News faces a potentially devastating lawsuit.