Is there anyone who wants to hang with Donald Trump?
He’s not wanted.
Not at funerals, though the Bush family, to show class and respect for tradition, held their noses and made an exception.
Not in England, where they turned him into a big, hideous blimp.
Not by moderate Republicans, or at least the shrinking club with a tenuous claim to that label, who pushed him away during the midterms as they fought for their survival and clung to their last shreds of self-respect.
And not by a 36-year-old Republican operative who is by most accounts the apotheosis of vanity and ambition — and who just turned down one of the most powerful roles in any administration, a job that welds you to the president’s side and gives you nearly unrivaled access to his thoughts.
Nick Ayers didn’t see enough upside to the welding. He could do without those thoughts. He said no to becoming Trump’s next chief of staff, and this wasn’t just the latest twist in “As The White House Turns.”
It was, really, the whole story — of a president who burns quickly through whatever good will he has, a president who represents infinitely more peril than promise, a president toward whom a shockingly small and diminishing number of people in Washington feel any real affection, a president more tolerated than respected, though even the tolerance wanes.
.. He’s forever fixated on how wanted he is (“My crowds!” “My ratings!”), but what’s more striking is how unwanted he is. And that’s not merely a function of the crests and dips that every president encounters. It’s not really about popularity at all.
.. It’s about how he behaves — and the predictable harvest of all that nastiness. While other presidents sought to hone the art of persuasion, he revels in his talent for repulsion: how many people he attacks (he styles this as boldness); how many people he offends (he pretties this up as authenticity); how many people he sends into exile.
.. Careerists who would normally pine for top jobs with a president assess his temper, behold his tweets, recall the mortifications of Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson, and run for the hills. Trump sits at the most coveted desk in the world, but almost no one wants to pull up a chair.
.. What happened with Ayers, who is finishing a stint as Mike Pence’s chief of staff, speaks pointedly to the president’s diminished state. Bear in mind that Trump had already started telling people that Ayers would succeed John Kelly as chief of staff, so Ayers’s decision was doubly humiliating. Bear in mind who Ayers is: not just any political climber but someone whose every breath is focused on his enhanced glory, a trait frequently mentioned by Republicans who have watched his rise (and who sense in him more than a bit of Trump).
They still groan and titter about the blast email that he sent out, unsolicited, after he signed on to manage Tim Pawlenty’s 2012 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. It crowed about all the riches in the private sector that he was passing over. It hinted that his services had been sought by Pawlenty’s competitors: Sorry, guys. It assumed a broad, edge-of-seat audience for the minutiae of his mulling and maneuvering. In fact there were news stories that mockedthe self-aggrandizement of his announcement.
.. At most other times, under most other presidents, someone like Ayers would jump at chief of staff, no matter the job’s infamous rigors. It catapulted such political heavyweights as Dick Cheney, James Baker, Leon Panetta and Rahm Emanuel to greater recognition and relevance.
.. So Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump counted on Ayers’s interest and connived to shove Kelly out — he’ll leave by year’s end — so that they could shimmy Ayers in. They counted wrong. Ever clueless and oh so useless, they didn’t adequately factor in Trump’s toxicity, and the president now looks every bit as isolated as he is.
.. “Trump was left at the altar,”
.. Administration officials like Steven Mnuchin and Mick Mulvaney practically put out news releases to make clear that Trump shouldn’t ask them to be chief of staff. He has no Plan B, just B-list options like Matt Whitaker, the acting attorney general.
.. As leaders go, he has never been much of a magnet. He unequivocally romped in the Republican primaries, but since then? He got nearly 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton did, a gap so remarkable that he had to claim a conspiracy of illegal voting to console himself. When he first filled his cabinet, he hardly had his pick of the litter.
Many top Republicans wanted no part of him. Some who did enter the administration agonized beforehand: Were they helping the country or indulging someone who didn’t deserve it?
When Barbara Bush died in April, it was clear to Trump that he shouldn’t travel to Texas to pay his respects. When John McCain died in August, Trump was told to skip the funeral.
The heads of countries that share America’s purported values (pre-Trump, at least) reproach and recoil from him. Prominent corporate leaders rebuke him, despite his administration’s business-friendly policies.
.. By one analysis of the midterms, the overall vote count for Democratic candidates for the House was 8.6 percentage points higher than for Republican candidates.
His wife takes public shots at him. Old friends tattle to prosecutors; new friends don’t exist. Talk about a twist: He sought the presidency, as so many others surely did, because it’s the ultimate validation. But it has given him his bitterest taste yet of rejection.
Michael Steele becomes the sixth former chair of the Republican National Committee to say he will not vote for the GOP nominee.
.. He joins Marc Racicot (chair 2002-2003), who told Bloomberg in August, “I cannot and will not support Donald Trump for president.” Mel Martinez (2007) memorably told The Wall Street Journal, “If there is any, any, any other choice, a living, breathing person with a pulse, I would be there.” Bill Brock (1977-1981) has said he won’t back Trump, and so has Ken Mehlman (2005-2007). Rich Bond (1992-1993) wrote in an email in May that he would not vote for either Trump or Clinton, and would write in Homer Simpson if need be... Despite a mass exodus since a video emerged of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, some prominent Republicans have still kept backing Trump. That notably includes Speaker Paul Ryan, who is officially a Trump endorser, even though he has said he will not defend or campaign for the nominee, and even though Trump has taken to attacking him during stump speeches and interviews; and also Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.Barbara Bush: NAY.. Unlike her husband and elder son, the former first lady has publicly disavowed Trump. “I mean, unbelievable. I don’t know how women can vote for someone who said what he said about Megyn Kelly, it’s terribleMitt Romney: NAY.. “I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.” Romney continued: “I know that some people are offended that someone who lost and is the former nominee continues to speak, but that’s how I can sleep at night.”Bob Dole: YEA.. The former Senate majority leader and 1996 GOP presidential nomineeendorsed Trump on May 6. He will also be the only living GOP nominee to attend the RNC. (May 6, 2016.)John Boehner: YEA
The former speaker, who says he and Trump are “texting buddies,” told an audience at Stanford University that he’d back Trump in the general election.Trent Lott: YEADick Cheney: YEA
The former vice president blasted Trump during the primary over his stance on 9/11, and said he “sounds like a liberal Democrat,” but he now says he will back the nominee.Newt Gingrich: YEAJeb Bush: NAYReince Priebus: YEARick Perry: YEA
The former Texas governor and presidential candidate—who was one of the first to blast Trump—told CNN that he backs Trump.
Mike Huckabee: YEA
The former Arkansas governor, who ran for president this year, says Republicans should get in line. “When we nominated people over the past several election cycles, some of us had heartburn, but we stepped up and supported the nominee,” he said. “You’re either on the team, or you’re not on the team.” (May 5, 2016)
Bobby Jindal: YEA
The former Louisiana governor, who during his own presidential campaign called Trump a “narcissist” and an “egomaniacal madman,” wrote in a Wall Street Journal column that he’s voting for Trump, “warts and all.”
Eric Cantor: YEA