'Why do you keep hiring people you believe are wackos and liars?'

Asked why he keeps hiring people he considers "wackos and liars," Trump didn't answer. That's a shame - it's a question in need of a response.
President Donald J. Trump
President Donald J. Trump walks the colonnade as he arrives to sign an executive order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities in the Rose Garden at the White House on June 16, 2020.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images
Get the Msnbc newsletter.
SUBSCRIBE
By Steve Benen

As part of the White House's pushback against John Bolton's new book, Donald Trump yesterday described his former national security advisor as a "liar" and a "wacko." The result was an interesting moment at a White House event yesterday.

President Donald Trump stared in silence on Thursday afternoon when CBS News reporter Paula Reid asked him why he keeps hiring "wackos" and "liars," referencing the president's own label for his former national security adviser John Bolton... "Mr. President, why do you keep hiring people that you believe are wackos and liars?" Reid shouted at the end of a White House roundtable, to no response from Trump.

It wasn't too surprising that the president ignored the question -- it's not an easy one to answer -- but there's nothing wrong with the line of inquiry.

There can be little doubt that Trump is not a buck-stops-here kind of leader, and when his administration suffers failures, the president is quick to blame his team for falling short. A Washington Post analysis noted yesterday, for example, that Trump has lashed out -- at times quite aggressively -- at everyone from Jeff Sessions to Dan Coats, Steve Bannon to Anthony Scaramucci, Rex Tillerson to James Mattis.

"Someone, somewhere, should identify the individual or individuals responsible for hiring all of them and hold them to account," the analysis concluded. "I'm sure no one would want to see that happen more than Trump himself."

Former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney added on CNN this morning, "If there was one criticism that I would level against the president, [it] is that he didn't hire very well. He did not have experience at running government and didn't know how to put together a team that could work well with him."

Perhaps not, but as an explanation for White House personnel failures, that's not exactly satisfying. For one thing, if Trump wasn't prepared to run the executive branch, he shouldn't have sought the office. For another, the president's problems persisted in this area well into his term.

But even putting these relevant details aside, isn't it easier to explain the White House's breakdowns by pointing more to Trump's ineptitude and less to the many "wackos and liars" he hired to work by his side?