Well, that was quite a week. But of course, not that much stranger than many other weeks in the past six months, which is the truly astonishing part.
Just to recap a few highlights:
A day player from The Sopranos became White House communications director and used the words “suck my own cock” on the record with a reporter in his first week on the job….Our insane clown president gave a speech at a Boy Scout jamboree that was more like a toast at a bachelor party in a strip club….The White House Chief of Staff got fired, pausing on his way out to lick his tormentor’s boots one last time….Jared Kushner tried to blame his treason on his secretary….The so-called President relentlessly attacked his own Attorney General on Twitter (he does know he can just fire him, right?), part of an impeachment-worthy panic attack aimed at stopping a federal inquiry barreling down on him….. This same alleged leader of the Free World blindsided the military and gave the lie to the idea that, while he may be a racist and a misogynist, at least he’s LGBTQ-friendly (Log Cabin Republicans, how do you like him now?)….Benito Cheeto (h/t Greg Proops and Richard Berge) followed that with two other speeches—one at a campaign-style rally in Ohio where he graciously conceded that Lincoln (but only Lincoln) was more presidential than he, the other to police officers on Long Island where he lobbied for more aggressive police brutality…..And last but not least, a former POW with brain cancer flew across the country to stick a dagger into Trumpcare, joining two brave female Senators who were the only other Republicans to stand up against this travesty, thus ensuring that the GOP again failed to do the one thing that for the past seven years they’ve been hysterically screaming that they would do if put in power.
But I’m sure all will be fine next week. Good luck General Kelly!
Reince Priebus joins Sean Spicer—and perhaps presages Jeff Sessions—in the category of people I shed no tears for: quislings who emasculated themselves and enabled their former boss’s shameful agenda. And their reward for such slobbering subservience? Humiliation and dismissal. With Trump, loyalty is a one way street on which you are certain to get run the fuck over. They deserved what they got.
That said, the more chaos that ensues in the West Wing and the more rats who leave that sinking ship, the faster it will go down. Given how much debasement and abuse Priebus and Spicer were subjected to (remember when Trump wouldn’t let Spicey meet the Pope?), I hope they both take their revenge and tell everything they know. But so far they seem disinclined to do so—Priebus especially. In his pathetic farewell statement to CNN, the artist formerly known as Reince—obsequious to the very end—even praised Trump’s decision to fire him (“he was right to hit the reset button”) and endorsed the comical notion that President just “wanted to go in a different direction.”
As my friend, the great piano player/bandleader/composer Joe McGinty says, “I look forward to his jazz-rock fusion ensemble.”
(Priebus already sounds like the name of a prog rock band. I loved their early stuff, before they went all commercial.)
But Reince always was a sniveling little punk, one who bears more blame than most for the rise of Trump in the first place. As chairman of the RNC, he could have stood up to this absurd fake politician during the primaries and possibly derailed his candidacy (a candidacy to which it was very clear he and the rest of the GOP mandarins were staunchly opposed), or at least laid down the law and created some parameters for continued RNC support. Instead he coddled the Donald, prefiguring the now-standard GOP policy of cowering before the almighty “base,” and eventually migrated from being Trump’s equal within the party—or even his superior—to his slavering minion and whipping boy as chief of staff. So it’s no surprise that the way he went out smacked of his trademark cowardice. (“Thank you sir, may I have another?”)
Even on a purely pragmatic, self-serving level I’m not sure what Reince is hoping to gain by continuing to stand—or more accurately, kneel—by Trump’s side. His political career is in cinders after yoking himself to this cretin. In the short term he’s radioactive to the GOP while Trump remains in power; when the Donald goes out, he’ll be permanently tarred by his association with him. In the very long term he’ll be forever linked with a man who is sure to go down in history as an almost unfathomable abomination. All nothing less than Priebus so richly deserves.
Other enablers, take note.
BLAME IT ON RIO, OR WHOEVER
As bad as Priebus was, he is hardly to blame for the dysfunction of this administration. The notion is laughable, in fact. Trump notoriously blames everyone but himself for all his problems, of which he is so obviously the chief cause. Kindergarteners are better schooled in personal responsibility.
