Call it the Tuesday morning Massacre. As President Donald Trump walked out of the residence to Marine One this morning, moments after tweeting to the world that he had fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked the president if that was because the Secretary of State once called Trump “a moron.”
Trump ignored it, twice, and then eventually said he valued Tillerson’s contributions but they didn’t always see eye-to-eye. Moments later, the White House also acknowledged Trump had fired personal aide Johnny McEntee because McEntee was under investigation for serious financial crimes that had nothing to do with Trump.
While the temptation is there to trot out the old sobriquet “best people” as a nickname for everyone who has either been fired or quit in this administration, I will forego that to take a look at the presidential freak show disintegrating at an accelerating rate.
After the firings, former Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted just 11 days in the Trump White House, shrugged off the firings by saying, “That’s one way to go.” The dysfunction inside Trump’s increasingly untenable administration is frightening on levels that seem Biblical. While this may cause the strange evangelicals who proclaim their undying love for Trump to tingle with joy in their nether regions, for many of us it is a horrifying exercise.
Treating those who disagree with you as your enemy isn’t a foundation for building a more perfect union.
Tillerson told reporters he found out his fate in the president’s Tuesday morning tweet. CNN’s Jim Acosta later reported the firing took a couple of days and Tillerson fought for his job during the weekend, but Bloomberg reported Tillerson “was blindsided” when Trump told the world he was ousted in a tweet.
There are few left inside the White House who were there just a year ago, and some positions, like communications director, remain unfilled. Many of those who are left in the day-to-day operations of the White House—particularly those in the press office—are mere children with no professional experience, bad attitudes and no sense of civic responsibility. “It’s like turning the keys of your car to your 16-year-old after they’ve been boozing all night long,” a veteran reporter said recently.
Others see it more dangerously. Tillerson got the final axe a day after criticizing Russia for that country’s links to the poisoning of former Russian security assets in Britain. More than a week ago, Vladimir Putin claimed he had a first-strike nuclear weapon which would render the U.S. missile defense system helpless. This came a week after Trump announced in a speech at the White House he was going to modernize and enhance our nuclear arsenal and abandon the nation’s leading role in nuclear disarmament. On Friday I asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the inherent danger of the leaders of the nations who own the two largest nuclear arsenals engaging in nuclear brinkmanship. She answered she was more worried about “false narratives.”
The fact is this dysfunctional presidency is putting the country in peril. This isn’t a game but the White House press room is routinely run as if it is. Getting rid of Tillerson sends a horrible message to both our enemies and our allies. How can they talk with us, make a deal, ask about policy when things are as chaotic as they currently are?
Whether the president or who’s left of his inner circle—the New York Times reports it may shrink even further in the coming days—fully understand the seriousness of their jobs is not an issue. Because they don’t.
Flying by the seat of your pants doesn’t work when you’re president. Treating those who disagree with you as your enemy isn’t a foundation for building a more perfect union, establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense or promoting the general welfare.
On so many levels, the Federal government resembles not so much a ship of state but a floundering shipwreck washed up on the shoals; sails tattered and beating laconically in the wind while pieces of the deck wash away to sea along with those survivors who hope to hold on. Many of the rats have already fled and the rest are stunned, trying to hold on with everyone else.
The moderates have fled, leaving an ugly spectacle behind. Trump himself doesn’t seem to care who leaves or who goes.
There are those who think electing Trump was a necessary shock to a system that was no longer working. Congress is too partisan and gets nothing done. The large legislative body is moribund in its own turgid miasma of dysfunction, unable to do anything but put themselves ahead of the rest of us, their party before their country and their pocketbooks ahead of everything else.
That’s a perfect setup for Russian soft money and influence, as well as influence from the well-oiled money machines on the fringes of society. Those left in the dust wanted someone to come in and shake things up. They elected Trump based on his claims to want to drain the swamp. But a defibrillator is an instrument that can grant life in the hands of someone who knows how to use it. In the wrong hands, it can bring death.
What we’re looking at with the Trump administration is an entire administration led by a man who can’t adequately use a defibrillator and probably cannot pronounce or spell it.
On Monday, the president held a greeting for the Houston Astros, 2017 World Series champions. Trump praised Astros players for their humanitarian efforts after hurricanes in Houston and Puerto Rico. Some of the team’s players refused to show up for the greeting; Carlos Beltran specifically cited the administration’s poor response to disaster recovery in Puerto Rico as a reason for his declining the invitation to the White House. Other players merely looked uncomfortable sharing the stage with the president.
After Trump fell about himself praising the Astros, a few of the players and members of Astros management gathered at the stakeout area in front of the West Wing to speak before the press. Outfielder Josh Reddick said the history of the building was worthy of the visit. When I mentioned to a member of the entourage the unpainted portion of the front of the White House, which still has scorch marks from the war of 1812, I was told, “Oh, you have to tell that to Josh, he’d love it.”
I motioned him aside and told him. He seemed interested and I explained how that particular piece of history came to be. Moments later, someone grabbed me and told me to move.
“Don’t lay hands on me,” I said to the unidentified press wrangler. (I’d never seen the guy before.) It is the second time in as many weeks a wrangler grabbed a member of the press. Acosta was on the receiving end of an unwanted grabbing in the Rose Garden weeks earlier by the makeup artist/press wrangler.
It is a microcosm of everything wrong in the Trump administration. People filled with their own self-worth in a floundering, inept administration, upset and taking it out on those who are there to do the job of informing the American public. There is little moderation left in Trump’s White House. The moderates have fled, leaving an ugly spectacle behind. Trump himself doesn’t seem to care who leaves or who goes.
“To him it isn’t important because there can be only one rooster in this hen house,” a senior administration official told me not for attribution. “He has to be the star. That’s what’s important.”
This narcissistic behavior is inherently dangerous and becoming more obvious by the day. It leaves sane observers wondering if sometime in the future whether there will be only Trump left in the White House, ruling by decree via Twitter, avoiding the press unless it is to call us “fake news” or “the enemy of the people” or the “opposition party” and using the rhetoric as subterfuge as the massacre continues.
By Tuesday afternoon, NBC reported an undersecretary of state was also fired on Tuesday for pushing a narrative contrary to the White House’s on the firing of Rex Tillerson. Last week, a member of the administration told me that more people have been fired or have quit than the number that currently works at the White House.
This week, they’re looking to see who’s going to be left to shut the door on the way out. Meanwhile, that grinding sound you hear is the Federal government slowly devouring itself as the nation’s first shock jock president brings it all down around him.