The president’s keeper

By August 27, 2017US Politics

Republicans heaved a sigh of relief when Reince Priebus was ‘selected’ by Trump as his chief of staff in November 2016. The selection was somewhat of a surprise given that many Trump advisers questioned his loyalty because of his numerous criticisms of Trump during the runoff and the presidential campaign. Republicans thought that Priebus could at least influence Trump to the extent that some of his more outrageous tweets and comments could be curtailed, or at least moderated. However, this was not to be. The furore over leaks from the White House caused Anthony Scaramucci to tag Priebus in a since deleted tweet, the implication being that Scaramucci believed Priebus to be the ultimate source of the leaks1. This was apparently too much for Priebus, who resigned on July 27, 20172, having had the shortest tenure of any permanent chief of staff in US history.

The day after Priebus’ resignation, Trump announced that former General John Kelly would replace Priebus as chief of staff. The republicans heaved a sigh of relief because, although Priebus was gone, there was at least someone capable in the position, and it was he who fired Scaramucci a couple of days later. Again they hoped that Kelly would moderate Trump’s outrageous tweets and comments. This hope again proved to be ill-founded, as demonstrated by Trump’s reaction to the Charlottesville deaths. Trump initially blamed both sides for the violence, and stated that there were good people on both sides. This was a ludicrous proposition given that the white supremacists were marching with Confederate flags, Nazi flags and shouting ‘Jews will not replace us’3. Anybody hanging around while that was going on was not a nice person. Numerous sources at these demonstrations also stated that the violence was initiated by the Nazis and white supremacists3.

Kelly did get Trump to moderate this eventually, but a couple of days after Charlottesville. In this statement, he condemned racists, including the “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups”4. Again, the Republicans heaved a sigh of relief, seeming to think the moderation by Kelly would continue. They were to be sorely disappointed. While Kelly can mitigate the worst of Trump’s verbal depredations at planned and scripted events, it is when Trump goes off-script that it all goes pear-shaped, and he often goes off-script. This happened when, at an infrastructure press conference, Trump, against Kelly’s advice, allowed questions. Off-script, Trump reiterated his assertion that both sides were to blame for the violence3. As well as getting rid of the erratic and uncontrollable Scaramucci, he also gave Steve Bannon the sack5, as a way of diluting the influence of the extremists in the Trump administration. Now, in addition, Gorka has been given the boot6 and it is likely Miller will be next. All that is required is a suitable pretext.

Bannon is not happy about being given the boot, and is rumoured to be wanting to target chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who he perceived as more moderate rivals in the administration5.

Trump recently held a sparsely attended ‘rally’ in Phoenix, Arizona, where he whined (again) about dishonest journalists and accused them of misrepresenting his “perfect” words condemning the neo-Nazis. However, in his reciting his words from that speech, supposedly verbatim, he omitted the words ‘on both sides’7, in a feeble attempt at covering his tracks.

The Republicans’ desire to rein in Trump is doomed to fail because Kelly cannot be there when Trump gets up in the early morning to change his incontinence pants and sits on the toilet tweeting. Kelly is unable to jump in to get things on an even keel when Trump goes off-script, as he did when allowing questions at the infrastructure press conference. However, the biggest problem is that Trump is so narcissistic that he believes that he is a genius, but like most narcissists, he has no reason to do so. There was a rumour going around Washington that Trump would resign earlier in the week3. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be true. However, one thing is nearly certain, and that is the Republicans do not want Trump to be still there when the mid-term elections roll around late in 2018. That could well be fatal for the political careers of many of them, if not for the party itself.




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