Sessions Ends

By now there are a lot of Americans who regret their past support of President Donald Trump, but few are more regretful than former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He once enjoyed a lifelong sinecure as a Senator from Alabama, where he was well-liked, but ever since he became the first Senator to endorse Trump’s 2016 candidacy he’s had nothing but trouble. By Tuesday night, he was out of public life completely and probably forever.
Trump rewarded Sessions by making him Attorney General, arguably a more prestigious gig than the United States Senate, but that quickly became a problem. The intelligence agencies had concluded that the Russian government had meddling in various ways in America’s presidential election, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had reasons to believe the Trump campaign, so an investigation was launched. Because Sessions had served on the campaign being investigated, and had already perjured himself in in his confirmation hearings by saying he had no contact with any Russians during the campaign, he acted according to legal ethics and recused him from the matter.
Trump has never forgiven Sessions for doing the right thing. After Session’s recusal the matter was turned over to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special investigator, which turned out to be an annoyance to Trump. Even as Sessions continued to pursue White House policies as Attorney General, Trump constantly berated him in “tweets” and public statements, and continued to do so after Sessions relented to the pressure and offered his resignation. Trump continued to criticize Sen. John McCain even after McCain’s death, so he’s not one to let a feud end for any reason.
After Sessions resigned his Senate seat to join the administration there was a special election held to find a successor, and because the Republicans nominated a very credibly accused ephebophile and over-the-top theocrat a Democrat actually won the general election. The Democrat is up for reelection this and considered quite vulnerable, so Sessions joined a crowded primary field to get his old job back. Despite Trump’s opposition Sessions wound up in a run-off against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who has no previous political experience but had won a lot of games on the gridiron, which plays well in Alabama. Trump enthusiastically endorsed Tuberville and continued to lambaste Sessions, and although Sessions used to routinely win election in Alabama by landslides the state is now more loyal to New York City scam artist.
Tuberville won the nomination Tuesday by a landslide, and the political handicappers are saying the state “leans Republican” in the general election. Sessions was once beloved in Alabama for his principled conservatism, but because he was too principled to help Trump out of a jam his career there is now over. He’s old an entitled to a generous pension from his years of public service, but we’re sure Sessions regrets giving up that cushy lifetime sinecure in the Senate by aligning himself with Trump.
Sessions is not the only one to see his reputation tarnished because of an association with Trump. John Kelly and James Mattis and H.R. McMaster were all high-ranking military brass respected by both parties when they became Trump’s Chief of Staff, Defense Secretary and national security advisor, respectively, but all were defenestrated for the habit of giving advice Trump didn’t want hear, and he continues to insult them all. Former multinational oil executive Rex Tillerson was Trump’s first Secretary of State, but since he was forced to resign Trump has described as “dumb as a rock.” The other administration officials Trump once claimed were “the best people” but now denigrates is too long to recount here.
With the possible exception of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who briefly served as Trump’s ambassador the United Nations and has continued to speak on Trump’s behalf, it’s hard to think of anyone who’s served in the administration who left with a reputation intact. Those who remain in the administration will eventually see their careers ending with Trump’s. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could have remained in his safe congressional seat in Kansas’ Fourth District and would easily be nominated for the Senate and most likely win a lifetime sinecure, and perhaps parlayed that into the presidency, but he should probably forget about that lifelong ambition.
There are plenty of arguments to be made against Sessions, but his principled recusal from the Russia investigation. As Sessions surely realizes by now, his greatest lapse of judgment was tying his fortunes to Trump.

— Bud Norman

Tucker Carlson, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and Their Asymmetrical War of Words

