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All the President’s Women

Some people accuse President Donald Trump of sexism, based on his boasts about grabbing women’s genitals and tendency to assess women solely on their looks, but he has a long history of hiring distaff staffers. At the moment, though, several of them are looking bad at their jobs.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is resigning, the Office of Special Counsel has requested that White House advisor Kellyanne Conway be fired, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao is caught up in a conflict of interest scandal, and former White House communications director Hope Hicks has reluctantly agreed to a grilling by the House judiciary committee.
Sanders’ absence won’t be noticed. It’s been a record-setting 95 days since Sanders held her daily last press briefing, which had traditionally been the main job of a White House press secretary, and she always tended to go months without one. When she did appear at the podium she often declined to answer questions, explaining that she hadn’t discussed the issue oof the day with president, and when she did have something to say it often turned out to be a brazen lie. Sanders shared Trump’s belief that any reporter posing hard questions is an enemy of the people, and her occasional “press gaggles” with the White House press corps on the White House driveway were always more combative than informative.
Trump loved her, of course, despite her plain appearance, and had nothing but kind things to say in his “tweets” about her resignation. He urged her to run for governor in her home state of Arkansas, but it has an incumbent governor until 2022, and so far there’s no explanation for her departure. She says she wants to spend more time with her children, and we hope that’s truthful, although she’ll have a hard time teaching them to tell the truth.
Trump’s own appointee to the Office of Special Counsel is advising that Conway be fired for serial violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal officials from using their office to engage in partisan politics, but Trump won’t mind. Conway has a talent for taunts and nicknames that almost matches Trump’s, and Trump has made clear he won’t let the law get in the way of attacking an opponent. For some unknown reason or another Conway hasn’t been as ubiquitous on the cable news shows as she used to be, so her eventual departure from the administration won’t be noticed.
Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has a low-profile office, so you might not have heard that she held several hundreds of thousands of dollars of stock in a highway supply company that was bidding for the government’s business. After that news broke Chao announced that she’d sold the stock, and a few days later actually did so, claiming it was a clerical error all along, but those pesky reporters and damned Democrats are making a big deal of it.
Hicks is a former beauty pageant winner and the most comely of Trump’s controversial content, but she’s been gone from the White House for a while now and is largely forgotten. She’s back in the news only because the House judiciary committee wants to ask her some questions that arise from a special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing.” The investigation conclude that she played some role in crafting some phony-baloney stories about meetings between Russian officials and the Trump campaign, and although no charges were brought those picky-picky Democrats still want answers.
It will be interesting to see what sort of men and women step up to fill the constantly opening holes in Trump’s White House.

— Bud Norman

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The White House Loses Hope, but Endures More Sessions

Keeping up with all the complicated subplots in President Donald Trump’s latest reality show is exhausting work, and hardly leaves any time to binge-watch anything else. The show features a wider and even wackier cast of characters than “The Simpsons,” writes them off faster than “The Sopranos,” and Wednesday’s episode featured the departure of one of the hotter co-stars and left another less comely but more consequential co-star hanging from a metaphorical cliff.
White House communications director Hope Hicks announced that she would be leaving her post soon, and although the departure of a White House communications director would usually be buried on the back pages and at the bottom of the hour this got better play. This isn’t your usual White House, and the 29-year-old Hicks isn’t your usual White House communications director.
A former teen fashion model from an upper-crust Connecticut family, Hicks was graduated from Southern Methodist University and then briefly worked for a well-regarded public relations firm before taking a PR job at the Trump Organization in Trump Tower with Ivanka Trump’s fashion company. While on the job she demonstrated a somewhat icy sort of feminine beauty and a slavish loyalty to all things Trump, the two qualities Trump most admires in a woman, so despite her lack of any previous political experience he hired the then 26-year-old to help out with his campaign. Following Trump’s improbable election, she wound up in a challenging job at the White House.
All the more challenging at this particular White House, where a communications director is quite frequently required to communicate things that are obviously untrue. Hicks rarely spoke in public, even though she came off endearingly humble whenever she did, which further endeared her to a boss who doesn’t like the supporting cast hogging the spotlight, but she still wound up in the news from time to time. She was involved in the drafting of the president’s son statement regarding his meeting with Russian agents that he understood to be involved in Russian effort to swing the presidential election, which was quickly walked-back. She was also involved in crafting the statement about the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter, who left because two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend, and was reportedly dating Porter at the time, which led to a crackdown on security clearances that has lately left the president’s son-in-law in hanging from a metaphorical cliff, so that also made the news.
Over the past year or so Hicks has been involved in so many laughably untrue White House communications that she’s wound up giving testimony to both a special counsel investigation and an investigative Congressional committee, and her resignation comes the same day it was reported she admitted to Congress that she had told “white lies” on Trump’s behalf. This might be mere coincidence, as both Hicks and Trump have stated that they still love one another and hope to work again, and there’s talk of unspecified “other opportunities,” which could conceivably range from a PR job with one of the last Trump-friendly corporations to a gig on a less convoluted reality show. We can readily believe that Hicks has long considered resigning, considering the stresses of her job, and doubt that Trump would fire someone for telling “white lies” on his behalf. In any case, we’ll wish her well.
Despite all our complaints with the guy we’re also wishing well for Sessions, who’s currently hanging from that metaphorical cliff after the latest episode. Sessions was once a well-respected conservative hard-liner and the first of his to kind to his endorsement of Trump’s questionable contrastive bona fides, and was duly rewarded for his slavish loyalty with the long-coveted position of Attorney General, but since then it’s been one of those convoluted subplots. He had to recuse himself from that overarching “Russia thing” story arc after admitting that he’d mislead Congress about his contacts with Russia as a campaign official, as his legal profession’s code of ethics clearly required him to do, and Trump has never forgiven him for such disloyalty.
Trump has since frequently “tweeted” his annoyance that Sessions isn’t more robustly interfering with the special counsel’s investigation into the “Russia thing,” and on Wednesday he “tweeted” that it’s “disgraceful” Sessions isn’t more vigorously pursuing the talk radio counter-connspiracy theory that it was actually the Democrats who conspired with the Russians to swing the election in Trump’s favor. Sessions released his own defiant statement that he has been ¬†following established ethical protocols, .and would continue to do so long as he remains Attorney General, so future episodes should be suspenseful.
Trump isn’t the least bit bothered by the rest of Session’s right wing agenda, which includes a full-throated defense of his immigration policies that are bound to alarm all the bleeding hearts and a crackdown on state-sanctioned marijuana that’s bound to annoy a couple of our otherwise Trump-supporting friends in Colorado and California. We have our own gripes about the guy, mainly his early endorsement of the president who now torments him, but his obstinate and ethical refusal to obstruct the pursuit of justice in the “Russia thing” is not among them.
This cliff hanger might well end up with Sessions hanging on the cliff, at least for another couple of episodes, given that there’s no obvious replacement who could win Congressional approval and the early departure of an Attorney General is harder to spin than even the most comely 20-something White House communications director. However it turns out, we expect the next White House communications director is going to have a hell of a time with it.

— Bud Norman