Used Souls: The Market for Former Trump Aides

Sean Spicer appears at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. (Photo by Phil McCarten/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

Sean Spicer had big plans, and why shouldn’t he? Obama’s last press secretary is now a VP at United. Jay Carney is a senior executive at Amazon. Robert Gibbs is an exec at McDonalds. And none of them were ever onstage at the Emmys. But alas, Spicer’s used soul had barely hit the market when hard realities set in.

A Harvard fellowship is supposed to be a victory lap, a resume-cleansing exercise in adulation pinned between a low-wage, high-profile government job and the far more lucrative gigs that follow. Not so for Spicer. He was roasted by Harvard students even while the administration kept his lectures “off the record.” Having finished his ivy league stint without a job offer, he was counting on his semi-literate memoir to kickstart his career. It flopped. A BBC interview promoting his book gave Spicer a taste of what awaits all of the Vichy Republicans who’ve collaborated with this regime. Skipping past the fluff, the interviewer got right to the point, “You have corrupted discourse for the entire world by going along with these lies.”

Unable to find a real job and not making a living as an author, Spicer now holds a token position with the America First PAC, a pro-Trump dark money slush fund. Apart from the loyalty checks he receives from America First to keep his mouth shut, Spicer is struggling to launch a consulting gig, currently supporting a single employee. He should be grateful. At least he hasn’t been indicted. Yet.

A Brookings staffer put it delicately when she explained that “You’re not seeing ‘home run’ jobs” for former Trump staffers. Prominent #NeverTrump Republican, Rick Wilson, described it more succinctly with the title of his book: Everything Trump Touches Dies. It’s a phenomenon driven in part by the black hole of narcissism at the center of Trumplandia. However, Trump’s public reputation and corrupt practices aren’t entirely to blame for the failures of his flunkies. Contributing to this dynamic is the simple fact that Trump hires people who suck. These are terrible people who aren’t good at doing things.

Child-model and Trump favorite, Hope Hicks, announced her resignation as White House Communications Director the day after her closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in February. After six months of fruitless job search, Trump got her nominally installed in Bill Shine’s old position at Fox News. She will presumably remain there, doing whatever it is she does all day, as long as Trump retains his influence, or until she gets indicted for her role in covering up the Trump-Russia collusion. So far, she seems to be the only Trump staffer to succeed in failing up from their administration stint, though the looming prospect of prison may dampen that record.

When Valerie Jarrett left her position at Director of the White House’s Public Liaison Office, she took a seat on the board of Lyft, the Kennedy Center, and several other corporations while also assuming a fellowship at the University of Chicago Law School. When George Sifakis left the same position in the Trump Administration, he eventually landed a job as “CEO” of his wife’s event-hosting company. The company’s press release omitted any direct mention of his ties to the regime.

How much of the difference in these outcomes results from the taint of the Trump administration and how much of it comes down to Sifakis’ lack of marketable experience or talent? To a large extent the two factors are the same. What credible figure is going to ruin their reputation by collaborating with this regime? The Trump White House, like the Trump businesses, is a hive of hustlers, half-wits, crooks and failures. These are people who held meetings in the dark because they couldn’t operate fancy light switches, people who are constantly recording each other, scrambling to assemble enough material for their “tell-all books. The most sympathetic figures in this administration are its rich collection of clueless mediocrities. Do you want these people working with you?

In France after World War II, practically everyone had been a member of the Resistance. In a few years, everyone will have been a NeverTrumper. No one with any shred of self-respect or dignity will publicly admit to have supported this regime. Those whose collaboration was limited to the voting booth will be able to hide. People who merely defended Trump on Facebook will be able to delete their posts. Dumb comments over Thanksgiving Dinner or beers at the bar will fade into the ether, politely forgotten by those who heard them. But the ambitious losers who actually worked in the administration will be deploying some mad resume skills to paper over this hole in their resume.

There’s a stench attached to a used soul that wafts out beyond the immediate environment, through the tendrils of the interwebs all the way to LinkedIn. When you sell your soul, you better get a good deal because the second-hand market is brutal.

37 Comments

  1. And right on cue, the Democrats are poised to steal defeat from the jaws of victory. This battle over electing Pelosi speaker is a prime example of the type of stupid, internecine fights that Democrats are famous for. Instead of spending December honing a message of how they’ll take on Trump, or presenting a policy agenda (even if none of it will actually pass), after a wave election that exceeded expectations (40 seats), the Dems are forming their usual circular firing squad.

