“It’s not even safe to be seen with you,” my lunch companion – a government employee said.
“No. reporters. Any of you. The guy is on a tear,” I was told.
The ‘guy’ is new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. The Mooch made an early impression when he told the New Yorker that Steve Bannon enjoyed sucking himself off in a bizarre late-night phone call. More notably, he’s making a name around the White House by threatening to kill, cripple, fire, loot, pillage and burn any “leakers” in the West Wing. Apparently his wife had enough; she filed for divorce today.
Meanwhile, another one bites the dust in the administration. Latest to go: Reince Priebus. The embattled Chief of Staff was replaced by General Kelly late Friday afternoon. Trump, of course, announced the move in a tweet. Priebus leaves exactly one week after Sean Spicer, becoming the latest RNC stalwart to leave the president as Trump closes ranks.
And the Priebus exit occurs just a day after Scaramucci accused Priebus of being a “leaker,” implying either poor bladder control or a proclivity to talk to reporters.
The soon-to-be single Scaramucci has already threatened to call the FBI into investigate a leak that didn’t occur. (The information he thought was leaked about his finances was actually a matter of public record.) He’s also stalking the White House campus cursing in a way that would make Joe Pesci’s Goodfellas character blush. He also apparently leaked information in a recorded, on-the-record, interview with a reporter, prompting some in the West Wing to ask sarcastically if he’d slit his own wrists as a result.
“Just don’t tell him to go get his shine box,“ my lunch companion said. "It’ll drive him nuts.”
Meanwhile, Senate efforts at repealing at the ACA ended not in a bang but a whimper. GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted no, despite intense pressure from the White House. The women, along with John McCain, killed a bill many said was not only horrible but “Un-American.”
Back at the White House, the President has been stewing. He’s been unable to kill news on the Russian investigation, his efforts at repealing Obamacare failed even after Sarah Huckabee Sanders labeled it the “Freedom Act” in a press briefing Thursday, and his proposed ban on transgender people serving in the military was met with shrugs by the Joint Chiefs. So he brought Scaramucci in to clean house a week ago. So far, he’s just making more of a mess.
Lost in the cacophony of the daily scandal is the stock market’s strong performance.
“Take a look,“ my friend said. "There’s a healthy 2.6 percent growth rate and if it reaches three percent then Mick [Mulvaney the Director of OMB] will have the numbers he wants to make his budget work.
“You guys are losing perspective,” he told me. “You can’t cover this administration worth a damn because you’re not watching the money. You’re watching the smoke and mirrors.”
The real story, according to those who are trying to keep their eye on the prize, is a robust economy. “If the economy is strong there’s a real sense from those of us in the inside that we’ll finally be able to sell our message and it will pave the way to a second term. What does every first term president want? A second term, of course. If the economy is strong, who would vote this guy out?”
So how has Trump been able to claim such healthy economic numbers and why is Wall Street so happy with him – even as his surrogates turn the White House into a bloody farce? More than six weeks ago, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told the briefing room that the president was going to “unleash” the might of U.S. manufacturing. Trump has often said the same thing. He also got tough with Canada on a timber deal and opened up China so U.S. ranchers can sell beef to the Chinese. One of the keys to unleashing the might of the American economy has been several executive orders that have rolled back environmental controls, and killing some trade agreements the president said were not fair to the U.S.
“Without having to worry about the environment, you probably can sustain the growth Mulvaney wants for the budget – but at what cost?” my companion asked.
Scientists at the E.P.A have fled, warning the populace that Scott Pruitt, the new administrator, is in the process of gutting the agency. This despite his online claims that he “believes that promoting and protecting a strong and healthy environment is among the lifeblood priorities of the government, and that EPA is vital to that mission.”
Critics of the administration point out that Pruit began the process of abandoning the Clean Power plan, took aim at the mercury and air toxics rule, shut out neutral scientific advice, cleaned house on many of its scientists – and all while president Trump backed the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. That’s in just the first hundred days.
These issues have largely gone unnoticed, subsumed by the endless and dazzling explosions of scandal off a White House that seemingly can’t stop tripping over its own feet. Few are watching the money, exploring what the trade deals are doing, or the dismantling of the EPA as closely as they can.
It’s easy to miss this stuff when you have the president’s newest surrogate running amock, cursing like a drunken mob boss and threatening other members of the president’s staff. Not only that, but President’s staff is abandoning ship almost as quickly as he hires them. Also, the Senate is unable to pass viable healthcare options after having more than seven years to come up with an alternative to the Affordable Healthcare Act. As you can imagine, it’s tough to focus.
As I sat at lunch in the pouring rain of a Washington D.C. afternoon, I thought back to the tirade unleashed by Scaramucci the previous day.
It struck me we’ve seen this before – many times on stage and in real life. “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Scaramucci’s wife files for divorce. Priebus is out of a job. Spicer quit. Michael Short is gone. Meanwhile the Trump Train keeps hurtling forward. We hope that the light of the end of the tunnel doesn’t belong to St. Peter.