opinion

One-Way Loyalty

‘Weak,’ ‘Beleaguered’ Jeff Sessions Learns That Donald Trump’s No Boy Scout

The president is now talking about his own attorney general the same way he talked about his campaign opponents.

On Monday night, President Donald Trump addressed a Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. While talking about the group’s values, the president made a joke about needing more loyalty, but that’s one of the Scouts’ core values—to be trustworthy, courteous, and kind. When it comes to his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump isn’t living up to their fine standard.

This morning was the third time in a week that the president has publicly bullied and humiliated a subordinate.

Remember, Jeff Sessions was Donald Trump’s first big backer. It would be hard to overstate how important than endorsement was, and it was a risky move for Sessions (who had been heavily wooed by Sen. Ted Cruz). Sessions reportedly believed that backing Trump could spell the end of his career, but he did it anyway. Then, Sessions left a long career in the greatest deliberative body in the world in order to serve this president. And this is how his sacrifice and loyalty is being repaid?

Trump might not realize this, but think of the message he is sending. If you are thinking about joining his administration, and you know that this is what Trump has done to the first guy who showed loyalty to his campaign, why would you do it? If you were a Republican Member of Congress on the fence about casting a tough vote, why would you put yourself on the line for this man? He is destroying any incentive—other than pure self-interest—for ever working with him.

Trump is now talking about Jeff Sessions the same way he talked about his campaign opponents. He has used the words “beleaguered” and “weak” to describe the top law enforcement official in this nation. The emerging narrative is that Sessions is weak and small and tired. How long before he becomes “Low Energy Beauregard”?

Trump should just man up and call his attorney general a Keebler Elf, and be done with it.

This is the exact opposite of everything you would learn about leadership from noble and honorable figures, who advise us to “Praise in public, criticize in private.” Trump seems to enjoy humiliating subordinates the way some people enjoy a hobby.

Loyalty, to Trump, is a one-way street, and the purpose here is to torture Sessions so much that he resigns, allowing the president to appoint a successor who would fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would presumably not play hatchet man for Trump (after all, he appointed Mueller), this would require Trump appointing a new Attorney General. Having Congress confirm that appointment would be tough, and it has been speculated that Trump might attempt a recess appointment (another argument for the Senate to not go on recess—and another argument for why Republicans should vow to reinstate an independent counsel if Mueller is ever fired).

This is also convoluted. Trump could simply fire Jeff Sessions today if he wanted to. This is like when you want to get someone to break up with you first so that you don’t have to break up with them. Or maybe it’s like Milton in the movie “Office Space.” Trump wants to make his life so miserable that he eventually quits. How long before Trump takes his stapler and moves Sessions’ office to the basement?

Donald Trump has gone the extra mile to humiliate his first big supporter. He likes loyalty when it applies to him, but ignores most other civic virtues. He might be a lot of things, but a Boy Scout he is not.