Can John Kelly get control of this chaotic Three Stooges sketch that calls itself a White House? Notwithstanding the disciplinary and organizational skills of a four-star Marine general, it seems doubtful, given that the wellspring of the chaos is Trump himself. Trump has never shown any ability to listen to the wisdom of qualified advisors, nor let them do what they have to do for his own good. I have no doubt that Kelly will run a tighter ship than Reince, but unless he physically wrenches Trump’s smartphone from his tiny hands, I don’t foresee a sea change.
Among the sins that cost Priebus his job, reportedly, was his inability to muster the political forces necessary to pass Trumpcare, or at the very least repeal Obamacare. Really? Again, it’s laughable. Trump did almost nothing to help the GOP get their would-be signature legislation through Congress, or sell it to the public, and often actively hurt the cause. His efforts consisted primarily of insulting and bullying Senators and Congressmen, demeaning the very bills they were trying to pass, promising the American public the moon, and complaining that Chuck Schumer and the opposing team were not volunteering to help torpedo their own hard-won legislation. Predictably, Trump spent the weekend following this humiliating failure stewing at one of his golf resorts and generating another vindictive tweetstorm, complete with rants about filibuster rules that had nothing to do with Trumpcare’s collapse, further cementing the impression that he doesn’t have any idea what was in the bill, or even how the US government works. Please get this man a video of Schoolhouse Rock, stat.
It seems like Trump, not McCain, is the one with the brain tumor. Good Lord, what if the White House doctors were to find that that was the case, and remove it, and Donny woke up tomorrow after the surgery and went on TV to say, “Oh my God, I can’t believe all the things I’ve said and done for the past 71 years. I’m so sorry!”
THEN his base would turn on him.
WILL YOU DO THE FANDANGO?
And thus we welcome to the national stage the fiction-beggaring Anthony Scaramucci, another member of the “Characters No Self-Respecting Screenwriter Would Dare Dream Up” Club.
Much as I will miss Shouty Spice (and even more so, Melissa McCarthy), the Mooch is a fantastic new character in the gothic soap opera that is Trump’s presidency. In that regard, he is probably the best such addition to already unmissable programming since Saul Goodman or David Puddy (high five). We’ll see how long he lasts. Perhaps when he is inevitably fired, he will be spun off into his own reality TV show on Bravo.
(For his part—SPOILER ALERT—Trump himself is poised to wind up like the protagonists of those same shows: in prison—Seinfeld —or gunned down by neo-Nazis—Breaking Bad. Maybe by Steve Bannon.)
As others have noted, the addition of the on-the-nose and over-the-top Scaramucci to The Trump Show is like a sitcom that’s slipping in the ratings and tries to generate some sparks by adding a new character ….typically, a baby. It’s always a sign of desperation, the ne plus ultra being The Flintstones’ headscratching addition of the Great Gazoo. (One could almost see Hanna-Barbera panicking that they had a show about cavemen at a time when the Space Age was all the rage. Not content with dreaming up The Jetsons, they inexplicably added a Martian to Bedrock as well. Bill Bixby and Ray Walston should have been furious.)
But I digress….
Scaramucci certainly looks like a similarly desperate move by people—one person in particular—who have no fucking idea what they’re doing. “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” wrote Hunter S. Thompson—in the guise of his alter ego, Raoul Duke—in one of his most famous formulations. I must confess I never fully understood what that meant, but like a lot of Hunter’s stuff it didn’t matter because it really sang and that was all that counted.
The hiring of Scaramucci certainly qualifies as weird, but he is anything but a pro when it comes to communications, of all things to put him in charge of—more evidence of the hapless amateur hour that is this administration and its uncanny ability to step on its own metaphorical dick. Yeah, the Mooch was slick as a talking head on CNN, and I have no doubt that Trump loves a guy who talks pretty much just like he does, and gives him a public handjob every chance he gets, and is nearly as tan. (My particular favorite is their mutual propensity to refer to themselves in the third person—another Seinfeldian touch.) I’m sure the “base” loves it too, since watching Team Trump serve flaming turds to an aghast Establishment is their favorite spectator sport.
