Part of the problem with the revolving door in Donald Trump's White House is the turmoil itself. An administration cannot expect to function effectively when a president is constantly hiring and firing new officials for powerful executive-branch posts.
But the other part of the problem is that each of Trump's recent changes have been changes for the worse. Rex Tillerson is being replaced by Mike Pompeo; Gary Cohn is being replaced with Larry Kudlow; and as we learned late yesterday, H.R. McMaster is being replaced with John Bolton.
I'm reluctant to refer to Tillerson, Cohn, and McMaster as the administration's "grown-ups," since they were often wrong, ineffectual, and marginalized. I prefer to think of them as the president's training wheels.
Trump has never been graceful, and he still struggles to steer straight. Observers, even those who want to see him reach his destination, routinely feel the need to cover their eyes when they're not burying their heads in their hands. But officials like Tillerson, Cohn, and McMaster generally made an effort to help prevent total wipeouts. They recognized their president's many limitations, and often made credible efforts to keep him from falling.
This is especially true of McMaster, who tried to help the president be more responsible on everything from NATO to Russia to North Korea. When Trump threatened our South Korean allies, it was McMaster who reached out to tell them to ignore his erratic boss.
The president, however, didn't appreciate McMaster's maturity. I'm reminded of this Politico piece published a month ago:
Their strained relationship was on rare public display over the weekend when the president chastised his national security adviser for telling a crowd at the Munich Security Conference that evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election was "incontrovertible.""General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems," Trump tweeted.... The president's chiding of McMaster marked the first public break between the two, whose clashes and disagreements have heretofore taken place behind closed doors.
In hindsight, this was probably the beginning of the end. McMaster told the truth about Russia, Trump didn't like it, and the rumors about McMaster's ouster began almost immediately thereafter.
As a consequence, the job will now go to John Bolton -- a ridiculous choice -- who will be the president's fourth pick for the White House national security advisor in 14 months. Mike Flynn, of course, was Trump's first pick, and he was ousted for lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia. Retired Navy Vice Adm. Robert Harward was offered the job soon after Flynn's departure, but he turned Trump down.
The position then fell to McMaster, who did his best for about a year, and now Bolton. If you thought Trump's team couldn't be a more embarrassing mess in 2017, you may be surprised at how much worse things will get in 2018.