It’s at least half true.
Trump reiterated his philosophy on the matter a few years ago: “I’m loyal to people who’ve done good work for me.”
“Good work” is, of course, a subjective means of measuring one’s service to Trump. But it’s a telling line mostly because of the subtext, which suggests Trump is indeed willing to repay subordinates who advance his interests with loyalty — but only up to a point. When the “good work” ends or hits a snag, as we’ve seen over the past seven months and during the campaign before that, Trump’s backing tends to do the same.
Mitch McConnell, interrupted?
The President’s recent treatment of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who narrowly failed to deliver the needed GOP votes to repeal Obamacare, is the most immediate illustration of Trump’s fickle fealty.
In fairness, McConnell helped load himself into the barrel when he criticized Trump, albeit mildly, during a Monday speech to a Rotary Club in Kentucky.
“Our new President, of course, has not been in this line of work before,” McConnell said. As it applies to the legislative process, he added: “I think (Trump) had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”
The nuance there, that cautious caveat, did not land well with the White House. Trump has now spent the better part of the week assailing the top Senate Republican on Twitter and in remarks to reporters during what’s been a news-making vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
On Thursday, he pointedly refused to back McConnell, suggesting what remains of his faith in the majority leader will turn on future performance.
“I’ll tell you what, if he doesn’t get repeal and replace done, and if he doesn’t get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn’t get a very easy one to get done, infrastructure, he doesn’t get them done, then you can ask me” again if McConnell should give up his post, Trump said.
Reince Priebus, swatted away
Trump and Priebus, then the Republican National Committee boss, had an up-and-down relationship during the 2016 primaries. Despite leading in the GOP polls for months before the first ballot was cast, the party establishment (and many in the media) doubted Trump’s viability, and whether he could sustain his popularity, once the contests kicked off.
Priebus, though, was clear on Trump’s potential — either to win or damage the eventual nominee’s chances in November by going a third party route. There was drama over a loyalty pledge, which Trump signed, then waffled on, but ultimately honored, if only because his frontrunner status rarely wavered.
Whatever his misgivings, Priebus never intervened and eventually (technically) joined Trump’s inner circle. His bald-faced backing cleared the way for other Republicans climb aboard.
Chris Christie, sidelined
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wasn’t always quite so unpopular in his home state. His decline began well before he left the Republican presidential primary last year, but it’s hard to imagine his decision to immediately throw his allegiance to Trump did much to reverse the slide.
Christie backed Trump before it was perceived as a political imperative. His precise motives in endorsing Trump are still not entirely clear. The theories range from vengeance against other more mainstream candidates like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to strategic angling for future employment, or some combination of those and more.