Ronny Jackson, President Trump's nominee to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, has run into a bit of trouble on his way to Senate confirmation. (Update: Jackson withdrew his nomination Thursday morning.) It is just the latest in long series of sordid stories ending in the career ruination of going on four dozen people.
I have a friendly piece of advice for anyone who might be considering serving in the Trump administration, or indeed working for Trump in any capacity whatsoever: Don't.
So what happened with Jackson? He is the White House doctor, and is alleged to have been drinking on the job, drunkenly banged on a female employee's door during an overseas trip, improperly dispensed medication, and generally created a hostile work environment. It's also worth noting that while Jackson has been a practicing physician since 2006, he has no particular experience with health policy as such, much less administering a gigantic bureaucracy. (The VA has some 380,000 employees and a budget of $180 billion.) Even if he were squeaky clean personally, he's not remotely qualified in the first place. Trump appears to have nominated him because he said nice things about Trump on TV once, and because he's quite handsome.
If Jackson faceplants on his nomination and is forced out of the White House, it will be the 42nd high-level Trump administration employee to resign or be fired by CNN's count. This has to be most unstable administration since the development of the modern executive branch — if not all of American history.
Yet one remarkable thing about Jackson's story is that much of it happened under President Obama. The alleged harassment incident happened in 2015, and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) testified that Jackson repeatedly got wasted on trips with Obama and was called the "candy man" for handing out downers and uppers willy-nilly.
What this tends to demonstrate is that the incredible corruption of the Trump administration — acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Mick Mulvaney recently basically admitted to taking quid pro quo bribes while he was in Congress — is a window into a much larger galaxy of corruption and malfeasance at the top of the American elite. Most people in Jackson's position simply are not used to being subject to accountability of any kind. Even President Obama, whose vetting process was infamously extensive and slow, apparently tolerated astounding misbehavior from his own dang doctor.
If people in the running to work for Trump had a lick of sense, they would surely see the risk here, and pick this time for a long vacation, early retirement, or to start that carpentry business they've always wanted. Even if your own history is in order, it's a near certainty that Trump will flip out and fire you after a few months anyway.
But the awesome corruption in the American elite probably also explains why people keep signing up to serve in Trump's administration, despite it being a career meatgrinder that will probably besmirch the reputations of all who worked for it as long as they live. Corrupt people are not usually very good at resisting offers for power, nor perceiving when it is sensible to keep one's head down and out of the news. Jackson probably isn't the last unqualified schmuck who will end up infamous and disgraced as part of this administration.
To look on the bright side, one unintended side benefit of the Trump presidency may turn out to be a long-overdue look at America's corruption problem. I would bet quite a lot of money that if one were to turn a high-powered spotlight on the financial and ethical practices of the whole top rank of American politics (liberals and conservatives alike), one would turn up a whole lot of serious impropriety. One person who went down as a result of Clinton losing, for example, was top Democratic lobbyist and fundraiser Tony Podesta (brother to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta), who was caught up in the Mueller probe and lost his business as a result.
It's a reminder that even after Trump is gone, America will still need a real anti-corruption drive to restore anything like clean government.