Omarosa Manigault Donald Trump
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Opinion

Why Are We Falling For the Omarosa Vs. White House Scandal?

Years from now, history students at your nearby for-profit college studying in the DeVos Library made of plastic and out-of-date storage media will get lukewarm coffee, fast food and the latest comic book, but will be unable to study anything of merit—unless it’s working in a coal mine and learning how to get Black Lung.

A liberal arts education will be reserved for whatever real universities are able to survive the coming crisis of ignorance spurred by the deconstruction of the United States and its Constitution by the Donald J. Trump administration. Where such education is available in the future for rich, privileged white people, college kids will study tweets sent by the 45th president to learn a way of manipulating the masses. Among them will be this gem, sent this week and aimed at former senior advisor Omarosa Manigault Newman:

“When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog."


For Omarosa, there could be no better news. She’s getting attention and most people are, for once, spelling her surname correctly.

I still doubt the Omarosa flap was that contrived. I can believe Trump took advantage of the book’s release date.

She is on a high-profile media blitz for her tell-all book about working on the Trump campaign and her time in the White House before she got canned. She has released tapes of alleged conversations with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Trump that she apparently recorded without their knowledge. Trump employees still on the White House Communications staff who were there when Omarosa had been are decidedly on edge wondering what other conversations were taped.

Meanwhile (with apologies to Bono), there are those who think this is just another slight-of-hand and twist-of-fate as Trump waits on his bed of nails for the Mueller axe to drop. “It just smells funny,” a Democratic staffer on the Hill tells me. “She played the villain on television for Trump and they’ve known each other for a decade. So was this constructed by Omarosa and Trump to keep us from talking about things that matter?”

That seemed unlikely to me, and I said so as the two of us discussed Tuesday’s press briefing over coffee. “She had no answer for you about the Russian investigation, did she?” (I had asked Sanders if the administration planned sanctions against the last 12 Russians indicted in the Mueller probe since Trump sanctioned the previous dozen or so who had been indicted.)


“No,” I replied.

“She did not. I stumped her.”

“She didn’t even try to spin it.”

“Nope.”

“You see that’s what makes me think the Omarosa flap is contrived. They probably spent all day long working on answers to that question. They claim they want to deal with real policy, but they don’t mind the media going down the Omarosa rabbit hole because it keeps us from talking about Mueller, Cohen, Sessions, Russia, Putin, Helsinki, tariffs, North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan, Isis . . .”

“All right, I get it,” I said.

“That’s where you guys really fall down. You’re following the scandal of the moment and miss the basics. That’s what’s really wrong with the press.”

The man had a point, and I had to concede the possibility, though I still doubt the Omarosa flap was that contrived. When Omarosa’s publication date was set for her book, there would be no way of knowing of any particular scandal breaking—though knowing the Trump administration, it wouldn’t be farfetched to anticipate some kind of scandal. I can, therefore, believe Trump took advantage of the book’s release date, but didn’t plan anything. Like everything else he does, Trump was just flying by the seat of his pants again.

But Trump should be at least grateful we’re talking about his former senior aide rather than anything else. Few of us talked about Omarosa when she was at the White House. She was rarely seen in public, wasn’t a popular surrogate on the news circuit and when people spoke her name, it was often followed by the question, “What does she do around here?” No one seemed to know.

But now, we can’t seem to get enough of her. Certainly, Tuesday, the communications staff was prepared for an all-out oratory blitz concerning—in one corner—POTUS armed with his sledgehammer and in the other corner, Omarosa armed with her stiletto.

I know they were prepared for Omarosa questions because I caught Hogan Gidley coming out of a morning meeting with Sanders. I said to anyone who wanted to hear me, “I do not care about Omarosa. I won’t ask one question about her.” He replied they were prepared for any and all questions on Omarosa. In fact it appears they prepped for little else.

Reporters were asking Sanders to guarantee Trump had never said the “N” word. But it’s impossible to prove a negative.

Me? I was done with it. I had covered Omarosa during the weekend with Ana Cabrera on CNN. Trump had called her a “lowlife” and I said that brought to mind three questions:

1. First, you hired her and kept her employed for 10 years. Did you hire her knowing she was a lowlife? 
2. Or second, did it take you 10 years to find out she was a lowlife?
3. Or did working for you make her a lowlife?

Any which way you go, it turns out bad for Dear Donald. But not so bad as sitting down with Robert Mueller to answer questions about his election, which is the real news. I also said on CNN Trump would never sit down with Mueller because it would end with Mueller eating the president’s lunch. “He will call him on every factual error, every lie that he’s told,” I said. “Who would want to sit down in front of Bob Mueller and have to face what he’s going to have to face? I can’t imagine it.”

The administration got lucky with the Omarosa scandal and played the media like a fiddle to the point where reporters were asking Sanders to guarantee Trump had never said the “N” word. But it’s impossible to prove a negative. It’s a logical fallacy to ask it. Nevertheless, headlines screamed that Sanders couldn’t guarantee Trump had never said the “N” word. You might as well have asked Sanders if she could guarantee he’d never crapped his pants. And it misses the point anyway.

There is enough documentation out there already of Trump’s misogynistic, racist, misanthropic tendencies. One more insult isn’t the point. Isn’t calling Omarosa a dog bad enough? Wasn’t it bad enough making fun of a handicapped reporter? Or how about saying some of the alt-right rioters in Charlottesville were good people? Or, how about when he tweeted out the “N” word—or a variation of it in 2013? Or when he was caught on tape talking about grabbing a woman by her genitalia?

I need no further evidence to convince me to hold Mr. Trump in the highest minimum regard. Sanders even confirmed the president is a common vulgarian with little redeeming value. “He fights fire with fire,” she told us Tuesday. Apparently Trump doesn’t understand that doesn’t work; it only leads to scorched earth. Sanders even hinted that she wanted the president to quit tweeting, saying she just wished the administration could stop talking about Omarosa and move on. She took her customary swipe at the media, but it felt perfunctory and without the usual zeal that drives the invectives usually leveled at the press.

In the press room, we let it go for once. No use hitting Sanders on this one. She acts as someone who knows she has little or no dignity left to maintain. The only time she showed signs of life was in discussing Omarosa and that was even strangely muted—as if Sanders might be afraid of what her former colleague has on tape.

I rarely interacted with Omarosa during her time in the White House. Like everyone else covering this administration, I couldn’t really figure out what she did. Once, when Sean Spicer ran from me and barricaded himself in his office, I demanded he come out and face the music. Omarosa turned to me and said, “Well that’s Spicey being Spicey.” Other than that, I couldn’t tell you one thing she did while there. I occasionally saw her walk by the stakeout area and enter from the North Gate. Once I watched her sitting during a press briefing;  she occasionally flicked at her hair and smiled.

I confess; the animosity leveled at her now is as inconsequential and meaningless to me as the attention she got while she was in the White House. Meanwhile, everyone close to Trump advised him to ignore Omarosa, but he couldn’t do it. His reality television experience, his need to “Fight Fire with Fire” and his narcissistic tendencies overwhelmed his ability to keep his mouth shut. Ultimately that will be the man’s undoing. All of the King’s Horses and all the King’s Men won’t be able to put dear Donald back together again. What do I know? I am merely happy to say I never watched one episode, or even one second of an episode of The Apprentice, and I believe I’m the better for it.

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