There’s an oft-broken rule of self-effacement among political staffers, one Nick Ayers and the Pawlenty campaign smashed it resolutely this morning with an email that was rather more about Ayers than his candidate, and an item suggesting his move was a death knell for Haley Barbour, his former boss.
The Post’s Jennifer Rubin reports this morning that she was “told by those involved in the process that Ayers, 28, who served alongside Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour at the RGA, was waiting for Barbour, the candidate with whom he is closest, to make up his mind on whether to run. Now that Ayers has accepted a spot with Pawlenty, the chances of a Barbour presidential race have plunged. It may also be that Barbour’s extremely rocky start, overshadowed by his views on race, persuaded Ayers not to join him.”
Ayers, in his own email, writes a bit as though he’s the one who will be running for president:
I accepted the position with peace of mind and a deep confidence in the candidate, his family, and the mission ahead, but it was not an easy decision. I did not believe I would join a presidential campaign this cycle for a few reasons. Jamie and I wanted nothing more than to enjoy a quiet few years back home in Georgia with our friends, family, and church that we have missed so much while in Washington at the RGA. I was confident and hopeful Georgia would be the place where we would be permanently after the 2010 cycle. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time back in our home state since December. Running a presidential campaign would obviously pull us away from that.
Also, opportunities in the private sector were serious and abundant and would have allowed me to achieve a degree of personal financial security that my family has not yet had (at least as much financial security as any of us can have during the Obama presidency).
Last, I have other personal friends in addition to Governor Pawlenty that I respect who are running for president, or seriously considering it. The thought of making a public decision about supporting one of them I presumed would be difficult.
These factors and others had virtually ruled out my engagement into a presidential campaign. It was going to be much easier to sit on the sidelines in Georgia, enjoy the fruits of the private sector, and cheer on all of my friends as they jostled for the Republican nomination for president. That path would have been politically safe, financially sound, and personally very comforting. But it was not the right one.
Over the past six months, I have prayed deeply about my purpose in life and how best to utilize the talents God has given me. I wanted my decision to be wholly about how best to serve Him, not what was most politically or financially expedient for my family and me. As He often does in walks of faith, He has called me to a higher purpose. I believe that our Nation is truly on the wrong path. We need a new direction that is positive and hopeful. Simply said, we need new leadership. I believe that Governor Pawlenty is best positioned to provide that leadership. Therefore, I am pleased today to join Governor and Mrs. Pawlenty in their pursuit of the presidency.
My decision does not mean I think less of Haley Barbour, Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels or Newt Gingrich should they decide to run, because I do not. I know them all personally and believe in their intellect, capabilities, and principles.
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.
voters in South Carolina cast out Rep. Mark Sanford, a firmly conservative member of Congress who had survived earlier scandal, in favor of a state legislator who had condemned Sanford for publicly criticizing the president. In Virginia, Republicans nominated for senator a Trump-like candidate with a history of embracing, as the president has, Confederate symbols and white nationalists.
.. Meanwhile, many in the party who in the past have opposed talks with North Korea’s leader this week praised Trump for his summit with Kim Jong Un.
The week was marked by continued deference to Trump on the part of congressional leaders who have swallowed the president’s upending of long-standing party views on several major issues. Legislative efforts by some in the party to wrest trade authority back from Trump and rewrite the nation’s immigration laws in ways he has opposed both fell in defeat.
Meanwhile, many in the party who in the past have opposed talks with North Korea’s leader this week praised Trump for his summit with Kim Jong Un.
As a result, the Republican Party appears united now not by fealty to ideas or policies but to a man
.. Republican voters, who have swiftly adopted the president’s issue positions and looked the other way at a progression of missteps and conflicts that would have doomed prior presidents.
.. Despite misgivings about Trump’s behavior, Republican voters have rewarded him with support unmatched by a Republican president since George W. Bush’s tenure in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And they have rained down punishment on those who disagree with Trump.
.. Anthony Scaramucci. “He doesn’t speak with an elitist vocabulary and the savoir faire that Washingtonians are used to,”
.. I don’t think we, or any president, demanded personal loyalty to the degree Trump has,” said David Axelrod, an Obama adviser during his first campaign and term. “We made appeals around shared goals, ideals and agendas.
.. Trump has one of Obama’s most vexing problems, the inability to transfer power down the ballot.
.. In Michigan, two Republican candidates have spent weeks squabbling over how one of them abandoned Trump after the pre-election release of a recording of Trump bragging about sexual assault.
.. Tim Pawlenty is seeking a comeback by running against benefits for undocumented immigrants and recanting the criticism he made of Trump after the tape’s release.
.. In Nevada, brothel owner Dennis Hof, the star of a TV show about prostitution and the author of “The Art of the Pimp,” blew past a Republican incumbent to win the nomination for a seat in the state legislature. In an interview, Hof said that Trump “blazed the trail” for him.
“He gave me the confidence that I could do this — I could be a reality TV star, an author and a brothel owner and then be elected to serve,” said Hof.