But as out of his depth as Spicer was, Scaramucci is a much much bigger disaster, albeit it in a vastly different way. (Note to nitpickers: I know Mooch’s actual predecessor was Mike Dubke, but he vanished like a dissident in Pinochet’s Chile, leaving no impression and indeed little hard evidence that he was ever really there.) Word is that not only Spicer—who quit over it—but Priebus and even Bannon all vehemently opposed Mooch’s appointment as an enormous tactical mistake. If even three shitheads like that knew it was a bad idea, what does that tell you?
Well, it ought to be entertaining, at least.
Hang on: just now learning that Trump retains rights to the name “Priebus.” Band will be forced to re-name itself Reince & the Nothing-Burgers.
WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN
Per above, Confederate General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III may be the next contestant kicked off the island. I won’t shed any tears for him either. But it stunned me this week to see Republican Senators finally up in arms about something….and that something being Trump’s shocking mistreatment of his own AG, their former Senate colleague. Really? After all the other godawful things the fake president has done, that’s the bridge too far? Really shows you where their priorities are, don’t it?
I’m told that Sessions is very popular in the Senate, even among his erstwhile Democratic colleagues, having served there for twenty years, so I presume that’s the source of some of this outrage. But I find it hard to swallow, given his execrable history of civil rights abuses, voter suppression, and general channeling of the ghost of Bull Connor. (To say nothing of a bizarre fixation on hassling stoners. What a buzzkill.)
That said, I’m glad the Senate is standing up at all, no matter how unworthy the beneficiary. It would be ironic if Sessions does indeed get fired and that is the thing that finally precipitates a GOP revolt and begins the endgame of Trump’s downfall. If so, it would be the first good thing Jeff Sessions has ever done for his country.
Apart from defending Jeff, and the beautiful healthcare mutiny by Collins, Murkowski, and McCain (their best work since Woodstock, right after Neil Young left the band) the GOP continues to carry Trump’s water, particularly when it comes to Russiagate.
In a judiciary hearing last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claimed that there “are few things I take more seriously than the allegations of foreign interference in the 2016 election.” Is that so, Orrin? In the same breath he claimed that “many of these allegations have been truly outrageous” and “politically motivated.”
I agree that the allegations are outrageous, but that doesn’t mean they’re not true, or at least bear investigating, given the disturbing amount of smoke here suggesting a fire. As for being politically motivated, that is a convenient charge, but a specious one. Everything in Washington is politically motivated, and the GOP has no room to bitch—as in none, zero, zilch—about partisan witchhunts in the guise of public service. Ask Kevin McCarthy and the other architects of the neverending Benghazi circus.
Hatch went on, possibly setting a new world record for chutzpah and malpractice as an alleged servant of the public good: “If we are going to get to the bottom of this, we need to investigate the whole story. That means looking at more than just foreign influence over the Trump campaign. It includes looking at serious allegations of foreign influence over the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee as well.”
Yes, and while we’re at it, let’s help OJ find the real killers, too.
And Orrin Hatch is not even close to the most absurd and egregious member of the GOP when it comes to this stuff. But he’s a helluva rock star in his own right.
Lastly, and speaking of amateur hour and self-destructiveness, the new policy on transgender servicemembers came out of nowhere and created a political firestorm where there was absolutely no need. The only plausible explanation, apart from the aforementioned brain tumor, is that Trump is looking for domestic enemies to attack in order distract from his other troubles, and homos and drag queens make perfect targets in the eyes of his base. (Reportedly, Trump has also ordered all Bowie, New York Dolls, and Transformer-era Lou Reed stricken from the White House Spotify account.) Expect more of this as the vise of Russiagate continues to close on him, and further demonization of foreign enemies as well. My greatest fear remains a suspiciously convenient Gulf of Tonkin-style international crisis as Trump becomes more and more besieged and seeks ways to fight back in his inimitable cornered rat style.
But it is just as likely that the bizarre attacks on the LGBTQ front were randomly generated by his febrile, scattershot mind. In slight contrast to the transgender ban that Trump launched on Twitter (!), the DOJ’s argument that civil rights laws don’t apply to sexual orientation seems more like a consciously planned maneuver. But its timing too is suspect, except as part of the administration’s general crusade to turn the clock back to 1951. Just in case you, like the United States Senate, were beginning to feel any sympathy for Jeff Sessions.
Sigh. Trying to catch my breath from all this. What jawdropping absurdities will this week bring? Who knows. But I look forward to hearing the Mooch explain it….