There are rumors that President Trump is close to dumping his secretary for veterans affairs, David Shulkin, whose tenure under Trump has been marred by both scandal and a remarkable internal insurrection. Trump reportedly has been considering “Fox & Friends” host Pete Hegseth for the role, which rings true to other Trump hires. Another “Fox & Friends” veteran is now acting undersecretary of state; his newly announced national security adviser, John Bolton, had to give up his Fox News contract to take the gig.
Trump is also reportedly frustrated with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who has managed to make headlines recently for considering buying a $31,000 table and for being unable to fully explain why he was considering doing it.
Were Trump to drop both Shulkin and Carson by the end of the week, it would be the most Cabinet officials to leave a presidency within its first 450 days since Gerald Ford, whose first 450 days included transitioning the Cabinet he inherited from Richard Nixon post-resignation. Having two Cabinet members leave within the first 450 days would match the first term of William McKinley.
But, of course, those two Cabinet members wouldn’t be the only two for Trump. He has already lost three members of his Cabinet: Rex Tillerson, fired as secretary of state; Tom Price, resigned under pressure as health and human services secretary; and John F. Kelly, moved from the Department of Homeland Security to the White House to serve as chief of staff.
Of course, Cabinets are bigger than they used to be, so losing three (or up to five) members is a smaller bite than it would have been if, say, Thomas Jefferson had lost three members of his Cabinet.
But when we compare Trump with other recent presidents who had at least 13 Cabinet members (everyone since Ford, in other words), he compares unfavorably.
The only other recent president to lose a member of his Cabinet within the first 450 days who wasn’t a holdover from a previous administration was Bill Clinton. His first secretary of defense, Les Aspin, resigned in 1994, a little over a year into his term, because of controversies in office and because of his health. He died in 1995.
A poll from CNN and polling partner SRSS released Monday found that Americans held Trump’s Cabinet in fairly low esteem. A plurality of respondents said members of Trump’s Cabinet were more likely to misuse taxpayer money than past Cabinet officials, and just shy of half said the Cabinet members were using their positions for personal gain. Half said Trump’s Cabinet members were less likely to actually be qualified for their jobs.
That is at odds with how Trump once viewed his Cabinet picks. Shortly before he took office, Trump described his team as having “by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled.” The question, then, is how the replacements to his Cabinet will fare. Will their IQs be even higher still?
A question for the White House press corps to ask.