    This is what disgusts me about Blue Dog Democrats, the moderates who are railing against Pelosi: they may be representing moderate districts, but they *won* those districts by firing up the base and hatred for Trump and Republican policies.

    The great myth is that there are lots of people like Chris who actually consider policy positions and are willing to switch sides due to policy concerns. The vast, vast majority of people vote for their home team, no more, no less. This year, the Dems won because they fired up their supporters. They did not attract new people from the other side. They merely outvoted them. While long-term shifts in coalitions can happen, they don’t happen over 1 or two election cycles. Very few people who voted for Trump in 2016 voted for a Dem candidate this year. It’s time to stop wasting time trying to court them.

    It’s even worse that this entire battle is about process. I can understand and even respect a principled stand on policy. But no one in their district who doesn’t wear a MAGA hat knows who Pelosi is or cares who is the Speaker, if they even know what the hell that position means. No independent voting for a Democrat is going to rescind their vote over an inside-baseball battle over the Speaker’s gavel or arcane rules about how legislation is written and voted on.

    If I was a freshman Blue Dog nervous about 2020, I’d make a quiet deal with Pelosi to make sure I bring home some extra bacon in the next 2 years, focus like hell on constituent service and local issues, steer clear of divisive stuff, cast a few protest votes to prove your independent bona fides (when your votes aren’t needed), and then run on that. That’s the time-tested way for freshmen to ensure their re-election. Not making a big stink about process issues that no actual voter cares about.

    No one outside the Beltway cares about process. And to the extent that any process changes that are pushed through by these so-called moderates weaken the ability of the Dems to use the one lever of power they control to craft a unified and coherent message and plan of action, it will worsen *everyone’s* chances of re-election in 2020. Do the Blue Dogs really think that if they keep throwing a wrench in the works and prevent the Dem caucus from crafting a coherent message for 2020, that their voters will still vote for him because, hey, at least he didn’t vote for Pelosi as Speaker? Talk about delusional and self-defeating. But then, we are Democrats…

    1. Yup. Dem’s do not have the requirements to deal with evil. In general, Dem’s are people who believe in the rule of law, and that everyone’s opinion matters.

      That is the exact opposite of their enemy, and that is why the Dem’s will fail again. Tack on the entitlement of the entrenched House Dem’s, and there is zero chance they will make a dent in the regime in power today.

    2. I think we are focusing too much on the skirmish and not the true battle. Pelosi is going to be the speaker. Most of these “blue dogs” or whatever they are being called are making their point and then will end up voting for Pelosi in Jan. Pelosi has already shown that she is outwitting them.

      However, it is indeed sad that they have allowed the Repugs’ demagoguery to get to them. They are responding to the voters who are not very politically oriented and get their info from FAUX NEWS. The Repugs would like nothing more than for the D’s to have a big floor fight over the speakership. But Pelosi is showing why she is a great speaker and why the Repugs are so scared of her.

      Your point regarding laying the policy foundations for the 117th Congress which will convene in 2021 is well taken. The D’s need to do that; that is what they did during the 110th Congress from 2007-2008. That preplanning is part of the reason the 211th Congress from 2009-1010 was so successful. Pelosi was instrumental in doing that preplanning.

      1. Paul Ryan had a bigger fight on his hands for the Speakership in ’15 and the Republican conference was and is infinitely more fractured than Democrats are.

        With all respect, Democrats need to stop running with media-spewed drivel about #DemsInDisarray and have some more faith in Pelosi. She’s a lot stronger than people give her credit for, and she’ll prove it again when she’s Speaker in January.

      2. I have full faith in Pelosi. I like her as a Speaker, not [just] because she’s a liberal, but she knows how to deliver. In 2008, she delivered pretty much all of Obama’s agenda. Of course much of it stalled in the Senate, but that’s not her fault. And she will be speaker in January, I have no doubt. Which makes the Blue Dogs’ battles even more pointless. Why pick a fight you know you’re going to lose?

        My issue with the Blue Dogs (don’t know if moderate Dems still call themselves this, or do they have a new name?) is that thanks to them, all of the press coverage until Jan will be nothing but #DemsInDisarray. This deprives the Dems of the chance to control the narrative, at a time when they should be triumphant and the Repubs are on their heels. I’m not worried about Dems believing that media-spewed drivel. I’m worried about the average voter believing it (e.g. independents), because he won’t see anything else.

