In all honesty, it’s hard to imagine what a day in the life of a White House communications director would even look like under President Trump.
In theory, the role is meant to guide external communications for the administration, to develop deliberate messaging efforts and manage the president’s relationship with the media. In a normal presidency, the communications director would figure out what policy initiatives were under consideration and plot a strategy to most effectively explain its importance. To carefully control how the White House team talked about upcoming plans and, when crises struck, determine how to respond.
You can see why this would be difficult under Trump. Trump’s focus for any given day is often dictated by the programming choices made on Fox News in the morning and pointed, deliberate efforts to manage a message are often undercut by a presidential tweet — sometimes deliberately.
Bringing over Fox News veteran Bill Shine to try to corral Trump seemed, on paper, like a decent idea. After all, who better to get the president on-message than the guy who’d helped do so indirectly for the first few months of Trump’s presidency as a leader of Trump’s favorite network?
But we learned Friday that even for Shine, the job was too much. He is leaving the White House after less than a year — still making him by far the longest-serving communications director Trump has had.
There was Jason Miller, who was tapped for the job during the transition period and quit two days later. There was Michael Dubke, who lasted such a short period of time that you’ve probably never heard of him. There was Anthony Scaramucci, of whom you’ve certainly heard. Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer filled in during the gaps, as did Hope Hicks when Spicer and Scaramucci had both departed (within two weeks). She took over full-time — then leaving after about seven months. For a while the job was simply unfilled, until Shine took over.
For about 30 percent of Trump’s presidency, there’s been no full-time communications director. Meaning that for 2 out of every 7 days of Trump’s administration, the job has been held by an acting director or no one at all.
Except, of course, for Trump himself, the only real communications director — an observation so stale and trite at this point that it barely bears repeating. But that doesn’t make it untrue.
Really, though, what’s the point? During Shine’s tenure, press secretary Sarah Sanders held 13 “daily” press briefings. Not 13 press briefings a month: Thirteen in total.
Shine’s departure doesn’t mean a full exit from Trumpworld. A statement from Sanders indicates that he’ll advise the Trump campaign moving forward. His leaving, though, comes at the tail end of a period in which he and Trump were often at odds, according to our Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey. In other words, it’s unlikely that this was simply Shine being moved to where he was needed the most.
This job, communications director, is categorically the one that the White House has had the most trouble trying to fill. At least in the literal sense: No other position has been held by five named and another acting staffer.
But in the figurative sense, the head of communications at the White House has been unchanged since Jan. 20, 2017. You can expect a tweet from his account about Shine — or, at least, about Shine’s former employer — shortly.