U.S. President Donald Trump is continuing his search for a chief of staff.* Nick Ayers has officially turned down the job. The sudden refusal illustrates the position’s loss of status and the extent of the chaos under Trump.
Confidential conversations had been underway for months, and the press release about the personnel matter was already prepared. The candidate for the job, however, abruptly called a halt on Sunday afternoon. “Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honor to serve our Nation at The White House. I will be departing at the end of the year,” tweeted Nick Ayers. Since then, the field is completely open as to who will lead the operation of the U.S. government as chief of staff and keep the unpredictable president in check.*
The sudden refusal of the 36-year-old Ayers illustrates the position’s loss of status and the extent of the chaos under Trump. The president parted company with his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, after a few months. Last week, he gave Gen. John Kelly, a retired four-star general, his marching orders. He made fun of both of them and humiliated them. Under Trump, “a job that was once a ticket to Washington royalty has recently become a laughingstock,” reported Politico, judging that coordination of the West Wing with the capricious narcissist in the Oval Office has become “Mission Impossible.”
Officially, the reason for Ayers’ refusal is his family situation. The millionaire has six-year-old triplets and wants to return to his family in Georgia. According to U.S. media reports, he had offered to take the job as chief of staff on an interim basis until spring. That also suggests a political motive: Ayers is reportedly considering running for governor of Georgia.
“I am in the process of interviewing some really great people for the position of White House Chief of Staff,” Trump tried to gloss over his humiliation on Twitter. “I will be making a decision soon!”*
Not Many Are Available
There is no lack of challenges for the new man. (A woman does not appear to be in the running.) Governing will be considerably more complicated with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, faltering stock markets, and an imminent showdown in the Russia investigation. In light of Trump’s shady dealings, the chief of staff would also step into legal risk. That might explain why the number of applicants is negligible: Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, have reportedly already expressed thanks, but signaled refusal.* Similarly mentioned is United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is most likely considered indispensable in his current post.
Speculation is currently circulating about Rep. Mark Meadows, leader of the ultraconservative “Freedom Caucus” in the Republican Party. With the hard-liners for whom Trump’s health care reform was not radical enough, the U.S. government would move even further to the right.
*Editor’s note: President Trump selected his current budget director, Mick Mulvaney, to serve as acting White House chief of staff on Dec. 14, 2018. This commentary was written before the announcement, but the editors feel the opinion is still relevant.