Bill Shine leaves White House

Entitlement and Existentialism in America

Trump's comms director heads back to the campaign trail as scandal rattles the country

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A host of idly rich people, most of whom have never had to work two jobs or worry about health and dental care—much less figure out how much to tip the pizza delivery boy—have been indicted by the FBI for trying to bribe university officials at a variety of institutions, from Yale to University of Southern California, in order to get their offspring into the “right school.” Helicopter parents have nothing on those with wads of sweaty cash. It is the largest college cheating scandal in history.

This left members of the White House press corps laughing. “After all, who would spend that kind of money to go to USC? Their football team sucks,” said more than one UCLA fan in the press. Alabama fans scoffed. But after the laughter died down, many more began to ponder the existential crisis indicated by this scandal. A few more mused that the FBI is taking yet another step to prove its independence from the rich and powerful Oz in the White House. That probably caused Donald more pain than anything else.

The cheating scandal certainly gets to the heart of a problem in America: It is the haves versus the have-nots in a pick-up game where one side decides the rules for all while maintaining a no rules mentality for themselves. This is America’s existential crisis: Despite the sweat and toil of our founding fathers and a Constitution designed to level the playing field, life in the United States is still easiest on those with the most money. All men may be created equal, but some of the pigs are more equal than others (according to George Orwell).

This class of people live a life with fewer repercussions for bad decisions—even if those decisions affect a great many people. They live with fewer restrictions—thus prompting bad decisions. They live, largely, in a reality of their own making, and often times until the reality of the majority crashes in on them. It is from this class of people we recruited our current president.

Trump? He doesn’t care. The college scandal is a blip on his radar. As John Bennett pointed out in Roll Call, “Since he spoke Friday on the South Lawn of the White House before he toured tornado-savaged Alabama, Bill Shine...his fifth communications director left, the latest high-profile departure of a senior West Wing aide or Cabinet official. And there have been uproars over his comments about Democrats and Jewish people, and his latest public spat with former fixer Michael Cohen.”

From inside this hellish furnace of contention, Sarah Huckabee Sanders emerged for her first press briefing in 42 days at the White House to talk about the budget. Of course, she brought a guest star. That week’s featured performer was Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought. He made his briefing room debut in an episode they actually publicly labeled “Happy Budget Day.” At least Vought began his presentation by declaring it as such. For 17 minutes, Vought came out and outlined a budget no one in Congress has seriously considered. (Even Mitch McConnell was rumored to have used it instead as a starter log for his fireplace). Vought dodged, dipped and ducked as he fell into the same pit everyone else in the Trump administration falls into with frightening ease: Take the podium and lie your ass off.

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To drive that point home humorlessly, Sanders took the podium and for a mere 15 minutes made semi-audible random noises at the press, though few credit her with answering any questions. That averages out to a 20-second visit of cacophony for each of the last 42 days, if you divided it up. Sanders didn’t care as she ranted and raved about newborns being ripped from wombs and killed by Democrats. She got into her usual fights with the press and then fled with a small yet dramatic flourish as staff filed out in front and behind her. In other words, after 42 days on hiatus the press briefing remains what it has always been under this administration: a boring sideshow of “must attend” TV for reporters; a briefing intended solely to amuse and please the audience of One who remains unnamed in a Southern District of New York criminal investigation.

But if nothing else, that first briefing in 42 days also showed the White House is running out of ways to distract the country. Don’t worry: Like it or not, we’ll see another one in the future when all other modes of distraction are unavailable or when the moment suits the president. There are even those who think the briefings will once again pick up with some frequency now that Shine is out. There was some indication he was going to be blamed for the lack of briefings—though the president has already admitted he ended them because he didn’t like the way reporters treated Sanders.

Shine? The official word is he left to join the president’s reelection campaign. His former White House office quickly went dark; staffers feigned ignorance and indifference to his whereabouts as if he had been erased from the collective memory—almost as if he never existed. Shine spent the last eight months responding to reporters and acting amicably toward them. Perhaps that got him in trouble with Trump. Perhaps it was Shine’s rumored confession of being a Don Lemon fan, or The New Yorker article linking Shine to Fox, or perhaps the president (as many have suspected) long ago decided he’s his own best communications director.

At the same time, Boeing is now facing a major scandal with its 737 MAX 8 while the woman who founded the Florida spa where Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly solicited prostitution also appears to have sold access to the president, according to investigations byMiamiHeraldandMother Jones.

Trump denied through a spokesman of knowing the Miami massage queen while grounding the the Boeing 737s in a pool spray. For those who were surprised Trump took any decisive action regarding Boeing, you should realize that the U.S. was about the last country to take action. Trump’s tweet regarding Boeing pointedly showed why he did it while simultaneously showing us how out of touch he is with reality: “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better." I guess we should dust off the Wright Flyer.

The truth is you can’t make progress by going backward. But Trump doesn’t fathom that any more than any of his minions, including some like Paul Manafort who is facing a grand total of 73 months in prison without a chance to visit the White House or see his darling Donnie. The Southern District of New York then dropped 16 indictments on him—erasing any chance Manafort will see daylight anytime soon, even if Dark Wing Donnie gives Manafort a pardon.

Manafort’s trials and tribulations serve as a stark reminder to those embroiled in the college cheating scandal. In short, what it looks like to have your manufactured reality cave in around you. Trump is part of the same group of people and is the epitome of our existential crisis. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she doesn’t want to consider impeaching Trump because he’s not worth it. Trump thanked her in a tweet for saying he shouldn’t be impeached—a fact you just can’t mention without laughing. Pelosi understands the surest way to rid yourself of Trump is to vote his entitled carcass out of the White House, perhaps the quickest and most permanent method of dealing with our existential ennui and daily terror. After the fact the nation will move on. Trump’s reality will cave in on him and he will become a footnote in history or perhaps he and his crime family will suffer the same fate as Manafort. He will no longer have center stage, and the whole country, even those who love Trump, will be better off for it.

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