Give the Mooch this much. In return for 10 days of abasement, a lost marriage, a lost business, and a stream of quotes in The New Yorker that would make Lyndon Johnson blush, he’ll probably get a chapter, or at least a few pages, in the inevitable Trump books for being the, well, mook who was hired to fire Reince Priebus while daring to outcolorful his boss.
I mean, Donald Trump never went all Cain and Abel on us (Dana Milbank says Mooch’s version was a murder-suicide). Trump’s bible lessons, you’ll recall, ended with 2 Corinthians. And while Trump may have the Access Hollywood tape, he never once publicly suggested, as the Mooch did, that a colleague was a serial auto-fellater.
That Gen. John Kelly would fire the Mooch in his first day on the job as Donald Trump’s new chief of staff is being heralded as some kind of dramatic White House refashioning, as if firing the guy weren’t the most obvious personnel move since the Broncos dumped Tim Tebow. The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi captured Mooch’s 10 Days in July (or was it 10 Days That Shook the White House) in, what else, a tweet: “To summarize: Spicer quit because of Scaramucci, who took down Priebus, who was replaced by Kelly, who took down Scaramucci.”
If that’s not expletiving your own expletive, I don’t know what is.
But let’s not get carried away. Mooch, last seen being escorted from the White House grounds, is a footnote and nothing more, a farcical interlude in the never-ending Trump tragicomedy. Meanwhile, the elevation of Kelly is being immediately overstated because there’s always a distant hope that sanity will return to the White House. It’s all of a piece.
Here’s what the elevation of Kelly didn’t mean: Kelly may be an improvement on Priebus — your working definition of a low bar — but he is not going to bring order to the White House, from which Trump tweeted Monday morning that there was “no WH chaos!” Kelly may be a four-star general, but four won’t be enough. While we know that Trump, the draft dodger, is enamored of military brass, it’s also true that Kelly fashions himself as someone who will speak truth to power, and we know how Trump feels about truth, particularly as it relates to his power.
And as for Kelly himself, let’s remember that he comes to the West Wing from his role as director of Homeland Security, meaning he was the guy who, when he wasn’t charged with putting various versions of a Muslim ban in place, was sending out ICE agents to terrorize undocumented immigrant families.
So, what I’m trying is, yes, we got Kelly, and, yes, we no longer have the Mooch, but that’s all in a day in TrumpWorld, and in the case of the Mooch, not even the most significant part of the day.
Let’s start with the latest Washington Post scoop, in which we learn that Trump himself dictated Don Jr.’s first-day response to the Russian lawyer meeting. In other words, we now know that the lie Don Jr. told — that the meeting was about adoptions — was not just approved by the president, but actually written by him. As usual, Trump’s first instinct was to lie. And not surprisingly, the lie was meant to cover up another in a long series of Russia-related incidents that read like, well, what everyone expects Bob Mueller’s brief to read like.
But as significant as that might be, it still might not have been the biggest story from TrumpWorld of the day. We got a hint of that from, of all people, our own Ken Buck, who wrote an op-ed in the Denver Post headlined, “The Republican Party is dead.” And while the piece is mostly a hit on the Republican-controlled Congress, particularly the Senate, Buck never mentions Donald Trump. But it’s the very lack of any Trump mention that’s critical here. Buck doesn’t defend Trump from his attack. He ignores him, except for this telling aside: “What can we do? More than anything else, we need a vision, someone who has a message and a plan to unify this country. Instead, we’ve assembled a ‘B-team’ of messengers who distract the nation with frivolities.”
On the same day, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a conservative’s conservative who is up for re-election in 2018 and whom Trump has threatened to primary, wrote an op-ed in Politico introducing his new book, a polemic called: “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.”
It’s a slam on Trump and a slam on Republican enablers of Trump, including himself, and a rejection of the Trumpian frivolities. The quotes are devastating. We’ll start with this one, which sums up the book and the bad bargain Republicans have made by supporting someone they know is unqualified for the job: “If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals…then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be Pyrrhic ones. If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it.”
But he gets tougher in lamenting Republicans’ reactions to the danger of Trumpism: “I’ve been sympathetic to this impulse to denial, as one doesn’t ever want to believe that the government of the United States has been made dysfunctional at the highest levels, especially by the actions of one’s own party.”
And in the sure-to-be most quoted passage, in which Flake takes down the argument heard from McConnell, Ryan et al. that they don’t have time to bother with Trump’s quotes: “It would be like Noah saying, ‘If I spent all my time obsessing about the coming flood, there would be little time for anything else.'”
The problem with the excerpts I read from the book is that they provide no answer for Trumpism. Flake himself voted for all three iterations of the cruel Obamacare repeal bill, including the so-called skinny bill which fellow Arizonan John McCain finally voted against, joining Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski in their steadfast refusal to harm America into order to give Trump a victory. Flake knows the problem, and even knows that he’s part of it. He knows something must be done, and yet he doesn’t seem to have any idea what.
Moochism, you see, was just a 10-day fever. Trumpism is the disease that even some Republican politicians are starting to concede is a danger that must be contained. In his book, which I’m sure everyone will be sending to Cory Gardner, Flake just invited his GOP colleagues to stop expletiving around and actually start building the damn ark.
Photo by Bob, via Flickr: Creative Commons