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White House

Getting Perspective on Trump’s ‘Loyalty Test’

Three Washington Post reporters have written about the “hiring headaches” caused by President Trump’s desire to avoid appointing people who have been critical of him.

Credentialed candidates have had to prove loyalty to the president, with many still being blocked for previous anti-Trump statements. Hundreds of national security officials, for example, were nixed from consideration because they spoke out against Trump during the campaign. But for longtime Trump loyalists, their fidelity to the president is often sufficient, obscuring what in a more traditional administration would be red flags.

The Post reinforces the impression that the administration’s vetting practices are slipshod. But I think the reporters have missed an important part of the story: The Trump administration is much more tolerant of people who have criticized the president than most administrations are.

Try to imagine President Obama nominating an education Secretary who had said during the primaries that he does not represent his party and that as they learn about him voters will decide they don’t trust him. Or President Bush — either President Bush — naming an Energy secretary who called his campaign a “cancer,” “a barking carnival act,” and “a toxic mix of demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense.” Betsy DeVos and Rick Perry said those things about Trump, and they are in his Cabinet.

A lot of Republicans said much harsher things about Trump than politicians usually say about candidates from their party who end up winning the presidency. Trump would have had a much harder time filling his administration with loyalists — or at least with people who hadn’t basically said that they hate his guts — than George W. Bush did. So he didn’t.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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