Saturday, July 29, 2017

Trump, Priebus and Scaramucci

Donald Trump, despite his immense wealth, success, and power is a profoundly insecure man. Perhaps this goes back to bad experiences during his toilet training phase. Maybe he knows that he's not really a self-made man in the true sense of the word. Maybe he struggles to comprehend how being President can be so tough if the black guy did it. I don't know. I do know that he's a bully who has so far not shown any ability either to run the executive branch effectively or failing that, empower people who really do know how to administer the executive branch. Maybe this will change. But really how many people change in their seventies? You pretty much are who you are at that point. Trump mistakes conflict and brashness for strength. This "state of nature" approach trickles down to everyone who works for Trump. We saw this this week where Trump's new White House Communications Director and would be mini-me Anthony Scaramucci, gave a rather odd interview in which he profanely boasted of being willing to fire everyone, accused White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus of leaking information, and charged White House Advisor Steve Bannon of being so enamored of himself that he tried to commit oral sex upon himself.
Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own ****,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the f****** strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon declined to comment.) He reiterated that Priebus would resign soon, and he noted that he told Trump that he expected Priebus to launch a campaign against him.
Now politics is a contact sport. But even by those standards going on the record with such filth was pretty low indeed. But Scaramucci did not apologize in any meaningful way. And apparently Trump wasn't bothered as much by Scaramucci's language and public criticism of other Administration members as he was by Priebus' lack of public response. 



To Trump, everything is a mud wrestling event. And if you aren't willing to get muddy and dirty for his amusement, then you're not worth having around. Making that point, Trump replaced Priebus as Chief of Staff with former DHS General Kelly. Trump had no prior relationship with Priebus. 

And since the ObamaCare repeal failed miserably in the Senate where Priebus' institutional knowledge and connections were supposed to help, Trump didn't need Priebus any more. Despite the amusement of Trump's minions turning on each other this wouldn't really be worth blogging about were there not some more important issues revealed. Trump doesn't know how government works. He doesn't want to learn how government works. He's easily bored and vindictive. He was unwilling to truly empower Priebus as Chief of Staff. No one really believed that people like Bannon, Kushner, Ivanka or Scaramucci had to go through the Chief of Staff to reach Trump or get support for whatever agenda they were pushing. Will this change with Kelly in the job? I doubt it. Obviously Trump's family members will always have the inside track. And just as obviously Trump doesn't want clearly defined roles and responsibilities in his team with competent people empowered to act independently. What he wants is everyone fighting among themselves to be the one who first gets to kiss his behind. 


While I think every President has some of that because you have to have a healthy ego to want that job, Trump's emotional neediness and caprice mean that he doesn't hire the best person for the job. Trump hires the person who is most willing to model themselves after him (see Scaramucci) and debase themselves talking about how wonderful Trump is. Of course when you hire second rate people you get second rate results. Trump has no real legislative achievements to point to as of yet. But he does have an achievement of making a snake filled swamp pit worse. Again, that may not matter to the people who voted for Trump. No one is going to cry for Reince Priebus. But what Democrats might start pointing out is that Trump's sense of loyalty only runs one way. He's not so much a Republican leader as he is a cult leader. His willingness to throw many of the white "deplorables" who voted for him under the proverbial bus with Medicaid/Medicare cuts after he promised not to do so is something that Democrats ought to be talking about more. And Trump's long standing public humiliation of Jeff Sessions is finally starting to raise a few conservative eyebrows in Alabama. If Trump will throw Sessions overboard and insult him, the first Senator to endorse Trump, who is really safe? Loyalty is important to many conservatives. 

That said though, like a stubborn mule, many Trump voters will not rethink their support unless and until (1) they are personally betrayed/hurt and (2) Democrats offer a better alternative. I'm not sanguine about both of those things happening. But time will tell.
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