The Corner

Politics & Policy

There’s No Point In Berating Secretary Nielsen for Trump’s Comment

If Fire and Fury is to be believed – an open question – Donald Trump came to Washington and contemplated making his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, his first chief of staff and he thought about nominating 73–year-old Rudy Giuliani to the Supreme Court. We know Trump chose Steve Bannon his chief strategist, Kushner to manage the Middle East peace process, and picked Ben Carson to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Whenever President Trump appoints someone qualified and competent for a position, lawmakers of both parties would be wise to confirm that nominee and just do their best to work with the nominee, come what may. After all, considering Trump’s unpredictable and arbitrary criteria for personnel decisions, there’s no guarantee that the replacement will be an improvement. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin — you know what? This might be as good as it gets, senators. There’s a good chance you’ll dislike the next nominee even more than the current cabinet member.

Today Senator Corey Booker described himself as “seething with anger” and raged at Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, when she dodged questions on just what words Trump used in that infamous Oval Office meeting. “Your silence and amnesia are complicity!” Booker fumed.

Whether you love Nielsen or hate her, or you haven’t even really noticed her at DHS, Nielsen is qualified and not responsible for the president shooting his mouth off during negotiations in the Oval Office. It wasn’t Nielsen who made the infamous profane comment in the Oval Office. Trump’s put her in an impossible spot. If she confirms the comment, she’s created a giant controversy for the White House and Trump’s mercurial and impulsive enough to fire her. If she denies the comment, she’s basically calling other senators liars and possibly lying under oath to Congress. Nielsen didn’t want to touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, and it’s hard to blame her. She just wants to do the job of running the Department of Homeland Security, not get dragged into an argument about which countries qualify for Trump’s vulgar label and which ones don’t.

If every single government employee who was offended by the president’s words, decisions, or behavior resigned in protest, we probably wouldn’t have a federal government anymore. Trying to play “gotcha” with Nielsen or haranguing her for not dressing down the president when he said something crude may help Booker as he prepares to face a crowded Democratic field in 2020, but it just makes getting things done at DHS more difficult.

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