        Given that there will be no substantive results for the next 2 years aside from Trump investigations, the narrative is the *only* thing the Dems have to lay out their platform to the American people. Let the Repubs paint a picture of #DemsInDisarray and it won’t matter if Pelosi is elected and delivers 100 bills laying out all of our policy proposals. They’ll die in the Senate while the press does nothing but cover internecine battles. And in 2020, the only thing the average low-information voter will know about the Dems is that they stand for nothing and can’t even control their own members. Doesn’t matter if it’s true, it’s what the narrative will be.

        Ryan-
        You mention Paul Ryan’s fight. Exactly. He never recovered from that fight. He could never deliver on critical policy issues, he was too weak to corral his caucus when needed, and overall, was nothing but a deer-in-the-headlights punching bag for the Freedom Caucus to manhandle when they wanted to. And those battles helped give rise to Trump, who could argue that Republicans were weak, and also contributed to their losses in this year. If your point is to say Pelosi won’t be as weak as Ryan, that’s a pretty low bar to clear. Especially when we have the chance to do much, much better.

        I probably sound like a liberal hoping to quash moderate voices in the party. That’s not my point at all. Like I said, I respect policy differences and hope all reasonable proposals — even from Republicans — are considered by the House leadership and debated. What drives me up the wall is having stupid battles over process that everyone knows will end in failure (Pelosi will be Speaker), with the only real result being distracting the country from the party’s message. There is not even another candidate who has declared against Pelosi (no one who has any sense would dare to do it). What exactly are the Blue Dogs hoping to achieve by continuing to say they won’t vote for her?

        Picking pointless battles that you’ll lose and that will bloody yourself and the party on the way to losing anyway seems to be a Dem specialty (e.g. the Schumer shutdown in Jan over immigration, and for that matter, the stand against Kavanaugh, which led to him being confirmed anyway, while losing 3 Senate seats for the Dems, and probably a few house seats and maybe the FL & GA governorships). It seems we can never change our spots…

      3. WX Wall – “Picking pointless battles that you’ll lose and that will bloody yourself and the party on the way to losing anyway seems to be a Dem specialty (e.g. the Schumer shutdown in Jan over immigration, and for that matter, the stand against Kavanaugh, which led to him being confirmed anyway, while losing 3 Senate seats for the Dems, and probably a few house seats and maybe the FL & GA governorships). It seems we can never change our spots…

        With all due respect, Wall, that’s just a load of crap. McCaskill, Donnelly, and Heitkamp were all running in overwhelmingly Trump states, and not a single one of them didn’t overperform the respective Republican lean of their states by close to double-digits.

        It just wasn’t enough.

        That said, as a native Floridian myself, I’m as upset as anyone about what happened back home. That we may well have lost a Senate seat because of some incompetent’s messing up the ballot in Broward is about as Florida as anything I’ve ever heard, but what’s done is done.

        Even then though, those honorary Alabamians up in the Panhandle turned out *big* for Scott and DeSantis, much more than I would’ve expected, and the governorship would’ve been lost no matter what. Someone needs to take a serious rebuilding of the Democratic Party here, because just running on a single candidate (no matter how inspiring) just ain’t cutting it.

        All that said, there’s no denying that Dems did extraordinarily well all things considered. We have the House majority back with the biggest popular vote margin in midterm history. Let’s take the presidency and Senate back in ’20 and get this country moving again.

      4. “McCaskill, Donnelly, and Heitkamp were all running in overwhelmingly Trump states, and not a single one of them didn’t overperform the respective Republican lean of their states by close to double-digits.”

        Yep. In an election where the average democrat *did* overperform the republican lean of their districts. While Heitkamp was probably a lost cause well before Kavanaugh, Donnelly and Nelson were absolutely surprises, and McCaskill was expected to be around 50/50. I’m sure there are multiple reasons why they lost, and every race is local, etc. etc. But it’s undeniable that the Kavanaugh battle fired up the Republican base in a year when they were demoralized and likely to stay home. We can’t deny that it hurt us.

        WRT Kavanaugh specifically, one could argue that we should have done it regardless, because we had a moral obligation to take sexual assault allegations seriously regardless of any political calculus. I’d agree with that. Sometimes morals do trump politics. But the Schumer shutdown was a complete and pointless political own-goal. As is this whole “rebellion” against Pelosi. I just don’t understand the Blue Dogs’ reasoning on this one.

