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Editorial: As America reels, Trump questions whether his underlings sufficiently loyal

Editorial: As America reels, Trump questions whether his underlings sufficiently loyal

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America faces multiple jolting crises right now — a pandemic, a recession, racial strife — so of course the White House is asking the crucial question: Are federal appointees sufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump? Politico reports the administration is conducting hundreds of one-on-one interviews with health officials and others throughout government to gauge their personal dedication to the president. These loyalty tests, as some call them, perfectly encapsulate this president’s priorities: not the nation’s well-being but his own.

The interviews are being arranged at the departments of Defense, Treasury, Health and Human Services and other agencies, focused on Senate-approved officials. The White House says it’s just gauging who wants to stay for a potential second term, but the nature of the interviews indicates otherwise.

The interview process is headed by 30-year-old John McEntee, a Trump loyalist from the 2016 campaign who previously had the position of “body man” to the president — a combination of personal assistant and gopher — before he was forced out by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly. McEntee was the subject of concern over security clearance issues and a financial-crimes investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. So, not surprisingly, Trump made him director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office.

Trump’s penchant for picking people based on personal loyalty to him, rather than qualification for the job, has been demonstrated repeatedly, and here we see it again: At a time when there should be an all-hands-on-deck focus on preserving America’s health and economy, the White House is instead focused on preserving Trump’s political prospects and his fragile ego.

The interviews, according to Politico, cover issues like the employee’s views of America’s relationship with China — a fundamental policy question that seems irrelevant to ask anyone below Cabinet level. The interviews “have also asked people to give examples of ways they are supporting the administration,” which is entirely irrelevant.

“It just seems like you could be a rocket scientist, but all they care about is whether you are MAGA,” one person briefed on the meetings told Politico.

This administration has, despite itself, actually had access to people of great expertise in their fields. Gen. James Mattis, the former defense secretary who’d served presidents of both parties, brought a deep knowledge of global affairs to the job. He resigned after Trump announced he was abandoning Syria to (who else?) Russia. Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top epidemiologist, has soberly advised six presidents. Trump’s minions recently launched a smear campaign against Fauci because he wouldn’t fall in line with the president’s strategy of pretending the pandemic is over.

There is, in fact, a real question of loyalty out there right now, but not the one Trump is pursuing: Do this president and his sycophants have any loyalty whatsoever to the concept of elevating expertise where America needs it most?

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