White House’s Latest Hire Is More Bad News

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The most obvious problem with bringing in former Fox News executive Bill Shine — who departed the network after accusations he was involved in enabling sexual harassment (and worse) — as the new White House communications chief is that rewarding someone who has that kind of record with high office is just plain bad. Columnist Michelle Goldberg nails it: “Too much of a sexual abuse enabler for Fox News, just right for Trump's White House.”

The second most obvious problem with bringing in someone with allegations of that type hanging over his head is that it looks bad. President Donald Trump may not realize it, but most Americans are actually against covering up sexual abuse. Folks think so badly of it that it’s one of those things that the “neutral” media is willing to outright be against, at least in most cases. So by hiring Shine, Trump is guaranteeing at least some negative press for the administration right now. 

The third problem is that Trump doesn’t know what new revelations may turn up. So it’s impossible to assess the risks the administration is taking on. 

And that gets to the next point, which is: Shine is basically unqualified for the job. It’s true that many reporters and television correspondents signed on to work for previous administrations. But some of those were cases in which the person’s credentials were already established. Those who were previously in journalism (such as the late Tony Snow for George W. Bush) have even served as press secretaries. Normally, White House communications secretaries have some campaign or government experience, or both. Shine doesn’t. 

On the other hand, Shine will actually be deputy chief of staff for communications, so it’s not really clear what he’ll be doing. As reporter Glenn Thrush says, “Deputy chiefs of staff don’t tend to do comms because deputy chiefs of staff are supposed to do governing stuff. Who’s doing the governing stuff?” Shine doesn’t appear to be qualified for normal deputy chief of staff responsibilities, given that he doesn’t seem to have either policy or process expertise. If he’s on his way to being the next White House chief of staff? Well, a few months as deputy to an outgoing chief of staff who wasn’t especially successful and appears to be halfway out the door wouldn’t seem to be sufficient experience.

Not that there’s anything new here. After all, Trump didn’t bother to properly vet his original cabinet, which has been a constant source of scandal and corruption, with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation on Thursday only the latest example. That’s five cabinet-level positions that have turned over so far, which is a fair amount higher than the typical zero at this stage of a presidency. It is better, I suppose, than the White House communications job; Shine will be the fifth to hold that position in less than 18 months. Still, a normal president would never hire someone without normal qualifications for the position who brings an ongoing scandal with him. It demonstrates a total lack of interest in what anyone but his strongest supporters think — and contempt for those supporters, who Trump assumes will applaud whatever he does, no matter how ridiculous or worse. 

The communications job isn’t particularly important. It gets more attention than it deserves for the obvious reason that it’s public-facing, and so the news media naturally tends to pay attention to the people trying to spin them. But it’s still a good example of what a fiasco this administration has been. And how there doesn’t appear to be any progress up the learning curve so far. 

1. Charles Cameron and Jonathan Kastellec at Mischiefs of Faction on litmus tests for Supreme Court nominees.

2. Scott Lemieux on where the future court will be.

3. Julia Rone at the Monkey Cage looks at Bulgaria’s term as president of the Council of the European Union.

4. Margaret Hartmann reminds us that Trump is still employing the cut-of-his-jib test for nominees, including to the high court.

5. Greg Sargent on why immigration may not be as helpful to Trump as many believe ...

6. … although Jamelle Bouie points out some of the potential effects of the policy beyond the rhetoric.

7. Meanwhile, Ezra Klein goes through the numbers and points out that Trump remains unusually unpopular. Exactly correct, and it’s something that can’t be pointed out often enough given how few people seem to accept it: Trump’s low approval ratings should still be the basic context of any discussion of his media strategies. I still disagree that polarization has created a low approval ceiling and a high approval floor, however. 

8. And I also agree with Jamie Dupree: The U.S. right now is not nearly as divided as it was in the late 1960s and early 1970s

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