Holed up in a Manhattan hotel room with easy access to all diversions from reality, I thought I had finally found some respite from the circus of the Donald Trump presidency. I was staring at a bottle of Wild Turkey when I found out I was wrong.
The phone call came early in the morning, after former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci appeared on CNN to tell the world the White House is in disarray; morale has never been lower, he said, and it will probably continue to decline.
“He’s right,” the staffer on the other end of the phone told me. “More people have been fired or have quit than the number who still work here. I took the wrong job. You know anyone looking? Does Playboy need help?”
The revelation comes in the wake of Hope Hicks, the fourth communications director to serve Trump, resigning on Wednesday. That, of course, sent the West Wing into a spiral. At only 29 years old, Hicks was among the few loyalists left in Trump’s dwindling inner circle. Her departure came less than 24 hours after the House Intelligence Committee grilled her for more than nine hours on Tuesday, during which she admitted to telling “little white lies” to help the president.
Jared Kushner now has less security clearance than the White House calligrapher.
So Trump is circling his wagons again, and he does so in the midst of a week’s worth of a half dozen new scandals, problems and terrors, all of his own making. Jared Kushner now has less security clearance than the White House calligrapher, but there’s little to no guarantee the president won’t keep allowing Kushner look at any information the president deems necessary for him to see—even if he is a concern for national security. Meanwhile, according to CNN, the FBI is looking at the business dealings of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and the chance she could be compromised by foreign powers over those dealings.
If business bores you, then the gun problem certainly won’t.
On Tuesday in the press room, Sarah Huckabee Sanders continued to deal with the fallout of the latest mass shooting at a Floriday high school by dodging all questions and doing her favorite ballerina spin. Trump also held a roundtable discussion with Congressmen, where he called them out for “being afraid” of the National Rifle Association. Liberals choked on that, unbelieving the president meant want he said, while NRA surrogates soiled themselves trying to spin the fact that the president might actually be trying to solve the problem of too many hi-caliber guns ending up in the hands of too many wrong people.
But everyone figured it was back to abnormal in the White House when the president also said we should consider confiscating guns first and figure out “due process” later. Liberals and conservatives spent the day vomiting, not knowing whether it was too much bourbon or if the president had truly lost his mind.
If that issue isn’t your cup of bourbon, hold on to the Wild Turkey. We still have the Mueller investigation to get to. After indicting 19 Russians, it is rumored the Mueller investigation is now not only investigating Ivanka, but looking at Trump’s dealings with Russians prior to 2016.
But wait, there’s more: Ben Carson, the brain surgeon turned government Fagan, is under investigation for ordering $31,000 in dining room furniture, to be paid for by our hard earned tax dollars. “It’s like they’re intent on stealing everything,” a GAO source quipped. “After the Trump administration leaves, we’ll have to have an audit to make sure the Washington Monument is still there.”
This kind of chaos isn’t that unusual as you ramp up. Trump is facing a learning curve.
Still to come? Well the president and his favorite Keebler elf, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are at each other’s throats—again—with Trump apparently calling Sessions “Mr. Magoo.” Sessions has survived several attempts to get rid of him, proving to be more of a tick buried in the national hide than Mr. Magoo or a Keebler elf. In Thursday’s briefing, when asked if the president was planning to get rid of Sessions, Sanders said “not that I know of.“
Those with conspiracy on their minds know that if the president wants to end the Mueller investigation, getting rid of Sessions would be a step in that direction. But, don’t wait too long thinking about that scandal; after all, Sessions has his own baggage, and it’s hard to find him as a sympathetic character in this Greek tragedy. Instead, let’s look to the military. Late Thursday, General H.R. McMaster once again was rumored to be leaving the White House, too.
McMaster, like Sessions has had rumors swirl around his long-term White House employment—but “long-term” is a relative term in an administration where communication directors last on average a 100 days. Should McMaster leave the White House, it will be far more problematic than losing a communications director. “I’ve worked with start-ups,” Scaramucci tells. “You go through people. This kind of chaos isn’t that unusual as you ramp up. And Trump is facing a learning curve,” he adds.
But others think there are some “catastrophic” scenarios that should be considered when you’re on a learning curve—and when dealing with a federal government, not a start-up. Both the North Korean issue and Vladimir Putin’s latest nuclear saber-rattling are the catastrophes within the realm of national security that D.C. insiders say are sources for at least some of the friction between Trump and McMaster. And the bottom line is that, for those who’ve been around awhile, these issues are a reality that must be handled and considered delicately.
There are those who believe Trump doesn’t grasp the seriousness of the issue, or will act rashly in dealing with them. Both scenarios are potentially disastrous. For many members of the Trump administration (perhaps even the president himself), everything is an ephemeral exercise in keeping up appearances—a theater production with no real ramifications. The press briefings and the open meetings with Congress and his Cabinet put his presidency in the limelight without any follow-up to the questions raised by those meetings. This is a central problem for the Trump administration.
Appearance is not reality. The barbarians are at the gate and our government is continually working on an episode of The Apprentice instead of a working government. “Face it, Brian: We aren’t that bright,” a White House staffer told me Thursday. “We are facing a huge learning curve.”
But all of the scandals pale when compared to the prospect of a new nuclear arms race, a new war with North Korea, new Syrian atrocities and a potential conflict with Russia regarding its cyberwar against our democratic process. We cannot forget that our survival is at stake here, and how we deal with the Trump administration not only has ramifications for our future government, but for the future of people living on the planet.
And that’s why I’m staring at this bottle of Wild Turkey.