Don't Succumb to Crazy White House Fatigue
That was fun.
Just 240 or so hours ago, Anthony Scaramucci, absent relevant experience and credentials, became the White House communications director. It was a palace coup that also forced the departures of press secretary Sean Spicer and chief of staff Reince Priebus from the administration of President Donald Trump, and appeared to leave Steve Bannon’s future in doubt as the presidency’s Dark Lord.
On Monday, Trump and his new chief of staff, John Kelly, showed Scaramucci the door, just days after Mooch phoned the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza and offered him a raunchy, self-aggrandizing assessment of his White House goals and disdain for anyone who might stand in his way. Scaramucci, a communications director who was bad at communications, deployed the same foul, brawny language that his boss has been specializing in for decades. But Moochismo made POTUS -- already suffering through the bungling of Obamacare repeal and other setbacks -- look bad.
This is sad. Mooch clearly liked his new job:
While Scaramucci’s tenure only lasted an eye-blink, he certainly won’t be the last member of Team Trump who loses access to Air Force One. Trump’s presidency, like his business career, has been marked by unpredictability, lax management, wasted time and energy, backroom skullduggery, and a cult of personality so radioactive that it burns most of whatever’s exposed to it.
The Trump soap opera isn’t episodic, either. Chaos and uncertainty are what Trump thrives on and what he relishes. So the latest round of White House crazy shouldn’t raise questions like “Is this as bad as it gets?” or “Will the Trump presidency finally turn a corner?” This past week, like the weeks before it and the weeks to come, is what it will always be like.
All of this poses a challenge to Trump supporters and critics, not to mention the rest of us, because the permanent chaos makes it so easy to forget that the presidency isn’t supposed to be a parade of carnival sideshows. A similar mental hurdle exists around the myriad financial and business conflicts that engulf the White House. Those conflicts are so wide-ranging, flagrant and unchecked that it would be easy for Trump-watchers to succumb to scandal fatigue as a psychological survival strategy.
When it comes to the internecine warfare at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, each changing of the White House guard makes it tempting to latch on to the idea that the adults have, at last, taken charge.
Scaramucci gave a generally lauded first press conference 10 days ago, air kisses to reporters and all, but then, boom! And Kelly comes into his new role as Trump’s chief of staff as a well-regarded former general with the disciplinary skills seemingly needed to lasso the whirlwind. But as my Bloomberg View colleague Albert R. Hunt has noted, “It’s doubtful that all the warring White House factions, working for a president with few core beliefs, lend themselves to a chain-of-command structure.”
Chaos and collapse can also play out over long stretches in Trumplandia. Trump ran a promising and lucrative casino business into the ground over a numbingly long period of about 25 years, extracting piles of money and perks for himself. Along the way, he left investors, vendors, employees -- and Atlantic City, New Jersey -- in the lurch. Trump also cycled through a long line of casino executives, managers and partners, none of whom altered his modus operandi: extraction.
So the Anthony Scaramuccis, Roger Stones, Marc Kasowitzes, Kellyanne Conways, Sean Spicers, Reince Preibuses, Corey Lewandowskis, Paul Manaforts and Stephen Millers of the world will come and go, taking turns sharing the stage with the White House’s only star, and doing their best to support his guerrilla sensibility. But they, like all Trump advisers, are interchangeable, apt to be jettisoned if they forget to put the boss first -- or to kid themselves that his presidency is about anything other than extraction.
A rotating cast of advisers means that Trump will always set the tone, pace and agenda of his administration. So buckle up, America, because the president is just getting started.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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Jonathan Landman at firstname.lastname@example.org