    1. This is good to know. However, I believe it was the CA 21st CD, rather than the 10th CD. Per the LA Times Article. Cox started out running in the 10th but later switched to the 21st. Apparently he actually moved.

      What I find particularly interesting in the CA results, is that Orange County has turned solidly blue and that the Central Valley is showing a lot of blue as well. Both areas were once solid Red and the heartland of the CA Republican Party. The modern Republican Party is just totally irrelevant to the Left Coast except for the areas east of the Sierra – Cascade Crests which are sparsely populated and are really more like the Far West, but even much of the Mountain West is trending blue, e.g. Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona and Utah, to lesser degrees.

      1. Point taken tmerritt15,
        I’m in the NY 10th District and was gawking at our election numbers while reading the CA article…ugh….I’m only 57 and can’t keep two numbers in my head at the same time. I have lived in CA and know the state pretty well so was surprised by the result nonetheless. Its’ an odd district (the 21st). Fairly Democratic for being so rural but had been represented by Republicans for a good bit of time. Orange County didn’t shock me as every time I visit friends and family its hard to miss the demographic changes of that county. More diverse and a little younger than I remember it.

      2. I do appreciate you posting the results. I try to follow CA fairly closely because 1) it is so large and 2) CA trends invariably impact us in Seattle fairly quickly. There is a tendency for Seattleites to think of ourselves as a mini-San Francisco and to disparage Southern CA, but it is an integral part of CA. CA impacts the entire Pacific Coast fairly rapidly.

    1. Interesting article. To me it points out that the underlying nativism that exists in America and periodically erupts has struck the White Evangelical Protestants so strongly that it has become epidemic in that group. That is no surprise because as the article points out the WEPs are one group that particularly threatened by high levels of immigration of people different from themselves. The entire philosophy of the evangelical movement relies on the superiority of their ethos to that of other groups and so they are particularly susceptible to demonization of others. These groups were also particularly susceptible to the KKK and its messages of hate in all its iterations.

      However, that message of exclusion, hatred and xenophobia is not finding wide purchase in the urban and suburban environments of America. The recent election made that crystal clear. The only areas of the nation where the Rethugs did well was in the red states that are predominantly rural without any significant urban environments. The results in TX, which has been one of the reddest states in the union make that clear. The urban areas tilted blue or became purple.

      I have hopes that this resurgence of nativism has peaked and will begin to subside. But the war is far from over, we have a long arduous path with many hurdles to return America to being an open society such as envisioned by Emma Lazarus in the New Colossus as follows:

      “Give me your tired, your poor,
      Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
      The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
      Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
      I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

      However, as Chris pointed out recently this is only the first step towards the extremely crucial election of 2022. To use an analogy from WWII, the 2018 election would be comparable to the Battle of the Coral Sea in the Pacific. It is only early 1942.

      1. One wonders if increasing cynicism about faith from greater numbers of people who claim no religious affiliation is influenced by the moral contradictions displayed by the compromised religious right. Our nation desperately needs people to admire who embody dignity, positivity, and fairness. This is why candidates like O’Rourke, Abrams and Gillum have been so well received, and I am confident their turn will come. In the meantime, we fight for every vote and office. If Dems capture this 40th seat in CA, this “Blue Wave” will have eclipsed all others except the Democrat’s blue wave following Watergate. Yes, gerrymandering is still limiting our wins, but when we win more state legislative parity, that too will change. 2020 is next.

      2. Just read this which is what we can expect when Dems’ numbers increase in state legislatures.

        🥳🎉SB1737, including the Short Term Limited Duration Health Insurance Coverage Act passed IL House today, 89-20. Gov Rauner’s veto is successfully overturned! This will take effect on January 1, 2019. Thank you for your help and support moving this legislation forward to #StopJunkInsurance! #ProtectOurCare #twill

  2. While I enjoy schadenfreude at Trump’s expense, I’m not so sure we should boast about the ability of Obama’s lackeys to become corporate prostitutes and craven lobbyists.

    Unless Valerie Jarrett knows how to code an app or used to drive a taxi, I’m betting she was hired to lobby on behalf of Lyft for all the regulatory exceptions lyft needs for its business to be sustainable. And a former communications director like Jay Carney is a good pet for a founder who decided buying his own newspaper was in his business interest.

