First he fired FBI Director James Comey in the most humiliating, shocking way a president can fire an FBI director.
Trump fired Comey while he was about to give a speech to his own underlings in Los Angeles, then dispatched his personal man-Friday (his former bodyguard before the Secret Service took over), whose title is Director of Oval Office Operations, to deliver Comey’s termination letter. It was a small, mean-spirited, and classless way to dismiss a senior executive, apropos of nothing.
The White House had solid, unimpeachable (forgive the pun) reasoning behind the firing. Indeed, I was all for it, and wished Comey had been given the heave-ho much earlier, although not in the way Trump did it. Except the president couldn’t stop himself from a bout of verbal diarrhea and tweets about “tapes.”
Trump contradicted and made liars of his own staff, including Vice President Mike Pence. It was Russia all along, Trump said, threatening Comey with the possibility of recorded “tapes,” a la Nixon. Who could blame Comey’s friends and associates for responding by leaking his memorialized notes on personal meetings with Trump to the press? Even if those leaks are worthy of blame, they are certainly understandable.
The whole scenario injects chaos into the White House. That’s Trump’s style: chaos.
My friend J.D. Rucker wrote that “this really might be that 4D chess we’ve been hearing about.” Sure. The president publicly praised the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the whole Russia thing.
Of course, then Trump dog-whistled his base by tweeting it’s a “witch hunt.” But that’s just for his supporters. He’s really distracting the press, while he wants Mueller to put this investigation behind him and clear Trump quickly, exposing the left and the MSM’s mendacious agenda. Rucker wrote:
Here’s the thing. One of Trump’s greatest strengths has always been playing the victim. He is so adept at it that he gets his surrogates and devoted followers to play the victim card for him while decrying its use by others. He and they crave vindication. Nothing makes for a more Trumpish story than hitting rock bottom only to bounce back higher and stronger than ever before.
But if it’s really 4D chess, then Trump must be winning. If he’s winning, then his staff ought to be happy that the brilliant genius who is their boss is playing cat and mouse games with the press, and he is the cat. Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer would be playing chaos while secretly concealing Cheshire Cat smiles. It’s all an act.
Except it’s not an act.
Trump’s staff is stressed, to the level of PTSD. The Washington Post called working for Trump “the worst job in Washington.”
For many White House staffers, impromptu support groups of friends, confidants and acquaintances have materialized, calling and texting to check in, inquiring about their mental state and urging them to take care of themselves.
One Republican operative in frequent contact with White House officials described them as “going through the stages of grief.” Another said some aides have “moved to angry,” frustrated with a president who demands absolute loyalty but in recent days has publicly tarnished the credibility of his team by sending them out with one message — only to personally undercut it later with a contradicting tweet or public comment.
The other day, aides turned up the volume on televisions in the press office so reporters would not overhear shouting between Spicer and Bannon. This isn’t acting. Nobody could act that well–Hugh Jackman and Tom Cruise couldn’t make that role work. (Maybe the late Heath Ledger could do it.)
There’s no discipline or consistency in Trump’s chaotic White House. WaPo quoted former “60 Minutes” producer and author Chris Whipple. “The White House staff system is completely broken, maybe beyond repair,” Whipple said. “It is inconceivable that something like that could have happened on James Baker or Leon Panetta’s watch.”
If Trump is winning, why would his staff feel like he’s losing? Why would they be going through “stages of grief?” Why would they be stressed to the breaking point? The answer is simple: Trump is not winning. Anger and paranoia reign in the White House. If Trump does not change, he will almost certainly lose.