We don’t have cable and rarely watch television, but we’re well aware of Fox News host Tucker Carlson. He’s a bowtie-wearing know-it-all who frequently makes news by saying things that cause his advertisers to bolt, an we watch the clips. Carlson is back in the news because of a feud with Democratic Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and so far he’s getting the worst of it.
The brouhaha began Carlson called Duckworth “a deeply silly and unimpressive person” who “hates America” for telling a television interviewer that there should be “a national dialogue” about such slave-holding founding fathers as President George Washington. Duckworth responded by “tweeting” that Carlson “should walk a mile in my legs and tell me whether or not I love America.” Carlson then responded by calling Duckworth a “coward,” “fraud,” and “moron.”
At that point Carlson had lost the argument, and we expect he’ll lose even more advertisers. Duckworth invited Carlson to walk a mile in her legs because both were amputated from the knee down after the Blackhawk helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down during a 2004 rescue mission in Iraq. That’s pretty convincing proof of her patriotism and courage, as far as we’re concerned, as is her service in the United States Congress as a Senator elected by the good on people of Illinois. Carlson never served in the military, and although we won’t question his patriotism we wonder what credentials he has.
Carlson has complained that he’s not allowed to criticize a veteran, but that’s balderdash. For all her bravery and sacrifice and resilience Duckworth is still a damn Democrat, and one is still free to criticize her positions on any issue. We’re unafraid to say we disagree with Duckworth on many issues, and will be happy to engage in a national dialogue about America’s history and argue that despite their shameful slave-holding both Washington and Thomas Jefferson should remain forever in the nation’s pantheon of heroes, but we have no standing to question Duckworth’s courage and patriotism and authenticity, and we don’t think she’s a moron. Carlson’s resort to ad hominem attacks and name-calling rather than making a substantive case against Duckworth’s opinion strike us as, well, cowardly.
Conservatives and Republicans used to honor military valor, but that changed on 2016 when presidential candidate Donald Trump sneered on camera that Sen. John McCain — who endured two years of torture in a North Vietnamese prison camp after being shot down on his 23rd combat mission, then another three year after refusing an offer of early release because it would require him to leave his men behind and hand the enemy a propaganda — “was only a hero because he captured. I like a guy who didn’t get captured, OK?” Trump won somehow won the nomination anyway, and wound up President Donald Trump, and since then even the most draft-dodging Republicans have been freed to question the patriotism such of decorated and high-ranking officers as Robert Mueller, James Comey, John Kelly, Alexander Vindman, and H.R. McMaster, among others.
Trump is currently at odds with his military’s leadership on a number of things, from honorifics to the Confederacy to its deployment against American citizens, and we think he’s losing that argument. He dearly loves to boast about his military, so he can’t come right out and say they’re all “deep state” traitors.
According to all the press speculation Duckworth is on the short list for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick, and Carlson’s set with her has probably helped her move up that list. She’s not only half-Asian and female and a decorated veteran but a double-amputee, which checks off a lot of boxes. so we think she’d be a shrewd choice. Duckworth’s a damn Democrat with a lot of dumb ideas, but Trump doesn’t want to debate with her about that. He can say that she’s only a hero because she lost two legs, and that he likes someone who didn’t lose two legs, OK?, but that probably wouldn’t work this time around.

— Bud Norman

The Problem With the Very Best People

President Donald Trump promised his enthusiastic voters he would have only “the very best people” in his administration, and he also made a lot of other extravagant promises about everyone having better and less expensive health care and the governments running on balanced budgets and such. It’s turned out that by “the very best people” Trump meant his son-in-law and his pals and anyone willing to tell Trump what he wants to hear.
Those brave messengers who dare bear bad to Trump tend to be quickly defenestrated, even though they tend to be the most credentialed people he’s got.
The latest example is Dr. Rick Bright, who earned his doctorate in immunology and molecular pathogenesis at Emory University and compiled an impressive resume in the public and private sectors and until recently was leading the federal government’s coronavirus vaccine program at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. He’s now transferred to a “less impactful position,” as a White House statement put it, and he alleges in a whistleblower complaint that it’s because he didn’t share Trump’s enthusiasm for investigating the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus and wouldn’t be involved in cronyism..
Trump has told the press he doesn’t the guy and hard never heard of him but has heard bad things about him, which is his modus operandi when getting ride of people, and notes that he was on the job back when President Barack Obama was in office, which Trump and his fans find suspicious. We fine it worrisome that didn’t bother to introduce himself to the guy in charge of finding a vaccine for the coronavirus.
This sort of bureaucratic reshuffling goes on all the time and is rarely worth noting, we suppose, but in this case Bright’s complaint seems both valid and very noteworthy. Trump did indeed often tout the potentially miraculous effects of hydroxychloroquine in his daily press briefings, with much of the Trump-friendly media on Fox News and talk radio chiming in, and Bright did go on the record in government documents and press interviews to expose his more skeptical opinions. We freely admit we don’t know any more about this medical stuff than Trump or the people at Fox and on talk radio, but we’re the curious sorts who delve into what the methodically scientific studies say, so we’re inclined to believe that Bright was right and Trump was wrong, and that’s probably the reason Bright was demoted.
Christi Grimm was until recently an inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, but Trump decided to replace her after she wrote a report that hospitals across the country faced a short of supplies needed to deal the coronavirus problem. Trump brags about how well he’s done suddenly creating everything a medical system might need to deal with an epidemic, and doesn’t want some previously anonymous bureaucrat saying otherwise, but it seems she was right and Trump was once again wrong, and we figure that’s the most likely explanation for why she was demoted. We’d encourage her to write yet another whistleblower complaint and invite even further House oversight hearings.
Over three long years we’ve noticed that sycophancy is more important to Trump than expertise. Marine General John Kelly and Army General H.R. McMaster had distinguished careers over decades of Republican and Democratic administrations and enjoyed excellent reputations when they became Trump’s chief of staff and national security advisor, respectively, but both were shown the door for their annoying habits of saying things Trump didn’t want to hear. There are plenty of criticisms to be made of erstwhile Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ fealty to Trump’s views on immigration enforcement and state’s rights and civil rights and many other important things, but his decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian interference in the previous presidential election was the right thing to do, and that’s what got him fired.
All of which was annoying enough back when the Stock markets were setting record highs and the unemployment rate record lows and the gross domestic product was expanding at the usual slow-but-steady rate, but given the current statistics and the more than 72 thousand deaths in a death toll throws by the thousands every day it’s downright alarming. Now is the time, as best we can tell, to listen to the people who have some credible reason to believe they know what the hell they’re talking about.
For now the smarty-pants are telling us that we’re going to be largely stuck at home and wearing masks on beer runs and will be poorer for a longer while lest we wind up killing hundreds of thousands of people, and we don’t want to hear that any more than Trump does. but we’re inclined to believe them. Trump had an uncle who was a professor of some non-medical scientific field at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he claims all the scientists at the Centers for Disease Control were all amazed by how how much he knew about this virology and epidemiology and scientific stuff, but he also advised the scientists to investigate the injection of disinfectants into the body as a possible cure, and we’re inclined to go with the degrees and the long records of public service.
Trump still has fans and media allies on the right who trust more in his hereditary gut instincts than any so-called “expert,” whose long and distinguished public service and bipartisan respect are proof of their role in a “deep state” conspiracy to prevent Trump from making America great again. We’ve also got a dear but loony-left friend who is saying pretty much the same thing about hydroxychlorine on Facebook, using weird right-wing sources to prove it’s same conspiracy that’s conspiring to prevent Sen. Bernie Sanders from making America great for the first time as socialist utopia.
By now Trump and his media allies have largely abandoned their advocacy of hydroxychloroquine, and they’re doing somewhat better at providing medial supplies, but no one will acknowledge ever being wrong. Events will soon push the fates of Bright and Grimm and Flynn and McMaster and all the other humble civil servants who dared question Trump off the news and into the history books, but the bigger story will be how this coronavirus problem played out. At this point, we’re betting on the establishment and its dissidents.

— Bud Norman

bright and hydroxy
grimm and ppe
jared and his pals
long history of good folks being defenestrated for doing their jobs

Mad Dogs and Americans and the Noonday Sun

James “Mad Dog” Mattis is lately in the news again, and we welcome him back. The decorated war hero and four star Marine general and former Secretary of Defense has a book coming out soon, and judging by the pre-release excerpts it’s a rather scathing critique of the foreign policy of a conspicuously unnamed sitting President of the States, which strikes us as another brave and patriotic act in a long and distinguished career of public service.
Already both the left and the right are prepared to pounce on his previously impeccable reputation, of course. The left will never forgive him for volunteering to serve in the administration of the hated President Donald Trump and failing to call the president out by name, and the newly reconstituted right will never forgive him for trying to restrain the beloved president’s all-knowing gut instincts. So far as we can tell, though, he’s been a principled man to today.
Mattis came into the Trump administration with high praise from his new boss, who seemed to relish Mattis’ nickname of “Mad Dog,” although Mattis himself hated it, and Trump liked the straight-from-central-casting lean physique and wizened visage Mattis wore, but the two never got along. Mattis was accustomed to military order and a by-the-book way of doing things, while Trump clearly preferred a more chaotic management style. Mattis’ much-decorated combat experience in Vietnam and his advanced studies at the National Defense institute and his experience as commanding general of the Central Command of the North Atlantic Treaty organization had convinced him that strong alliances with the world’s leading democracies are vital to America’s national security, while Trump’s gut instincts told him that our NATO allies were a bunch of deadbeats free-riding on global trade arrangements, and he actually said out loud that he knew far more about NATO than the four-star general and former commander of the NATO alliance ever did.
Mattis eventually resigned with an exquisitely worded letter when Trump dismissed his advice against a precipitous withdrawal of American forces from Syria, which pretty much everyone was urging against, and from which Trump later backtracked. By that time the lieutenant general of the army H.R. McMaster had resigned as national security advisor, which came after he’d taken over from lieutenant general Michael Flynn’ after his resignation and conviction on felony charges, and there had also been the resignation of former Marine general John Kelly, who had clashed with Trump as White House Chief of Staff  because of his efforts to impose some sort of discipline on the White House. Trump once bragged about all of the generals who answered to him in the White House, but one by one he grew annoyed by their military tendency to tell him things he didn’t want to hear.
The left doesn’t much like military people in the first place, especially those who volunteer for service in the Trump administration, but the more sensible and centrist sort of leftists did develop a begrudging respect for the likes of Mattis and McMaster and Kelly, if not Flynn, who no longer has any friends on any side as he holds out hope for a presidential pardon. They were considered the adults in the room, the serious sort of educated and experienced men who had spent their careers contemplating the complex issues of national security, and even the most military-hating sorts of liberals hoped that they’d somehow rein in the gut instincts of Trump, which don’t seem to anyone at all well-informed.
The left still resents the exquisitely worded way all of them have gone about lambasting Trump’s policies and managerial style, without mentioning any names, but they don’t understand that the generals still feel constrained they rigid rules of military protocol they had lived their lives by. Nor does the left understand the time-tested wisdom of those rules. Trump is still the Commander in Chief, as much as that might drive the left and the generals and any seasonable person crazy, so we should all be grateful than even without mentioning any names and despite the exquisitely worded prose Mattis is plainly warning the country he long served about Trump’s gut craziness.
Based on Mattis’ carefully worded resignation letter and previous few public statements and the excerpts from his forthcoming book, he seems to believe that Trump’s penchant for fighting “twitter” feuds and trade wars and demands of protection money from such longtime and steadfast allies as Canada and the United Kingdom and Germany and Denmark and Japan and South Korea are not a good. Nor does Mattis seem to like the way Trump has “fallen in love” with the North Korean dictator and has nothing bad to say about the Russian dictator, and otherwise tends to prefer authoritarian regimes to democratic governments, and has little regard for the hard-earned international rules that have mostly brought us and the most of the rest of the rest of the world relative peace and prosperity..
This seems sound advice to us, although we lack Mattis’ educational credentials and hard-earned experience in war and peace, or Trump’s infallible gut instincts. None of the Democratic alternatives to Trump seem interested in repairing alliance or opposing adversaries, and none seem likely to solicit the carefully considered and exquisitely worded advice of the military’s best minds, but here’s hoping the center somehow holds.

— Bud Norman

On the Lull Before Christmas

According to longstanding American political tradition the final days of a lame duck Congress and the last few days before Christmas are supposed to be a slow news cycle, but in the age of President Donald Trump’s newfangled conservatism such longstanding American traditions have been jettisoned. Thursday brought news that Trump’s defense secretary has resigned in apparent protest of Trump’s derided-by-almost-everyone decision to withdraw a small but effective force from Syria and Afghanistan, Trump and his remaining allies in the temporary Republican House majority are threatening to force government shutdown over Trump’s derided-by-almost-everyone insistence on a big beautiful wall along the Mexican border, and largely as a result the stock markets had yet another dreadful day instead of the traditional “Santa Claus rally.”
The resignation of Defense Secretary and former four-star Marine general James Mattis struck us as the most worrisome development of the day. Despite the “Mad Dog” nickname that Trump seemed to love, Mattis was well regarded by both the center-left and center-right consensus that had successfully guided through the Cold War and has done about as well as can reasonably be expected with the resulting and relatively low-level wars against Islamist terrorism, and his departure leaves him pretty much without any of those wise old hands.
Flynn resigned from his post in record-setting time after being charged with felony perjury charges and making admission to administration that he’d lied about his contacts with Russian officials, and he’s currently awaiting sentencing from a judge who has openly wondered in court why he’s not being charged with treason given all the credible accusations of undisclosed shady dealings with the Turkish and Russian governments, despite the special counsel investigation into the whole “Russia thing” pleading he should get no jail time because of his cooperation, which also doesn’t look good for Trump. He was replaced by McMaster, who didn’t last much longer, reportedly because Trump was annoyed three-star general’s know-it-all attitude during the daily briefings. The post is now held by John Bolton, a President George W. Bush holdover from the late and lamented Republican establishment who’s a bit more aggressive about American internationalism that even our Reagan-esque tastes would prefer, but he’s also advised against Trump’s Syrian withdrawal and might be on the way out.
The four-star chief of staff Kelly has also been pushed aside, reportedly in part because he didn’t get along with Trump’s favorite daughter and son-in-law, and he will temporarily be replaced on a moonlighting basis by acting Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney,  who will also be charged with deciding which agencies should be shut down in case of a partial government shutdown. Whatever advice Trump might be getting from the son-in-law in charge of everything from Middle East peace and the opioid crisis and re-inventing the federal government, and whatever  remains of the rest of his staff about domestic policy, the unpopular president has apparently committed to an unpopular partial government shutdown over Christmas to get a few billion in funding for his unpopular idea of a big beautiful wall along the entire Mexican border, and we don’t see that turning out well. In a few weeks the House of Representatives will install a significant Democratic majority with no political or ideological reason to fund Trump’s big beautiful border wall, much of the slight Republican majority in the Senate is already in revolt over Trump’s withdrawal from Syria and other foreign policy matters, political realities almost always prevail, and without any generals or wise old hands backing him up he seems in a weakened position.
The stock markets seem to agree, given their recent dour mood, and although Trump can plausibly partially blame that on the damned Federal Reserve Board chairman he did appoint the guy, and after what looks to be losing year on the exchanges, which can also be plausibly blamed on the yet-unwon trade wars Trump had declared on our erstwhile allies, but for now Trump  can no longer brag about delivering the best economy ever. No one’s currently predicting a recession, and we’re certainly hoping for one, but the best that all establishment forecasters are predicting is the same sort of slow but steady economic growth that has been the bipartisan norm over the decades. Perhaps Trump will eventually prove smarter than all those multi-starred  generals and economists and the newly-elected Democrats in the House of Representatives and all of us old-fashioned Republicans, as well as  the Syrian and Russian and Iranian dictators, but for now only the true believers who still shot up at the ongoing rallies  in those “Make America Great Again” ball caps seem to be betting on it.

— Bud Norman

Another Old Soldier Fades Away

President Donald Trump has announced that his chief of staff, the former four-star Marine General John F. Kelly, will soon make the latest inglorious exit from the administration. Kelly’s getting out while the getting’s still relatively good, as we see it, but not without his once sterling reputation tarnished.
Prior to signing on with Trump, Kelly commanded bipartisan respect. He not only had four stars on his shoulders but three bronze stars and numerous ribbons for valor in three wars and the 1982 Los Angeles riots on his chest, and he endeared himself to establishment Republicans without much annoying the Democrats as he led the Western European and then America’s Southern Command. When he replaced Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the former Republican party chairman who once epitomized the effete Republican establishment that Trump gleefully trampled, both Democrats and all sorts of Republicans expressed hope that the tough-as-nails Marine could somehow impose some sort of discipline on a seemingly chaotic White House.
By the time Kelly arrived several of those “very best people” that Trump promised to appoint had already been defenestrated, including the national security advisor who has since pleaded guilty on several felony charges and been recommended by the prosecution for a minimal sentence given his cooperation with numerous other criminal investigations involving Trump’s campaign and administration, and Kelly quickly ousted several more, including that Omarosa woman from “The Apprentice” and various other Trump-related reality shows who held some high-level administration post or another, which was at least high-level enough she was the most high-level black woman in the White House. For a while the remarkable man who had served so successfully in three wars and the 1982 Los Angeles riots seemed up to the task, but over the long run the Democrats were disappointed, and so were such old-fashioned Republicans as ourselves, and even Trump himself had reportedly stopped speaking to him as he wished him well on his way out of the door.
One of those “very best people” that Trump had appointed and Kelly had to fire was White House staff secretary Rob Porter, whose resume included excellent educational and career credentials but also credible and legally-filed charges by two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend of domestic violence, and when Kelly did fire him after several disastrous news cycles he did so reluctantly and dishonestly and with kind words for the defenestrated employee and nothing to say about spousal abuse that tough old Marine general looked bad all the but the die-hard Trump fans. He grimaced when Trump spoke about the good people on both sides of a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, but when all the military brass reassured their diverse personnel that they did not agree Kelly remained silent. When Trump wound up offending the family of a black soldier who had been killed in an unknown war in Niger he had ineptly tried to comfort, Kelly wound up insulting the family’s Congresswoman and personal friend, who is a ridiculous Democrat as we’re concerned, but the insult he made proved based on a lie and somehow wound up looking even more ridiculous. Along the way he also willing to make various other ridiculous defenses for indefensible White House missteps.
Kelly was also an outspoken proponent of Trump’s policy of enforcing America’s border laws as severely as possible, as was his hand-picked successor at the the Department of Homeland Security, but both fell into disfavor with Trump as border crossings into America’s still booming economy continued apace. The old school Kelly also seemed at odds with Trump on other issues, ranging from Trump’s penchant for nepotism and general lack of old school discipline, and particularly his disruptive policies toward the post-World War II era world order he’d fought so valiantly to defend. A while back Trump boasted that he knew far more about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization than the four-star Marine general who had once successfully led the West European Command, and that was when we knew that Kelly’s days as chief of staff were shortly numbered. As far as we can tell, Kelly wasn’t undone because of what he’d done wrong but rather because of what he’d done right.
At least it seems to have come a more or less fortuitous time. The special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing” has lately come up with some hard-to-explain court filings involving Trump’s former campaign chairman and lawyer and national security advisor, the latest economic news isn’t much to brag about, a Democratic majority in the House is about to be installed, while much of the slim Republican majority in the Seate is revolting against Trump’s friendliness with Saudi Arabia, and for now it’s not clear who might replace Kelly. The presumptive replacement was Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, but it’s lately been reported that Trump is also consider ing dumping the obsequious Pence and Ayers has confirmed via “Twitter” that he doesn’t want the job and is also getting out of the administration while the getting’s still good.
Way back in the dark days of the Obama administration citizen Trump “tweeted” his dismay that the president had a third chief of staff in less than three years, but now Trump is searching around for the sucker to become his third chief of staff in less than two years, and we don’t expect any further “tweets” from him about it. As for Kelly, we wish him a happy retirement, despite it all.
We’ve known too many of those tough-as-nails men who fight our country’s battles to expect them to be politically correct about domestic abuse and racial issues and such, so we’ll chalk all of Kelly’s missteps up to being promoted by the wrong guy to the wrong job. He seems to have done his best to impose some discipline on Trump’s White House, and we admire any man who willingly walks into the quagmire.

— Bud Norman

The Reality Show Goes On

President Donald Trump is now calling Omarosa Manigault Newman a “low-life,” and we can’t argue with the description. Newman is now saying that Trump is a racist and sexist with diminished intellectual capabilities, and that also sounds apt. There’s no one to root for in this tawdry feud, and we don’t expect either combatant will come out of it looking at all good.
In case you’d happily forgotten, Newman is the recurring reality show villainess who once helped make “The Apprentice” a ratings hit and wound up as the highest-ranking African-American in the White House as a reward. She was obsequiously loyal to her benefactor, at one point telling an interviewer that “every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump,” but she didn’t seem to do much else for her $180,000-a-year salary but created scandals, and she was ushered out by chief of staff John Kelly. At first Newman remained loyal to Trump, although she had some choice words for Kelly and her mostly black critics in the press, but that’s no longer true.
Newman landed on her feet with a role in yet another reality show, “Big Brother,” where she whispered to another contestant that the Trump White House is even more chaotic than it seems, and that “It’s not going to be OK.” Now she’s on seemingly every channel plugging a soon-to-be-released tell-all book that contradicts every kind word she ever had for Trump. In doing so, she’s created a couple more embarrassing stories about the administration.
On the National Broadcasting Company’s venerable and usually polite “Meet the Press” Sunday morning program, Newman played a recording she’d surreptitiously made of her firing in the White House “Situation Room.” The fact that she would surreptitiously record a conversation in the White House does not speak well of her character, but that she was able to do so in the White House’s most carefully secured space does not speak well of the administration’s competence.
The tape also includes Kelly telling Newman that no harm would come to her reputation if she kept toeing the administration line in her comments to the press, which isn’t even a veiled threat about what would happen if she didn’t, and that will only enhance the Trump administration’s reputation for bullying people into silence. She’s also got a contract that was offered her by presidential daughter-in-law Lara Trump to stay silent in exchange for a $15,000-a-month job as a a “minority outreach” consultant for Trump’s never-ending presidential campaign, which included the offer that she could work at home or not all, which will only enhance the administration’s reputation for buying troublesome women’s silence.
The president should be pleased that Newman is getting some scathing press, with critics noting that she defended Trump against charges of sexism in the aftermath of the “Access Hollywood” and insisted he wasn’t racist when he found very fine people on both sides of a neo-Nazi rally, and her efforts to lament that she was the only African-American in the White House only further infuriate the many credential black conservatives who believe she blocked them from jobs. She defends her surreptitious recordings by saying that the White House is full of back-stabbers, but she still seems to relish own villainous role there.
None of which, of course, does much to help guy who promised hire only the best people and wound up with such a low-life as Newman instead.

— Bud Norman

Stock Market Swoons, Government Shutdowns, and the Alleged Wives-Beater in the White House

Thursday saw another four-digit drop in the Dow Jones average, another government shutdown after negotiations broke down on a budget-busting compromise bill no one liked, and the news still had to find room for another scandalous exit from President Donald Trump’s administration.
White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned his post after Britain’s Daily Mail reported that his two ex-wives allege he physically abused them, various media found corroborating police reports and court orders as well as an ex-girfriend with similar tales, and the first ex-wife released a picture of herself with the black eye she alleges he gave her, which ought to be scandalous enough. Worse yet, the media also reported that White House officials had long been aware that the allegations were the reason the Federal Bureau of Investigation never gave Porter the security clearance required to deal with all the classified materials that a White House staff secretary routinely handles.
Even if you’re the sort of die-hard Trump supporter who figures that the women probably had it coming, and give credit to any administration officials who were so bravely politically incorrect as to agree, you have to be unsettled by the national security implications. Apparently there are several high-ranking White House officials who also can’t pass security clearance muster, including top presidential advisor and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, who’s still the point man for China despite FBI warnings about his personal and business ties to a Chinese operative and still in charge of negotiating Middle East despite no apparent qualifications for that tough job, so it seems to be an ongoing problem. You can still rightly point to Hillary Clinton’s undeniably sloppy mishandling of classified material when she was Secretary of State, which is one of the many valid reasons she’s not the President of the United States, but that won’t solve the more pressing national security problems.
Most people will have a problem with the White House’s apparent tolerance of wife-beating, too, and Porter’s departure won’t help with a widespread public perception that Trump is a sexist pig. There’s also talk about how it reflects on White House chief of staff John Kelly, who a couple of days ago was vouching for Porter’s “high moral character” despite being aware of the FBI warnings about why they’d denied a security clearance, and whose spokesman later explained he wasn’t fully aware of the situation until the black eye picture was published. Kelly came into the White with a pristine reputation as a four-star Marine General, but he’s been criticized on the left for comments deemed racist and sexist, and by Trump for his assurances to the congressional hispanic caucus that Trump had “evolved” in his thinking about various immigration issues, and there’s speculation he’ll be one of the next to leave the Trump administration with a more sullied reputation.
The government shutdown might yet prove as short-lived as last month’s, and the market swoon might yet prove a much-needed correction on the way back to prosperity, but another scandalous example of the Trump administration’s crudity and incompetence won’t help with either situation.

— Bud Norman

The Strange End of the Omarosa Subplot

Omarosa Manigault Newman is another one of those reality show celebrities we’re usually happy to ignore, but it was hard to turn away from the strange story of her sudden departure from President Donald Trump’s administration.
Accounts of Newman’s departure differ, with some saying she was escorted out of the White House by Secret Service agents and others denying that, and it’s not clear exactly what led to her firing, although by all accounts it was insisted on by chief of staff John Kelly, but in any case she’s no longer on the job. Also unclear is why she was ever on the job in the first place.
Newman was once a contestant on “The Apprentice,” Trump’s popular game show, and apparently she helped boost the ratings as a confrontational and caustic character viewers loved to hate. That so endeared her to Trump that he invited her to join his presidential campaign, and she further endeared herself with her controversial and caustic interviews in his defense on television, which included one memorable exchange with Fox News contributor Tamara Holder that culminated with Newman causticly commenting on the questioner’s “big boobs.” After Trump’s unlikely victory Newman was his unlikely pick for the position of communications director for the Office of Public Liaison.
While on the job Newman made headlines with a public screaming jag with former friend and journalist April Ryan, took time out appear on a reality show called “Say Yes to the Dress,” wound up getting roundly booed after a threatening speech to the National Association of Black Journalists, and was roundly booed again by the crowd at the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual gala. Although Newman is black, and liked to brag about all the black votes she helped Trump win, her public liaisons with the black community were always especially confrontational and caustic.
Trump loves confrontational and caustic, of course, but the style does not play as well with Kelly. The four-star Marine general was hired as chief of staff to impose some semblance of discipline on White House, and by all accounts Newman resented his efforts, although the accounts of her her screaming profane threats at the decorated combat veteran are also disputed. In any case, Kelly predictably won the battle, and Newman wound up getting fired from another Trump reality show.
Perhaps Trump will replace Newman with Meat Loaf or Dennis “The Worm” Rodman or one of the other “Apprentice” contestants who aren’t currently accusing him of sexual harassment, but otherwise we expect he’ll wind up with someone better suited to the job communications director for the Public Liaison office, whatever that is. Back during the campaign Trump promised voters he’d pick all the best people, but he’s already had to fire quite a few of them, with his Secretary of State and several others clearly headed for the exits, and on Wednesday even the Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee passed on a couple of Trump’s obviously unqualified nominees for the federal bench.
Back during the campaign Trump also promised to do battle with those smartypants elite establishment types, a promised he has better kept, but he might want to consider hiring a few.