    My point in bringing this up is that the success of Obama appointees in spinning through the revolving door is less a sign of their intelligence, and more a sign that the corporate wing of the democratic party is alive and well. A smart company will always keep someone around to work with them. OTOH, Trump has no power base even within the republican party. A Trump appointee is not going to be able to open doors to another republican, much less a Democrat, once Trump leaves office. That makes them useless even if they are brilliant.

    While I don’t disagree that most Trump appointees are idiots and Obama’s appointees are somewhat smarter, that has zero correlation with the ability to be hired for a corporate job. Condeleeza Rice was national security advisor during the worst security breach since pearl harbor. She famously claimed she couldn’t “connect the dots” while her own intelligence agencies wrote a memo entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike the US”. She is at least as incompetent as any Trump appointee. Yet she has a cush position at Stanford, and is on the board of Dropbox. Why? Because she’s part of the republican establishment and thus has a rolodex that Sean Spicer does not. That’s the only difference.

    1. OTOH, consider this story about sharp young technocrats who are helping run some of the successful Dem mid-term campaigns. These Millennials are certainly at the other end of the political spectrum from a Valerie Jarrett or Condoleeza Rice, i.e., limited time in grade…but they are learning from the ground up and might this not offer the greatest promise for Democracy?

      https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Young-Dem-staffers-in-Texas-make-moves-after-13415166.php?

      1. Yes, although they represent the reverse migration: people coming from the private world and entering the political one as staffers. There have always been bright, ambitious (and idealistic, at least initially 🙂 young people who enter the political world. DC is run by 25 year olds. The problem is, once they accumulate enough experience and seniority to actually do good stuff, they become far more valuable than their civil salary pays them, so they leave for greener pastures in the private world, to work for companies who have no interest in the commonweal, and so put these people to work in the usual lobbyist / influence modal.

        I wish we adopted the Singapore model of paying our public servants well. That would at least allow people who want to continue to work in govt a means to do so without sacrificing their earnings power.

    2. I’ll second that. Enjoyed the article very much (I almost felt guilty for feeling so much glee about their suffering… almost). But WX Wall is exactly right. Their rejection by Corporate and Academic America vs the cushy rewards given to former Obama admin personel will have a very different meaning to Trump supporters. And sadly I think Trump will have a bizarre cult like following for many years to come, regardless of whether or not he ends up in jail or permanently visiting close friends in Moscow…

  3. None of my family or friends who are Trump supporters have deserted him. Nothing he or his adminstration does has persuaded them to refuse the koolade. Those people are still a sizable market. So people out of Trump’s administration could still find employment with some organization that caters to those type of people. Sometimes you have to let God sort it out in the after life. This life is simply not fair. But sometimes people do make a down payment in this life. Some of these people are going to wind up in jail before this is over.

    1. I’m confident man has been given a brain so as to be able to use it during his lifetime – on earth. Every day we see more harm being done in so many areas it’s useless to list them. I want these people to pay for what they are doing to hurt others. If the only way they pay is to be defeated in their political careers, I’ll take it. We are not going to change these people – men and women alike. Their silence, complicity, and loud endorsement of Trump’s behavior and policies has to be met with total defeat. I include in this group white women who are voting with them. I say let’s apply our efforts to expand our base with new voters. We will not change the minds of Trump supporters. I, for one, am not going to waste my time trying to.

      https://medium.com/s/jessica-valenti/stop-trying-to-flip-female-trump-supporters-263887b299dd

  4. Notably, this post doesn’t touch upon any Republican members of Congress. Their silence, then complicit legislative and policy agreement followed by total abandonment of principle is now full-throttle public endorsement of every heinous utterance and arrogant action of this rotten, vindictive, incredibly thin-skinned man. This man who tragically occupies our nation’s highest position is destroying our democratic institutions and norms, publicly demeaning national heroes and denigrating our judiciary, elected and administrative professionals, threatening international alliances, defending dictators, reversing progress in the environment and disparaging diversity across all walks of life. This man and those who aid, abet and lie for him offend me and threaten the values that used to matter in our country.

    To all who justify by silence, support or allegiance any association they have with this despicable man, I have no pity nor forgiveness. They have sold their souls for a man who is worthless. They deserve their fates – but those they impact , do not.

    1. In his insatiable ego, I believe trump has made a bad miscalculation. By publicly insulting all of the divisions of government our nation holds in esteem- our judiciary, Intelligence, and the IRS, trump has alienated the institutions who have the most potential to threaten him….if he doesn’t destroy everything in his path first.

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