As usual, this week’s daily news cycles prompted multiple beginnings to this post. Early in the week, I was appalled by the testimony before Congress of Adm. Michael Rogers, head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, on the lack of Presidential leadership in halting Russia’s continuing attempts to “invade” our election systems in the upcoming mid-terms and beyond.
Then, there were revelations about White House senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s vulnerability to influence by foreign powers, followed by news of his company receiving millions of dollars in dubious loans from financial institutions after he hosted officials from the same firms at the White House.
But, for me, these headlines were eclipsed by the news on Wednesday that current Communications Director and long-time Trump confidante Hope Hicks had suddenly resigned.
The White House made all kinds of official excuses about how this was long expected. Maybe this was the case, but the suddenness of the announcement and its awkward timing is curious at the least. It leads me to believe that something much deeper was going on–and raises an important question for our country: now what?
The pressure of working in the White House is beyond anything most of us can comprehend. I have been privileged to have one-on-one conversations with two former White House Communications staff–Mike McCurry, Press Secretary for President Clinton and Nicolle Wallace, Communications Director for President George W. Bush–and each shared how exhausting and relentless the pressure is in those positions. Both were experienced communications specialists, knowledgeable in the ways of Washington, when they served; Hope Hicks does not have such a reservoir of experience and understanding. And serving a President as mercurial as Donald Trump must only add to the pressure. I’m convinced that Hope Hicks finally said, “enough” and who can blame her? You can read an excellent article on the impact of Hope Hicks’s resignation on the President and the White House staff on CNN.com here.
In thinking about the effect of her decision on President Trump, I confess I almost feel sorry for him. His obsession with staff loyalty, his lack of a “network” of friends and colleagues in Washington, his insecurities–despite bragging about being the best and the brightest, the smartest and the shrewdest–must make the absence of his long-time confidante (some have called Hope Hicks a “Trump whisperer”) leave him with profound feelings of isolation.
Throughout my career, I have come to rely on individuals–often with skill sets quite different from my own–in forming teams to accomplish seemingly impossible objectives. I know the deep sense of anxiety and fear when a key player is suddenly missing or unable to perform his or her role. At its root, it is a very lonely feeling, a feeling not easy to shake. Knowing the unpredictability of this President (did he actually say he wanted to take your guns away first and then follow due process?!), I wonder how he will behave while he is feeling isolated (remember how Richard Nixon reacted in the waning days of his Presidency), and I fear for us all now that Hope is gone.