Behind the hire & fire approach of President Trump

There are few things one can count upon in the Trump administration. Of course, there are a couple of items which can be considered regular such as accusations of Russian involvement in the Presidential election, anti-press rhetoric and obviously a regularly update twitter feed. One such item used to be the entertaining and arguably hostile daily press conferences held by Sean Spicer, who joined the already lengthy list of white house resignations when he left his post as press secretary on July 21st, 2017. Despite holding a greater household name recognition than most press secretaries, Spicer frequently appeared out of his depth in his role by using improper language (referring to concentration camps as ‘holocaust centres’), engaging in the selective banning of certain news outlet’s (BBC, CNN, New York Times, La Times) from white house press briefings and of course the now infamous ‘facts’ about the size of Trump’s inauguration audience.

However, it is the basis of Spicer’s resignation which should be so concerning to the rest of the world. According to the New York Times, Spicer informed President Trump that he ‘vehemently disagreed’ with the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communication director. Arguably, Spicer’s protestations are entirely justified when one considers Scaramucci has no previous experience within the political media aside from the odd appearance on Fox News, served as a fundraiser for former President Barrack Obama, previously supported the Republican nomination of Jeb Bush and Scott Walker and holds a liberal position on social issues with him tweeting in the past that he has ‘always been for strong gun control laws’ and that ‘Republicans should support gay marriage’. Yet despite the mass of evidence suggesting Scaramucci is the antithesis of many of the Republican parties values, Trump proceeded with the appointment anyway. The assigning of Scaramucci to White House communications director against the advice of the more experienced and qualified Sean Spicer suggests that Trump’s approach to governorship is slightly dictatorial and that not supporting or agreeing with him may cost you your job. The undertaking of such an approach can be argued to be entirely against the vision of the founding fathers as it leads to the diminishment of democracy as the majority of the decision making as well as the political agenda is set by one man. To further support this argument, the article highlights three more executive resignations/dismissals caused by disagreements with President Trump.

Patrick Kennedy, Joyce Anne Barr, Michele Bond & Gentry O. Smith – resigned January 26th, 2017:

The Trump administration did not have to wait long to have its first causalities as Patrick Kennedy (Under Secretary of State and Management), Joyce Anne Barr (Assistant Secretary of State for Administration), Michele Bond (Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs) and Gentry O. Smith (Director of the Office of Foreign Missions) all resigned under the advice of newly appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just six days after the inauguration. Now, usually a mass resignation a couple of days after a changing of administration would likely be due to disagreements with the new direction of the executive department as well as loyalties to the previous president, however seven months on the roles served by Kennedy, Anne Barr, Bond and Smith have still not been filled. In fact, there is a multitude of executive positions currently available due to Trump’s unwillingness to select a nominee, with CNBC reporting that Trump has nominated just 63 out of the 559 jobs classified high priority by the Partnership for Public Service and only 39 of those have been approved by the Senate. Moreover, a number of differing media outlets consider trust and loyalty to be the main characteristics sought after by Trump and therefore the minimal executive appointments suggests the President feels that he cannot trust anyone and is thus isolated. This is a dangerous mindset to undertake as it frequently results in the hiring of individuals less qualified for the position and leads to the formation of a siege or us versus them mentality. In this sense, Trump will only hire those who swear complete loyalty to him and his policies leading to a lack of differing opinions on the direction of the political agenda and legislation.

Sally Yates – dismissed January 30th, 2017:

The dismissal of Sally Yates as Acting United States Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General is a prime example of the dangers posed to your career by disagreeing with the decisions and policies of President Trump. Intriguingly, like Kennedy, Anne Barr, Bond and Smith, Yates was appointed Deputy Attorney General by former President Obama and therefore it could be argued that Trump was always suspicious of where her true loyalties laid. Although, it should be noted that Yates objections to the so-called ‘Muslim’ travel ban had nothing to do with loyalty, but rather the legality of the legislation. After all, Yates’ position required her to ensure the Trump administration remained within the law and was thus simply fulfilling her duties by ordering the justice department to not defend President Trump’s executive order on travel and immigration’. Regardless of this, later that day Yates’ was dismissed from her role and was stated to have betrayed the justice department and risked the safety of US citizens by refusing to support the executive order. The decision was met with widespread condemnation from the media, the Democrats and even Trump’s own party, as congressman John Coyners (R.) likened the dismissal to that of a reality show such as the Apprentice. In this case, the fire and hire policy used by Trump was shown to know no limits as even the highest-ranking position in the Justice department was deemed expendable. Moreover, the Yates’ dismissal further highlights Trump’s true desire to have an executive made up of yes men who will instigate his policies and beliefs without question.

