Kirstjen Nielsen is off the island. The embattled, beleaguered and apparently overwhelmed secretary of the
Summoned to the
In a sad effort to make this appear like a planned, professional exit, Nielsen later tweeted that she'd stay at her post until Wednesday to "assist with an orderly transition and ensure that key
So far, the orderly transition includes a fight over the appointment of yet another acting secretary into the Trump administration, the ousting of the
Nielsen was in an impossible position. There are 22 agencies reporting into
The president has tried to paint the surge in migrants from
It's not exactly blindingly novel to point out that the president's criteria for competence is unconventional. To be sure, he likes good numbers he can tout at rallies and in interviews -- jobs created, stock market highs, drugs seized, immigrants apprehended, etc. Those are fairly routine benchmarks. With a rising number of migrants inundating the border (and no new border wall to seen), Nielsen failed to provide much on this count.
But her political predicament was larger than that. Trump also demands -- and rewards -- loyalty, particularly in the form of effusive praise on cable news. Nielsen tried on that score, but she was never particularly convincing, often sounding as if she were reading from a script she didn't like.
But there's another measure of political value the president prizes in his lieutenants and surrogates: He likes a good foil. In foreign policy, for instance, Trump has played the disruptor, questioning
In domestic politics, however, Trump loves controversy but struggles with confrontation. (That's why he so often fires people over Twitter from a distance.)
From his lifelong admiration for
Right now it's
Miller is a consistent immigration restrictionist, opposed to legal and illegal arrivals, and when Miller has his ear, so is the president. But in his last State of the Union address, Trump blurted out -- off script -- that he wanted more legal immigrants than ever. Tellingly, when the border crisis first flared up last year, the
This schizophrenic messaging is a byproduct of Trump's tendency to use reality show tropes as a lodestar. "This is why I was so great on 'The Apprentice,'" Trump told then-House Speaker
Nielsen's Achilles' heel was that she was miscast for her role. She was mediocre at best at public displays of sycophancy, and she was even worse at playing the bad cop.
Trump has told aides he wants someone tougher on immigration policy. Whether he actually gets his bad cop remains to be seen. But odds are good that whoever it is will be better at playing one on TV.
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