Blog Detail

The Most Powerful Reject in the World

Is there anyone who wants to hang with Donald Trump?

By Frank Bruni Opinion Columnist Dec. 11, 2018 

Al Drago for The New York Times

He’s not wanted.

Not at funerals, though the Bush family, to show class and respect for tradition, held their noses and made an exception.

Not in England, where they turned him into a big, hideous blimp.

Not by moderate Republicans, or at least the shrinking club with a tenuous claim to that label, who pushed him away during the midterms as they fought for their survival and clung to their last shreds of self-respect.

And not by a 36-year-old Republican operative who is by most accounts the apotheosis of vanity and ambition — and who just turned down one of the most powerful roles in any administration, a job that welds you to the president’s side and gives you nearly unrivaled access to his thoughts.

Nick Ayers didn’t see enough upside to the welding. He could do without those thoughts. He said no to becoming Trump’s next chief of staff, and this wasn’t just the latest twist in “As The White House Turns.”

It was, really, the whole story — of a president who burns quickly through whatever good will he has, a president who represents infinitely more peril than promise, a president toward whom a shockingly small and diminishing number of people in Washington feel any real affection, a president more tolerated than respected, though even the tolerance wanes.

He’s forever fixated on how wanted he is (“My crowds!” “My ratings!”), but what’s more striking is how unwanted he is. And that’s not merely a function of the crests and dips that every president encounters. It’s not really about popularity at all.

This is your last free article.Subscribe to The New York Times

It’s about how he behaves — and the predictable harvest of all that nastiness. While other presidents sought to hone the art of persuasion, he revels in his talent for repulsion: how many people he attacks (he styles this as boldness); how many people he offends (he pretties this up as authenticity); how many people he sends into exile. His administration doesn’t have alumni so much as refugees. H.R. McMaster, Gary Cohn and Reince Priebus are a dumbfounded diaspora all their own.

Careerists who would normally pine for top jobs with a president assess his temper, behold his tweets, recall the mortifications of Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson, and run for the hills. Trump sits at the most coveted desk in the world, but almost no one wants to pull up a chair.

Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!

Frank Bruni

Frank Bruni, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times since June 2011, joined the newspaper in 1995 and has ranged broadly across its pages. He has been both a White House correspondent and the chief restaurant critic. As a staff writer for The Times Magazine, he profiled J. J. Abrams and a health-obsessed billionaire who planned to live to 125; as the Rome bureau chief, he kept tabs on both Pope John Paul II and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Frank Bruni, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times since June 2011, joined the newspaper in 1995 and has ranged broadly across its pages. He has been both a White House correspondent and the chief restaurant critic. As a staff writer for The Times Magazine, he profiled J. J. Abrams and a health-obsessed billionaire who planned to live to 125; as the Rome bureau chief, he kept tabs on both Pope John Paul II and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr. Bruni came to The Times from The Detroit Free Press, where he was, alternately, a war correspondent, the chief movie critic and a religion writer. He is the author of three New York Times best sellers: a 2015 examination of the college admissions frenzy, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be”; a 2009 memoir, “Born Round,” about the joys and torments of his eating life; and a 2002 chronicle of George W. Bush’s initial presidential campaign, “Ambling into History.” His first cookbook, “A Meatloaf in Every Oven,” was published in February 2017 and co-written with his Times colleague Jennifer Steinhauer. 

In his columns, which appear every Sunday and Wednesday, he reflects on diverse topics, including: American politics, higher education, popular culture and gay rights. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Sign up for his email newsletter here.



Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons
error: Content is protected !!