Basket Ball always accelerates in March as college teams are matched to choose the best in the nation. This year, the White House created their own chaotic version of March Madness with shocking events. Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with a six a.m. tweet as Tillerson returned from a grueling tour of Africa at four a.m. to D.C. Trump had already fired Rob Porter, the aide who handed top security information to the president in the Oval Office. Next was Hope Hicks his trusted, close confidant for years in the White House. Headlines and cable interviews followed Stormy Daniels, the former porn star and her lawyer. She had been paid over $130,000 to stay quiet about her affair with the president a week before the 2016 election. Trump also fired Lt. General H. R. Mc Master, National Security Adviser who had replaced General Mike Flynn in the key position after serving for 24 days. Flynn, who then was indicted by special counsel, Robert Mueller III , pled guilty and began cooperating with the Russia investigation.
Trump chose Mike Pompeo, the current C.I.A. director, to be his new secretary of state and John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations to be the next national security adviser. Both men have been ardent “hawks” in the past and are vehemently opposed to the 2015 Iran deal. Bolton was a controversial figure at the United nations, once declaring about the tall U. N.building, “if ten stories disappeared, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” The position of secretary of state must pass senate confirmation. The national security adviser’s position does not require senate confirmation. John Bolton was a strong supporter of the Iraq war and remains adamant that it was the right choice. His Senate hearing should be one to watch closely.
On March 29, The New York Times reported that Trump had fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and nominated his personal physician, the White House doctor, Ronny Jackson, to replace him. Trump praised Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy , who had also been Obama’s physician as “highly trained and qualified”. However, this choice immediately raised questions from reporters and and political analysts since the VA is the second largest government agency with over 350,000 employees. The secretary is primarily a very challenging management position. Jackson has no management experience. Shulkin in an Op Ed in the Times explained that he had been working with members of the VA to avoid privatization of the agency. He stressed that there were advocates of privatization in the administration and that led to his being fired. He wrote, “I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits , even if it undermines care for veterans.”
Current controversy swirls about Secretary Scott Pruitt of the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) and Secretary Ben Carson of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD). Rumors persist they may be the next to be fired by Trump. Pruitt has spent enormous sums on increasing his protection staff to 20 people , building a secure phone booth, and deluxe air travel at enormous expenses. Carson made headlines with a $35,000 dining room set for his office suite. He has recently eliminated the words “free from discrimination” and “inclusive’ from HUD’s mission statement. It has been reported that the Trump administration is trying to roll back enforcement of fair housing laws and slowing down officials who have been pursuing civil rights cases.
Easter weekend brought March to a close. Sunday was April first. The president skipped the annual Easter Egg Hunt at the White House. He flew to Florida to play golf and invited some guests “three Fox News hosts led by Sean Hannity , an ex con and a pillow salesman” described on CNN cable news. On March 23, David Sanger had written in The New York Times, about the March firings of significant members of the White House team. “Just a month ago, the prevailing wisdom in Washington was that the triumvirate of General McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, was the only restraining influence on Mr. Trump’s confrontational urges. Now, only Mr. Mattis is left and there are increasing questions about how long he will last.”
On April l, The Times Magazine had a picture of General Mattis on the cover, “The Last Man Standing”. Inside the article, there is a picture of President Trump at his first cabinet meeting last January with Rex Tillerson on his right and Jim Mattis on his left. Trump is speaking, animatedly with both hands in the familiar spread finger manner. Tillerson and Mattis appear very grave, as if they are anticipating the difficult year to come.
………………………………………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson