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

Keeping the President Alive

Back when President Barack Obama was first elected, during that delusional era of hope and change and boundless “Yes we can” optimism, it was a widely held belief among our liberal friends that he would soon be assassinated.
The notion that the James Earl Rays of America would never tolerate a black president had been a staple of black stand-up comedy for years, and the more progressive white folks seemed to assume that conservatives harbored the same murderous fantasies that they’d indulged in all through the George W. Bush era. Our nation’s unhappy history compelled us to concede that there was a risk, but we tried to reassure our friends that it didn’t seem any more dire than usual. There are no doubt a few would-be James Earl Rays left out there, but by now even the dimmest of them are well aware that modern society won’t confer them the heroic status that their hero mistakenly thought he would acquire, and every conservative of our acquaintance was especially anxious to see the president serve out his term. Not just for the usual patriotic and moral reasons, or the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency, but also from a nagging fear that a martyred Obama would usher in an era of unrestrained liberalism more effectively than even a live one.
If an assassination attempt were made, we figured, it would most likely be by another of the deranged anarchists or disgruntled office-seekers or Fair Play for Cuba activists or Manson family members or man-hating feminists or love-struck movie fans or assorted other nut cases who have taken shots at presidents in the past. The thought has reoccured to us with the news that one such nut case was recently able to climb over the White House fence, walk through the unlocked front door, manhandle his way past an undersized woman security guard, and then penetrate deep into the president’s residence. Throw in the the past several years’ worth of stories about Secret Service agents boozing it up and consorting with prostitutes, party-crashers making their way to within hand-shaking distance of the president, known criminals  pretending to provide deaf language interpretation right next to the president, along with some of the other Secret Service scandals so numerous we can’t quite recall them all of the top of our head, and there is reason to believe that a president whose survival is of paramount importance to both liberals and conservatives is not being adequately protected.
Congressional hearings regarding the matter are scheduled for today, with the woman in charge of presidential security summoned to provide testimony, and we expect the Republicans will pose the more aggressive questions and insist on the more robust solutions. The president is ultimately responsible for own security, as we all are, and as usual it would be embarrassing for the Democrats to too closely scrutinize his job performance. The Republicans, remembering how much more saintly and perfectly liberal President John F. Kennedy was in death than he ever was  in life, and knowing full well that they will be blamed for any misfortune, just as Dallas’ “riight-wing  climate of hate” was blamed for that Fair Play for Cuba activist’s lucky shots, will have a greater stake in keeping the president alive.

— Bud Norman

Affairs of State

Sooner or later the political conversation will have to get back around to the lousy economy, or that awful immigration bill, or any of the many other stories of more lasting importance, but for now it’s hard to avert one’s eyes from all the scandals. The latest one involves hookers, underage girls, drugs, and the State Department, so it’s especially distracting.
According to a soon-to-be-released, already-leaked report from a yet another Inspector General — and where would our country get its news if not from those ubiquitous Inspectors General? — the U.S. ambassador to Belgium stands accused of soliciting sexual favors from prostitutes and minor children, a security official in Beirut allegedly engaged in sexual assaults on foreign nationals working at the embassy, members of the Secretary of State’s security detail routinely employed prostitutes, and a criminal organization is said to have supplied drugs to security contractors at the United States embassy in Baghdad. As with all the other scandals, there are also allegations that high ranking officials attempted to cover it all up.
Aside from the undeniable salaciousness of it all, the allegations have serious political implications that even the most administration-friendly media will be hard pressed to ignore. The misbehavior was widespread enough that the Inspector General’s report describes it as “endemic,” and among those who stand accused of interfering with the investigations into these matters is under secretary of state Patrick Kennedy, who has recently been served with a subpoena by the House investigators looking into the lies that the administration told about the four deaths in a terror attack on the Benghazi, Libya, consulate. Thus the latest scandal merges into past ones, and recalls other past scandals involving Secret Service agents and prostitutes, adds yet another reason for people to suspect that their government is not up to the ever-expanding job it has set for itself.
Heading up the State Department during all these shenanigans was Hillary Clinton, usually described in the press was the greatest Secretary of State ever, the most popular person in American politics, and the presumptive next President of the United States, and it will be interesting to see how her adoring fan club of reporters manage to insulate her from the scandal. Clinton’s tolerance for boorish sexual behavior by the men in her life is legendary, but this time around it might not seem such a saintly virtue. She could reprise her famous line that “What difference, at this point does it make,” which won rave reviews from the left when she used it slough off the four deaths that occurred as a result of her failure to provide adequate security to a consulate that had been pleading for protection, but even the most faddish catch-phrases eventually become tiresome.
The ambassador accused of sexual misbehavior adamantly denies the allegations, and thus far the Inspector General’s report is the only evidence of any improprieties, and a press that is currently overworked by scandals that it has been forced to reluctantly cover might not find time to uncover any further dirt. Still, it’s yet another slew of unsavory news for the administration to deal with and more reason to hope that the president’s transformative agenda will be at least temporarily stalled.

— Bud Norman

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Those who labor in the private sector tend to regard their public sector counterparts with a mix of envy and contempt. “Good enough for government work” is a popular cliché, and jokes about the lax standards, leisurely pace, and generous pensions of government workers abound.

Two recent stories in the news suggest that all the old stereotypes might have been understated.

One of the stories is the General Services Administration’s lavish party in Las Vegas back in 2010, which cost the taxpayers more than $822,571. The agency’s inspector general has found that the tab included $146,527.05 on catered food and beverages, including $44 breakfasts and a $95 per person dinner for all attendees, as well as $6,325 commemorative coins given to all conference participants as a reward for their swell work on Recovery Act projects. The latest chapter in this saga of Sybaritic excess has the regional executive who hosted the bash invoking his Fifth Amendment rights rather than answer any of a congressional investigating committee’s questions about possible kickbacks in the affair.

The hard partying workers at the General Services Administration seem a rather restrained bunch, though, when compared to the Secret Service. A dozen Secret Service agents have now been relieved of duty for various derelictions of duty during a presidential visit to Colombia, including the hiring of prostitutes. At least they seem not to be quite so profligate as their colleagues over at the GSA, as police were reportedly called to one hotel to settle a dispute with a woman who was complaining loudly to the hotel management that she hadn’t been paid.

These sordid but somehow unsurprising stories should have some small effect on the broader political debate.

The Obama administration has blamed the GSA fiasco on the Bush administration, naturally, even though the incident occurred two years after Bush left office and was funded by the infamously profligate Obama era budgets, and congressional Democrats have been just as loud as their Republican counterparts in expressing their indignation. There doesn’t seem to be a party line yet on the Secret Service’s revelry in Colombia, where even the Secretary of State was boogieing down with gusto, but of course it goes without saying in the press that it wasn’t at all the president’s fault. The president might very well avoid being blamed by the public, but it doesn’t seem a very inspiring campaign theme that the country’s chief executive can’t be held responsible for the actions of executive branch employees.

The incidents also provide two more juicy anecdotes for the traditional conservative arguments about the inherently unaccountable and uncontrollable nature of bureaucracies. Modern liberalism is mostly a program of ever more powerful and better-funded government, and one can hope that the public might be just a bit more skeptical about the kinds of people they’re handing all that power and money.

— Bud Norman