— Bud Norman

Arrivederci, Scaramucci

President Donald Trump started the work week on Monday with a “tweet” assuring the public “No WH chaos!,” but after that things got pretty chaotic around the White House. By lunch time the communications director was on his way out, after less than two weeks on the job and a full two weeks before he was to be officially installed, which was just the latest and surely not the last in a remarkable number of personnel changes for a still-young administration.
Anthony Scaramucci’s appointment had led to the resignations of the White House’s press secretary and chief of staff, both of whom preferred to quit rather than work with him, and his resignation set off lots of speculation about what comes next. His predecessor’s tenure had also been brief by historical standards, and his predecessor’s shorter yet, so at this point the office is starting to look like being a drummer for Spinal Tap, and so far we haven’t heard any names being floated for who’s next.
The chief of staff that Scaramucci scared away has already been replaced by former four-star Marine General John Kelly, who moves over from his post as Homeland Security secretary, so some people are speculating that the Attorney General that Trump has lately been trying to harangue into resignation will be moved over there, and that he will be replaced by someone free to fire the special counsel who was appointed to investigate Russia’s role in the past election after Trump fired the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
All of which sounds pretty chaotic to us, but still-new-on-the-job press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assures us that “If you want to see chaos, come to my house with three pre-schoolers.” That’s not a very reassuring comparison to a White House, though, and we hope that none of Sanders’ pre-schoolers are as troublesome as that Scaramucci fellow.
“The Mooch” made a fortune on Wall Street, and although he was an outspoken critic of Trump until the future president wrapped up the Republican nomination, he was complimentary to an almost homo-erotic degree afterwards. He had no experience in politics or media, but Trump admires people who have made a fortune and likes over-the-top flattery, so Scaramucci arrived in the White House with a pair of blue aviator shades and a Trump-like tough-guy persona and plenty of hair gel and swagger. He also arrived with a $200 million dollar sale to a Chinese conglomerate of the SkyBridge Capital  firm that he has a 44 percent stake in still pending before a regulatory review board, conveniently comprised of Trump appointees. That was reportedly one of the main reasons the previous chief of staff was so adamantly opposed to bringing him on board, and the official reason Scaramucci wasn’t officially on the job for another two weeks of consideration of the deal, but Trump doesn’t seem to have any problem with that sort of thing.
Scaramucci’s tough-guy shtick probably would have carried through him such picky-picky ethical controversies, but he somehow managed to take it too far even by Trump standards. When Politico broke the story about his holdings in SkyBridge, Scaramucci immediately “tweeted” what sure seemed to be a threat to have the FBI investigate the chief of staff for leaking the story, only to have the reporter “tweet” back that her source was the public disclosure form he’d filled out for a time-holding job at the Export-Import Bank. After that a New Yorker reporter “tweeted” that Trump and Scaramucci had dined with radio host and Fox News personality Sean Hannity, which is a rather embarrassing but hardly as earth-shaking scoop, Scaramucci responded with a profanity-laden and downright-crazy rant that wound up a few minutes later at the web site of one of America’s most venerable magazines.
The rant was probably the most widely-read piece in the history of the New Yorker, far surpassing anything Dorothy Parker or James Thurber or John Updike ever wrote for the rag, and we have to admit it does make for damned interesting reading. Scaramucci once again alleged that the White House chief of staff was a a possible felon and very certain sort of “paranoid schizophrenic,” described the White House chief strategist performing an extremely difficult sex act upon himself, and threatened to either fire or kill countless other administration officials. That might not have bothered such a tough guy as Trump much, either, but in one of those ironic twists from Greek drama and the Trump administration the chief of staff that Scaramucci forced out was replaced by a former four-star Marine general who is famous for not suffering fools and idiots lightly.
This scaramouche’s exit from this commedia dell’arte was foretold in our posting of yesterday, but even with our powers of prophecy we didn’t see it coming quite so fast. Nor could our literary imaginations have ever imagined such a colorful character or such a cruel fate for him. Shortly after he signed on with the Trump administration his wife filed for divorce during her ninth month of pregnancy, reportedly in part because she can’t stand Trump, and we doubt she felt any differently when he wound up missing the birth of their child because he preferred to accompany Trump to a Boy Scout jamboree, where the president gave a speech that the Boy Scouts later apologized for. The president he showed such loyalty to accepted his resignation a few days later, the press secretary and chief of staff he forced out and all the administration officials he’d threatened to fire or kill were no doubt having a hearty laugh about it, and that genuinely tough new chief of staff might yet have something to say about that $90 million payday he was counting on.
The quick exit and the genuinely tough guy who did the bouncing are hopeful signs for the administration, at least, and we’re wishing Kelly the best. There are a still an awful lot of fools and idiots left that he’ll have to suffer, though, and it’s beyond even his formidable powers to get rid of all of them.

— Bud Norman