Littwin: Mooch fever breaks even as GOP politicians begin to wake up to see the real disease

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


  1. The problem with the republican party goes back FAR longer than the last 8 years. They sold out to every fringe group possible in order to get enough votes to win as well as following their usual group, the ultra rich. With Nixon getting on the helicopter for the last time, the war was on. The republicans have been acting like little children ever since. The way they treated Carter, Clinton and Obama is all just proof of how LITTLE they concern themselves with the country, anymore, just their own power and ability to rule.

    The real problem is that they have NO clue of how to run anything. These people aren’t qualified to run a dog kennel at this point. And now they have the whole ball of wax in their hands, and they can’t even agree among themselves about how BADLY they want to shaft the majority of us. They agree they want to, just how badly is the real issue. So they vote and fail, but they don’t even have enough maturity left to accept any responsibility for any of it. It’s always the democrats fault. Too bad the democrats don’t have enough votes to make that true, this is ENTIRELY a REPUBLICAN FAILURE. And thank God for that, because a whole lot of us would be insurance free and the rest left to the mercies of business for theirs. But they STILL have tricks up their sleeves to screw us out of it, hang on for the next assault.

    Republicans live to hurt people who have less than they do. It’s really the only excuse they have. The thing is, that is NOT a way to run a country. It’s about time they got that message.

  2. @ Mr. Morrison – I think we all get it that you hate Republicans. And with some good cause. But you are only half right. The Democrats are in the same boat. Maybe they aren’t as evil as the Republicans but they are ahead in the stupidity race. Why would a party put up the absolute WORST candidate they could to go against Trump? Why was there a collusion between Wasserman-Schultz and Hillary to derail any chance for any other candidate? Greed and intolerance are not exclusive to the Republicans. The Democrats have more than their share. And speaking of sharing, the Socialist notion of extreme liberals is as bad – if not worse – than the ultra right wingers. Many/most Democrats would open the borders and gut the military – right at a time when Kim Jong-un is figuring out how to turn California into a waste land.
    Both parties are at fault for the state the country is in. Vote them ALL out the next election. Time to start with a totally clean slate.

  3. Jay D: I appreciate your comment. I agree in part, and disagree in others. First, I think the current flap over the health care issue shows that the two parties are NOT the same when it comes down to the fundamental issues. Taxes is another that impacts us all and shows some real differences.

    I do agree that the big money that has ruined the republican party has also helped to rot the democrats. That’s why I’m for a system of publicly financed elections that removes ALL the private money from all elections. My system would involve jail time for violators, something that our current system SAYS it does, but in reality doesn’t. Until we get the money out of elections, we’re doomed to just more of this nonsense and corruption.

    Now, as to your contention that there IS a radical left in this country, I don’t think there is, not to speak of, and certainly not one that is threatening anything the right wing or anyone else wants. Our mainstream “leftists” are to the right of the rest of the world’s righties, and the world finds that disturbing.

    There is next to no real left wing in this country. And that is why people keep seeing there being no difference between the parties, even though there really still IS a difference. It’s just that the democrats of today are what the right was when I was growing up, and the left has been replaced with air. We could USE an actual left wing in this country, if for no other reason than to show people there really IS an alternative to right wing austerity and 1% tax cuts that we all get to pay for.

    Get rid of the private money in our political system and actual IDEAS will be the reason someone goes into politics, not for the money. In fact, there should be a whole lot LESS money available for BEING an elected official. We’ve made it TOO interesting to the sociopath and too lucrative to stay there forever. It’s not supposed to be a ticket to the 1%.

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