Team of Vipers
Cliff Sims

by

Karim Chandra

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Context

Bibliography of the Author

Prior to his appointment to the position of Assistant Director of Communications at the White House, specifically in charge of message strategy, little was known about Cliff Sims. Born in 1987 and graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Sims became a businessman and entrepreneur and was directly involved in ‘Yellowhammer’, an upcoming communications business — and his signature company. In 2016, he decided to take leave from his company when the opportunity, to serve as an advisor in President Donald Trump’s campaign team, was presented to him. When Trump won the election, Sims was considered for appointment to serve as part of the staff. Besides becoming the Assistant Director of Communications, he also acted as a special assistant to the President. Sims officially began his appointment in January 2017, but was later fired in May 2018 after the White House released a statement officially indicating this to be so. However, Sims insists that he left the White House on his own accord to work in a strong team environment — at a time when there was a complete breakdown in his relationship with Trump. When he subsequently announced that he was writing a book, there was no doubt that it would be controversial and explosive. Trump, in his typical style, responded to the book by terming it as ‘boring’ and ‘fiction’, and subsequently went ahead to describe Sims as a “low-level staffer” who “pretended to be an insider when in fact he was nothing more than a gofer.”

Context of the Book

President Donald Trump’s administration has been chaotic, to say the very least. Being a man not to hold back his feelings against anybody, Trump has found himself in confrontations with numerous staff members, both junior and senior. The high staff turnover rate at the White House is an indication of significant problems with this administration. In A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, James Comey took aim at Trump’s leadership styles. He was so comical of Trump’s capabilities that he described him as a ‘mafia boss’. Furthermore, it appears as if there is no staff member who has kind words for Trump when they part ways, with the latest casualty of the Trump chaotic personality being his former long-standing attorney, Michael Cohen, who was sent to prison for crimes he committed whilst working for Trump. In a recent congressional testimony, Cohen painted Trump as an ungovernable individual who would do anything, whether legal or not, to obtain his goals.

In Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, Sims continues with the narrative that President Donald Trump is possibly the worst Commander-in-chief to ever set foot in the White House. He sensationally claims that, “The inner circle of Trump World was not always a pretty picture. Too often it was a portrait of venality, stubbornness, and selfishness. We leaked. We schemed. We backstabbed. Some of us told ourselves it was all done in the service of a higher calling—to protect the President, to deliver for the people. But usually, it was for ourselves.” The level of insecurity that Trump exhibited was unrivalled, as Sims succinctly notes: “Lincoln famously had his Team of Rivals. Trump had his Team of Vipers.” There is a need to have a team working in concert towards the realization of the set goals. In the event where the President is always fighting off his staff, by treating them to threats, suspicion, and blackmail, it is not possible to realize an effective delivery of services. Thus, the book describes the leadership shortfalls that have characterized the reign of President Trump and how the problems of his administration have adversely affected the country.

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