This op-ed in the Washington Post is titled (in the paper edition) “Whitaker is just one more crony.” The author, law professor Jed Shugerman, argues that it’s far from unprecedented for presidents to appoint cronies to head the Justice Department.
Shugerman is right. He cites Harry Daugherty (Harding’s AG), Howard McGrath (Truman’s), Robert Kennedy (his brother’s), and John Mitchell (Nixon’s).
The problem, though, is that Matthew Whitaker is not a crony of President Trump. A crony is a close friend, usually of long standing. Whitaker is not Trump’s friend. As far as has been reported, the two have only met a few times. The meetings were not of a social nature.
Thus, the relationship between Trump and Whitaker is nothing like the relationship between Harding and Daugherty, his campaign manager; between Bobby Kennedy and his brother; and between John Mitchell and Nixon, his former law partner.
Nor, for that matter, does it resemble the close relationship between Robert Mueller and James Comey.
Shugerman writes of “a long line of line of insiders, hacks, cronies, and fixers
[who have] occupied the office for much of the past century.” Whitaker is not an insider. His ties to Washington are nothing compared to those of, say, Eric Holder.
Indeed, as far as I can tell, Whitaker’s year in Washington working for Sessions is the only “inside” position he has ever held. The rest of his career has been spent in the Midwest, largely disconnected from Washington politics.
There’s no evidence that Whitaker is a fixer, either. What has he fixed? Shugerman cites nothing.
“Hack” is a term of insult with no fixed meaning. I take it to mean “mediocrity.”
Is Whitaker a mediocre lawyer? I don’t know. Mediocrities don’t typically become U.S. Attorneys, as Whitaker did, though certainly there are exceptions.
But again, Shugerman provides no evidence that Whitaker is other than a fine lawyer and a capable administrator. He simply assumes the Post’s editors and readers will nod in agreement with his string of insults because they hate Trump.
Shugerman may not know Whitaker, but he knows his audience.
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