The revolving door at the White House is spinning so fast these days that it may lift off into orbit as the latest exit from President Trump’s cabinet was abruptly announced by a tweet this morning.
….I thank Pat for his outstanding service and will be naming Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, to be the new Acting Secretary of Defense. I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019
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Shanahan has only been the acting Secretary of Defense since January when his predecessor James Mattis resigned on principle after President Trump announced a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from Syria.
As is typical when the excuse of wanting to spend more time with their family is offered as the reason for someone’s sudden resignation, there is more to the story than meets the eye.
The announcement of Shanahan’s decision to remove himself from the confirmation process for becoming the permanent Defense Secretary comes after the FBI investigation for his background uncovered disturbing allegations from his ex-wife that the former Boeing executive had punched her in the stomach during a domestic dispute, according to an account in The New York Times.
“Mr. Shanahan said that his ex-wife started the fight, and his spokesman said that she was arrested and charged with domestic violence, charges which were eventually dropped,” the newspaper reported.
Violence was a regular occurrence in the Shanahan household, judging from this other reported domestic incident that The Times cited.
“According to court documents viewed by The New York Times, in 2011 Mr. Shanahan’s son, who was 16 at the time, hit his mother repeatedly with a baseball bat, and she was hospitalized,” the Times’ article reveals.
The instability at the Pentagon comes as the White House is marshaling a steady drumbeat preparing the nation for war with Iran and leaves the voice of the military relatively weakened in the administration’s internal debates over the way forward in the Middle East compared to notorious hawks in the conversation like National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Shanahan’s departure also highlights President Trump’s inability to attract and retain qualified staff members in his administration — as exemplified by the number of executive branch agencies and departments still operating with an acting head, including the Interior Department, the Homeland Security Department, the Office of Management and Budget, the Small Business Administration, and the ambassador to the United Nations. Even Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, is officially still listed as holding his position in an acting capacity.
“I like acting. It gives me more flexibility. Do you understand that?” Trump told reporters back in January. “I like acting. So we have a few that are acting. We have a great, great cabinet.”
While Trump’s appointment of a former Boeing executive made Shanahan’s initial appointment controversial with people who felt that having a veteran employee of a major defense contractor as Defense Secretary would bias military procurement in favor of his former colleagues, the president’s appointment of Mark Esper — previously Secretary of the Army and a former Raytheon executive — as the new acting Defense Secretary does little to allay fears of a way too cosy relationship between the Pentagon and defense contractors.
Over two years into his term, Trump’s promise to bring “only the best” people into his administration remains as laughable as when he announced his initial cabinet choices. His inability to run a competent administration — free of corruption and scandal — is just another reason why his impeachment is imperative.
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