Parker: A 24-year-old is an emblem of the White House’s recklessness

Jan 25, 2018
  • By Kathleen Parker
  • Washington Post

If the name Taylor Weyeneth rings a tiny bell in your head, then you might be related to him. Otherwise, the 24-year-old was until a week ago an unknown if powerful member of the Trump administration: deputy chief of staff in the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Weyeneth’s qualifications for the job, which spends hundreds of millions to fight illegal drugs and manage the opioid crisis, are essentially nil. As reported in The Washington Post, he did lose a relative to a heroin overdose and was very moved, making him uniquely qualified for no job whatsoever. His professional experience consisted of working on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and, before that, working for a family firm that processed health products such as chia seeds, which is a spiffy résumé item if you’re aiming to make smoothies at Whole Foods.

Weyeneth’s alarming lack of qualifications raises a number of questions, principally: What in the world were they thinking? Didn’t the president not long ago declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency? Who put Weyeneth there and why?

Since the ONDCP is part of the executive branch, Weyeneth’s placement would have come through the Office of Presidential Personnel, run by John DeStefano, a former staffer and policy adviser to former House Speaker John Boehner. DeStefano is the arbiter of loyalty among possible hires, and is involved in the firing of those found to be not quite loyal enough.

Given the hundreds of unfilled jobs throughout the administration, including top-level positions, loyalists must be few and far between.

One can only imagine what Weyeneth offered up. It must have been very, very good.

None of this is Weyeneth’s fault, of course. But his story suggests more serious systemic problems. Bottom line: More experienced, qualified candidates have simply declined to join the Trump club.

Thus, people such as Weyeneth get important jobs for which they’re unqualified and accrue power wildly disproportionate to their talents or experience. After a week of reported tensions between Trump and his chief of staff John Kelly, insiders are speculating about whether the retired general will be the next to join the exit parade.

The exit doors seem especially busy with women these days.

“They’re keeping their heads down and getting the hell out of there,” a recent evacuee told me. Though a Republican loyalist who has worked in three administrations, she bolted after three months on a job when she realized that Trump world was a cartoon version of “Lord of the Flies.”

“No one’s in charge,” she said.

The pace of departures is likely to pick up as Democrats appear closer to taking back the House and Senate in November. A Democratic Congress led by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer could theoretically begin impeachment proceedings against Trump. The Senate Banking Committee, if led by now-ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown and featuring Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), would no doubt delight in closely examining Trump’s multiple bankruptcies.

The effect of such events would be to humiliate Trump, who hates to lose, and essentially neuter his power to move legislation.

In the interim, poor Weyeneth, who is only 24 after all, is just a kid on a fast ride, who, through no fault of his own has become both emblem and embodiment of the Trump administration’s recklessness and lack of seriousness. He deserves a job commensurate with his accomplishments — and American people deserve grown-ups in the White House.