Craig Deare – dismissed February 17th, 2017:

The final resignation/dismissal focused upon arguably went under the radar amid the numerous scandals and leaks following the dismissal of Michael Flynn three days prior. However, the dismissal of Craig Deare from Senior Director of Western Hemisphere Affairs again shows the dangers of criticising Trump and his advisors, along with highlighting any problems within the administration. Deare lost his position following a speech given at the Woodrow Wilson centre in which he reportedly criticised the handling of Latin American affairs by the Trump administration and noted the overall dysfunction within Washington generated by a high turnover of staff in high priority positions. In response to this criticism, the Trump administration proved its dictatorial/siege mentality approach to governorship by issuing a warning to the remaining staff that ‘if you don’t support the President’s agenda then you shouldn’t have a job in the White House’. The use of such rhetoric would suggest that any individual who opposes or even suggests improvements to any of Trump’s policies would be at risk of losing their job, therefore resulting in an administration which is intrinsically in opposition to the desires of the founding fathers who made the constitution and designed the structure of American politics in such a way to avoid a dictatorship. Thankfully, opposition within the House of Representatives and the Senate (mainly from Trump’s own party) means that America is not currently living in a dictatorship, however should Trump’s approach to hiring those who are loyal rather than qualified continue one can suggest that by the end of Trump’s term in office American politics will be the executive in constant opposition to the judiciary and the legislators.

How much of a threat is biological terrorism?

In a recent speech given to the Munich security conference, philanthropist and business magnate Bill Gates argued that biological terrorism is the greatest threat posed to the world currently. Intriguingly, Mr. Gates noted that biological terrorism had the potential to inflict a greater number of causalities than nuclear war, with tens of millions being at threat from a single attack. The evidence highlighted by Mr. Gates’ originated from his ongoing funding and drive to improve global health through the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which concluded there to be a lack attention given to the link between health security and international security within Western nations. In this sense, Mr. Gates’ is critically referring to the over emphasis placed upon the threat posed by lone wolf terrorism and the ideal of the enemy within, rather than consider the larger and much more problematic threat of biological weapons. On the other hand, can you truly blame western nations for focusing upon lone wolf terrorism over biological terrorism given that it has directly affected the majority of western nations in recent years. Therefore, one must question how great a threat biological terrorism is and whether there is any evidence of terrorist groups trying to procure and use biological weapons in the past.

In the years following the end of the cold war researchers argued that the use of biological weapons over nuclear weapons was far more likely given the differences in size and availability, though many of these studies also noted the volume of international treaties and conventions nullified any states attempts to use such weapons. However, in the post 9/11 security paradigm the global antagonist is no longer a rogue state but rather a multitude of terrorist organisations spread across the globe who are not bound to any international treaties or agreements, thus making the potential use of biological weapons very real. In fact, US and UK intelligence services have in the past noted that the Islamic state have attempted to develop biological weapons in Syria and Iraq. A claim supported by UK minister for security Ben Wallace who contends that terrorist organisations such as Islamic state lack any sense of morality which may be a barrier to the use of biological weapons.

The growth in concerns about the use of biological weapons is primarily resultant of the improvement in technology simplifying the changing of the molecular structure of deadly diseases, along with the emergence and spread of new forms of disease. An obvious example of such a disease would be the Ebola virus which killed 11,310 people and infected 28, 616 people between 2013-2016 in West Africa. Although, a 2015 study conducted by a UK top-secret military research centre in Wiltshire found that Ebola lacked the immediate devastating effect desired by terrorists, however noted that it would effectively spread fear amongst the public. Resulting from these findings, one must question whether the use of biological weapon would be the most effective means of attaining the high number of causalities desired by terrorist organisations and therefore would such organisations consider using biological weapons.

