Highest Stock Market EVER, best economic numbers in years, unemployment lowest in 17 years, wages raising, border secure, S.C.: No WH chaos!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2017
Before I get down to the news of a busy news day, I just want to ruminate on the above Tweet--do you ever, in the midst of saying glowing things about your various blessings, really feel the need to say something like, "and by the way, my job is totally secure" or "and my marriage is stronger than ever" if there wasn't an inkling something was wrong? That's how I'm reading the above Tweet--"Things are going so great: Ignore the mess!" It's almost as if Trump is either certain enough of his own hoodwinking prowess to believe he can Jedi Mind-Trick the appearance of chaos away by merely saying so, or has finally begun to accept "Hey, maybe this does look kind of bad" into his outlook.
But as I said some time ago: It looks bad because it is bad. Trump's problems are revealed through bad news, not "fake news". That news might be coming out because of leaks, but those leaks attest to something about the nature of his administration, that his staff feels the need to try and shape the narrative by letting bad news out, even if it might be damaging to the president or other members of his circle. That is pretty extraordinary, but not a problem of "spin". It's a problem of actual deficiencies in leadership and competency in staffing. It's the girders, not the paint.
Take the departure of Anthony Scaramucci, bombastic almost-Communications Director, as a case in point. He was named to the position 10 or 11 days ago depending upon your take, but -15 days from when he was officially to take office. In that time, he prompted the resignation of Press Secretary Sean Spicer, forced (one could believe) the firing of COS Reince Priebus, and launched a tirade of unique and memorable scatological importance. (One of the things that fascinates me about the infamous call to Ryan Lizza is that, despite having said many things on the record that anyone else abiding by the idea that a communications professional might have prefaces with "off the record", actually did ask for something he said to be off the record during the exchange, from what I understand. How the hell bad was that part, given all the other parts!?) But my question is--how did he get there and why?
The answer might be Javanka and specifically to target Priebus. That's some manipulative stuff. This is the kind of thing one could hope will be managed by appointing a more discipline-oriented character in the form of John Kelly to Chief of Staff. This is especially true if he actually is given freedom to manage. But I still suspect at least some members of Team Trump are going to rankle at stern step-dad Kelly coming in and trying to be the boss of them. (Just a theory. In other news, Priebus seems to have been undermined by micro-management at the top. Just sayin'.)
Which brings me to another problem--President Trump himself has been excused for not understanding what he's doing because "he's new". It's a stupid defense, because it's on him to be ready for the challenges of the office, and to appoint people who are "the best" and don't lazily try "we're new" kinds of excuses for why they can't execute their jobs. This kind of nonsense results in son-in-law of the president Jared Kushner claiming something pathetically unattractive--that the Trump campaign was too disorganized to collude with Russia. (Or, to be more explicit--is it not more likely they were just disorganized enough and Russia could have done most of the work?) What he's trying to get off the hook with is "You fucked up. You trusted us!"
And that might, sadly, even have some level of truth. Take how easily Team Trump can get played by pranksters from this astonishing CNN story about fake emails. Even the Homeland Security advisor for cyber security seems to have fallen for this thing (and I find this story so rife with The Stoopid especially after the Podesta and DNC hacks that I can't even imagine how it is possible, and sort of hope Tapper isn't on the receiving end of some fakery). It's shocking, right?
But despite multiple proofs of chaos and casual incompetence, the one kind of knowledge that seems to stand out, especially for Trump himself, is a knowledge that "something bad" must have happened, because he keeps trying to prevent whatever it is from coming to light. The firing of Comey, the beef with Sessions over his recusal, the constant denials that Russia was the source of the hacking and the resulting leaks of disparaging info regarding the Democrats and Clinton to his benefit, are damn specific kinds of activity. Add to that, President Trump seems to have been responsible for his son's public statement after the revelation that he had met with Russian representatives to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. The protective urge of a caring father? Or the act of someone trying to cover up a story inimical to his presidency? It contradicts the statement from Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, that POTUS had nothing to do with crafting that statement--but is it easier to believe that the Waahmbulance-chaser for the Religious Right is simply not a great public fibber, or that Trump himself failed to disclose this involvement?
It suggests knowledge of wrong-doing. And the actions Trump engages in, while seeming to be aware that something has gone wrong, look a lot like a cover-up. And that hardly ever makes people more certain that nothing happened, unless, maybe, they were always inclined to believe that. But for folks like me?
It looks bad. I think it is bad.