A sense of redundancy might encourage calm. The job is done, however well or poorly. The legacy charted. But in the case of President Donald Trump, there is still much to be done. Leaving aside his priority of fortifying himself in the White House against any bailiff onslaught by president-elect Joe Biden, he is busy making decisions. One of them is something that this administration will always be remembered for: sackings.
The sacking of Defence Secretary Mark Esper was in keeping with a recently minted tradition. Trump has made a habit of cycling through appointees, notably those in the Defence Department. Five acting or confirmed defence secretaries during the course of a presidential term is a spanking record and unlikely to be outdone for some years.
It was Esper who showed alarm at the possibility that troops would be deployed against protesters and did little to hide that fact. As he explained in the Pentagon briefing room on June 3,
“The option to use active duty troops in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
Solid stuff from someone the president had mocked for undue subservience as Yesper, a tag he expressed resentment over in an interview given to Military Times a few days before his sacking.
“My frustration is I sit there and say, ‘Hm, 18 Cabinet members. Who’s pushed back more than anybody? Name another Cabinet secretary that’s pushed back.”
He was hardly top of the cabinet pops, and so, the beleaguered commander-in-chief, wishing for some gratuitous blood, found Esper’s exposed head. “Mark Esper,” came the president’s tweet, “has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.” His replacement: Christopher C. Miller, Director of the National Counterterrorism Centre.
I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2020
What makes this unusual is that transitions are usually periods of dull resignation and tidying up.