This can’t go on for four years. Not at this pace. Not with this much carnage. There’s no way the American public and republic can take an entire four years of the Donald Trump administration as it exists today. Something has to give. Our dear President is either going to suffer from a massive cardiac infarction or the forces lined up for and against him will meet in an epic battle to the death.
Perhaps the press corps will start taking copious amounts of illicit hallucinogens in an attempt to have something, anything, make logical sense. This isn’t an exaggeration. There simply is no way to adequately explain life in the D.C. fishbowl without seeming literally insane, even if you’re just repeating the facts. I’ve never seen anything like the yawning Black Hole of the Donald Trump administration.
So, today we play: “Who leaked the conversation in the Russia Meeting?”
General McMasters, the president’s security advisor, came out of the White House and spoke for less than a minute in front of cameras Monday night after the Washington Post reporting Trump discussed classified information in an Oval Office meeting with the Russians. That’s a meeting in which the American press had been denied access while Russian state photographers were allowed to attend. McMasters denied the president had done anything inappropriate.
Tuesday, McMasters was scheduled to conduct the press briefing detailing the president’s upcoming trip to The Middle East but also taking questions on “other topics.”
The briefing, originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m., was moved up to 11:30 a.m. While McMasters promised to stay and answer any and all questions, he didn’t. Sean Spicer acted like a school master picking on prized pupils to ask questions McMasters had no intention of answering. Most of the questions were about the Russian scandal, naturally.
McMasters was in the room with the Russians during Trump’s controversial meeting but instead of talking about what the President did, McMasters (and later Spicer) came out to convince us the real story was about who leaked the alleged conversation. (Note: As only the people who were actually in the room could leak the contents of the alleged conversation, it seemed safe to surmise the suspects were a very limited number of individuals.)
A few minutes later, the Marine guard outside the White House, which had been practicing all morning long for a State Visit, came to attention and Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey pulled up with his entourage for a visit with Trump. Cameras and reporters scrambled, hoping to catch our president in a mood to say something intelligible. He said nothing, but in a joint appearance a few minutes later he did mispronounce Erdogan’s name.
Shortly thereafter, we reassembled in the briefing room. Spicer’s took his turn holding a press briefing but he wasn’t doing it on camera. He was just allowing microphones.
Good thing. He looked spent; like a binge drinker who just pulled himself out of a 120-day ride into the desert with gallons of cheap wine and a handful of peyote and mescaline. In that condition he had to face a hostile press corps circling like vultures. Since the cameras weren’t turned on, and Spicer was in the mood, I got in three questions.
Someone tell Spicer he can’t leave that easy.
—Journalist on learning someone tried to jump a White House bike rack
With everything going on with Russia, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Ronald Reagan. (Or, as the Iranians and Garry Trudeau referred to him, The Great Satan). Reagan once told ABC’s Sam Donaldson that the Soviet Union reserved unto itself the ability to commit any crime, lie or cheat to obtain its goal of Global Revolution. Reciting that, I asked Spicer what our current President thought the Russian long-term goal might be. He couldn’t answer.
“We’ll have to get back to you. I’m not prepared to go into that,” he said.
It was the most frightening answer I could get. I simply wasn’t prepared for it. I assumed the issue must have come up before. I was apparently mistaken. Reporters generally like it when they can stump a press spokesman with a question for which he isn’t prepared but never did I think it would be on a question as easy as what the administration thought its well-known adversary’s long-term goals were.
Then I asked Spicer if it were ever acceptable for a public official to lie to the American public. He sputtered a bit until I reinforced public official in the question. On that, he said the answer was “No.”
(I waited for a rimshot but none arrived.)
Finally I asked him about those who say the administration is, in a word, “inept.”
That was a question he tried to handle. His eyes lit up and he turned it around to talk about how the administration was suffering from an unprecedented number of leaks and they had to be plugged.
“When you have people that are leaking information…“ he said.
“That’s not unique,” I said.
“I think that the level and number of quotes and the damage, I don’t, I can’t say… It seems like a lot to me,” he said.
Others asked him questions along this line and he continued his, “the infidels are storming the gates,” narrative for a few more questions.
I couldn’t take it. Wasn’t it obvious who “leaked” the conversation with the Russians?
“But the only people in that room when the President spoke were friends,” I said.
“Brian, Brian, Brian,” he said.
“Sean, Sean, Sean,” I replied.
The gaggle ended.
The day did not. Now reporters had to deal with the fallout from the Comey firing, the Russian meeting in which there were no American reporters, the Washington Post story, McMaster’s denial and Spicer’s spin.
All that leads us to the story the White House wanted reported: “Who the Hell keeps shooting their mouth off to the press?” Or: "The news is fake but the leaks are real.”
We didn’t have long to ponder anything. A short time later, the White House was on lockdown because someone tried to “jump a bike rack” near the White House. At first the reporters laughed. A reporter asked a secret service agent if the jumper was entering or leaving the White House. “Someone tell Spicer he can’t leave that easy,” another remarked. Then they had us sit in the briefing room where they kept us for nearly an hour. During that break, Spicer was a large part of the discussion as rumors have been floating about his professional demise – and some started talking about a Fox anchor who claimed to be the heir apparent to his job.
Meanwhile Spicer was upstairs trying to organize another briefing for reporters on the following day regarding the foreign trip. Then he met with officials of the White House Correspondents Association in a monthly confab. Suddenly, he and the rest of us had to deal with the New York Times breaking another story regarding the Russian scandal and boom we’re mainlining speed again.
I finally left the White House shortly after 9 p.m, too spent to drink and too angry to sleep.
The next day the FBI announced a special prosecutor on the Russian scandal, our president told told United States Coast Guard Academy graduates that, “No politician in history… has been treated worse.”
“This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” Trump tweeted the next day.
We all sighed and girded ourselves to do it again.
This simply can’t go on for four years.