In order to answer the above question, one must delve into the history of biological weapon use in terrorist organisations. Interestingly, upon studying a selection of attempted terrorist attacks using biological weapons there are two consistent similarities found within most examples. These are that they occur within America and are undertaken by white supremacist groups. In these select cases the chemical agents used have ranged from ricin, typhoid and the bubonic plague. All of which have been attempted to be released in a multitude of differing ways such as poisoning the water supply. In this sense, the number of differing toxins and methods of releasing such toxins would suggest that Mr. Gates argument for increasing the attention and spending given to the defence of biological weapons is entirely warranted. Therefore, one must consider Mr. Gates’ warnings over the lack of interest and funding given to biological warfare defence gravely concerning.

Is there no such thing as bad publicity?

In an age where the language of politicians is seemingly becoming more colloquial, eye-catching and deliberately provocative, one must seriously question is there such a thing as bad publicity? After all, the Trump campaign for both the Republican Presidential nomination and the Presidential campaign was arguably based around the deliberate use of controversial rhetoric and proposed policies for the purposes of gaining media attention and exposure at the expense of his political rivals. Obviously this approach proved to be successful in both elections which therefore begs the question if political controversy is the best means of attracting media coverage. Furthermore, one must also consider whether Trump’s approach is undertaken with social media in mind rather than traditional mainstream outlets. With services such as Facebook and Twitter offering the user the ability to share stories meaning articles that both support and condemn the politician in question can go viral and reach far more people that traditional mainstream media outlets can.

Focusing prominently on the question posed, multiple studies have conducted research on the supposed relationship between media bias, candidate popularity and the political attitudes of the reader. Unsurprisingly, one candidate regularly focused on is now US President Donald Trump, who despite regularly attracting harmful press won the Republican nomination and the US Presidential election. In this sense, the continuous negative media campaign against Trump from mainstream American and global media outlets may ironically have boosted his quest for candidacy. After all, through sound bites and ill-thought supposed policies, Trump was able to capture the attention of both the electorate and the media, thus giving him his far more coverage than his more qualified and experienced political opponents. Furthermore, multiple studies consider that negative press generates far more interest than positive press. Primarily, these conclusions are drawn due to the fact that the number one priority of media outlets is to publish stores that will drive traffic and attract readers. Frequently, the stories which generate the most interest and are often the most talked about are based around the controversial viewpoint of a politician. The method of using controversial rhetoric and policies to gain media exposure was regularly utilised by the Trump campaign, which along with his already established pre-existing fame lead to sole focus being placed on him and a sense of selective exposure from media which was particularly evident in the race for Republican nomination.

Moreover, if one assumes that exposure is the primary aim of any politician running for office then negative press may be the most efficient means of attaining it. After all, as previously noted political controversy often leads to a higher number of articles being produced on the subject as well as encourages debates on the true meaning and legitimacy of the claims made. The second consequence noted is particularly significant when one considers the popularity of social media platforms. In this sense, controversial comments which attract interest can frequently go viral and reach millions without the influence or input of professional journalists. This conclusion can be considered particularly significant when one considers that a study conducted by Ipos Mori found that 34% of 18 to 24-year olds admitted that their political ideals and allegiance could be altered by something they read online. Additionally, a separate study conducted on the same topic supported Ipos Mori’s results by noting that 41% of young people aged between 15 and 25 had at some point engaged in a political debate online. The data provided by the two studies seemingly supports the claim that there is a positive relationship between media coverage and electoral success.

Finally, one can consider negative publicity and the media’s relationship with it to be a cycle of exposure which may or may not benefit the candidate. This cycle has three distinct sections which motivate one another. These are: controversial comments or policies by the political candidate, negative publicity and increased coverage in mainstream media and reaction on social media platforms. Furthermore, the cycle begins through the controversy generated by the politician, such as Trump’s pledge to build a wall along America’s southern border, consequently a multitude of analytical articles appear through traditional mainstream media outlets as well as online. The rise in online articles will invariably increase the likelihood of the story going viral and being read by millions of people. Moreover, as a consequence of a higher number of people being interested in the story and the fact that journalists have to publish stories which will generate traffic, the candidate’s coverage in mainstream media is rapidly enlarged and increases likelihood of success in the polls due to the candidate holding house-hold name recognition. In this sense, there is really no such thing as bad publicity as the primary aim of any modern day politician is media exposure and recognition.

By Jonathan Evans