Contrary to conventional commentary, Nick Ayers’ refusal of Trump’s request to serve as General Kelly’s replacement as White House Chief of Staff is not rule breaking. Steve Mnuchin and Nick Mulvaney’s rumored reluctance/refusal are, as the unwritten but unequivocal rule makes clear. The Rule:
“Accept any job your boss offers, no ifs or ands. But, you can resign or expect to be fired for refusing, regardless how fawning or polite your refusal was.”
H.L. learned the rule vicariously, while still a mere youth, when a precocious friend with a powerful government position declined his elected official boss’ request that he serve in a different capacity. I attended the lovely goodbye party for my friend less than 48 hours after “I love my job and would rather keep it” was conveyed by friend to big boss.
And when a few years later I was tested by my Mr. Big, with his request that I switch from a job I loved to one I would despise, my answer was immediate. “I work for you and unless ready to leave, will clean the latrine.” It had been a test of my loyalty and having passed it, the elected official I served quickly dropped the stupid idea. Thirty-five years later, I passed a similar test administered by a governor.
Beyond the clear rule, there are variations, though not as clearly defined nor universally obeyed. One variation was followed by Arthur Goldberg when he accepted LBJ’s 1965 request that Goldberg leave SCOTUS, where he had life tenure, to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. [We must point out that this was not only a big step down for Goldberg, but also note that the recent nominee for the position, Heather Nauert, is a former Fox friend who recently praised the Saudi intervention in Yemen and cited D-Day as one highlight in the long German/U.S. alliance.]
Goldberg’s abandonment of his seat on the high court in part reflected his desire to convince LBJ to bring the war in Vietnam to a speedy end. But equally it reflected his understanding of the rule. In that variation, the president is always boss.
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, Budget Director Mulvaney and possibly trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer do not have any tenure, let alone for life, as Goldberg had. They serve at Trump’s will and caprice. If it is true that any of them has communicated “I’d rather not” to Herr Trump, that violates the rule, is extremely important and provides additional confirmation that Justice Roberts’ recent spanking of Trump was indeed the “turning point” as predicted in H.L. 62.
After Roberts’ rebuke, opposition to Trump from the right has become more frequent, tougher and far more organized. Republican leaderships’ ridicule of Trump’s response to the Khashoggi murder was choral. The “we are entering a dangerous period” letter signed by 44 former senators included many Rs, among them several authentic conservatives (such as Alan Simpson), several moderate republicans from that now extinct wing of the party (including Chuck Hagel, Dave Durenberger and William Cohen) and some from the disorganized crime wing of the republican party (including Al D’Amato).
If it is the case that either or both of Mnuchin and Mulvaney turned him down and are not disappeared or “wished into the cornfield” then the end is sooner than most think. Including H.L., who pegged the end of this administration to just before its third anniversary in H.L. 7, December 12, 2016 and again in H. L. 21, February 22, 2017. Both available on this site.