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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Scaramucci Reappears To Dish Bannon, ‘Rancid Penis,’ Ivanka, And Trump

Interviews with short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci are infamously explosive, in part because Scaramucci seems to not always know when he’s on-the-record. But a new Vanity Fair feature stands out because Scaramucci seems to know he’s speaking on-the-record and continues with his ill-advised, vulgar screeds anyhow.

Scaramucci calls Reince Priebus, the former White House chief of staff, “Rancid Penis.” Then he explains that Priebus is envious, saying, “He’s just very jealous, can’t believe I’m this close to Trump.”

Amid a diatribe about how Preibus conspired to kick him out of President Donald Trump’s orbit, Scaramucci gives an amazing monologue about former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. He calls Bannon a “cock” and “the creature from the Black Lagoon.” Seriously.

“I helped Bannon through the three months that he was on the campaign, and we had a good relationship. But Bannon turns on me, because Bannon is ultimately railing against the swamp, but he’s actually a cock of the swamp. He’s the creature from the Black Lagoon, Bannon. He acts more swamp-like than any person that’s ever become a Washingtonian. So for all of his railing on the swamp, he is literally the pig in George Orwell’s Animal Farm that stands on his two legs the minute he gets power. He is the creature from the Black Lagoon.”

Scaramucci later brags about refusing to be briefed on issues by communication staff before addressing the press. “I said, ‘Listen, I don’t want a briefing, all that’ll do is confuse me,'” he explains.

Not even two weeks later, his tenure came to an unceremonious close. After White House chief of staff John Kelly informs Scaramucci that he’s being fired, he recalling responding, “Wow. That’s super disappointing.”

Then Scaramucci said he told the staffer designated to escort him off the premises, “If you don’t mind, because I’m so high-profile at this point, I’d like to go out the East Wing exit, over by Treasury. Are you cool with that?”

He closes out the lengthy interview feature by comparing Trump to NBA great Michael Jordan.

Was Trump Cabinet’s Loyalty Ritual Funny — Or Scary?

If you’ve been wondering what “loyalty” means to President Trump, his most recent cabinet meeting provides an illustration. Hint: it doesn’t necessarily include loyalty to the United States of America.

Rather, to the assorted Wall Street billionaires, politicians and captains of industry that the president has surrounded himself with, loyalty equates with obsequious, sycophantic praise for Trump himself.

The televised spectacle has to be seen to be believed. And the question is, was it more laughable or more scary? I confess being of two minds. 

On the comic side, I couldn’t help but think of the “mighty Emperor of Lilliput, Delight and Terror of the Universe” in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. To determine which of his courtiers gained preference, the Emperor—every bit of six inches tall—conducted public exhibitions of “leaping and creeping,” rather like dog agility trials. The winners particularly excelled at groveling.

That would be quite a competition in Trump’s cabinet. In an obviously scripted moment, Vice President Pence set the tone by piously intoning how serving the great man was the honor of his life.

He’s really good at piety, Pence.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus then thanked Trump “for the opportunity and blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.” Around the table it went, each cabinet secretary striving to outdo the others in expressing devotion to Trump.

Oleaginous HHS Secretary Tom Price may have taken the prize: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me and the leadership that you’ve shown.”

This isn’t a cabinet, it’s a fan club.

Where did they find such an assemblage of brown-nosers? And why would a confident chief executive want them? Good luck anybody at that table ever telling Trump anything he doesn’t want to believe.

Not that he ever listens.  

Anyway, even with his disapproval rating in Gallup’s daily tracking poll at 60 percent (versus 36 percent favorable), Trump positively wallowed in the warm bath of his underlings’ praise.  I’ve seen cocker spaniels more resistant to petting. Who’s a good boy? Donald’s a good boy!

The president modestly allowed that only Franklin Delano Roosevelt had accomplished as much during his first months in office.

Nobody laughed.

Thankfully, I suppose, only Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis resisted the urge to flatter the president. Instead, he spoke highly of serving “men and women of the Department of Defense,” as well he should. I actually believe it’s the patriotic duty of Mattis and beleaguered National Security Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster to remain on duty almost regardless of the president’s follies.

During the assembly of Trump's Cabinet, on Monday, members around the table spoke effusively about the president. He sat beaming, soaking it all in. It was the first formal gathering of his most senior officials at the White House.As he struggles with myriad crises, the lavishing of praise and adulation contrasted with the storm enveloping the president. Prominent is an investigation into possible ties between his election campaign and Russian meddling in the race.For him, the meeting was a welcome rendering of what he feels are major accomplishments ignored by his detractors. Major legislative achievements have eluded him thus far.

Somebody’s got to man the watch.

Because on the scary side, you’d have to go somewhere like North Korea or, yes, Russia to find contemporary examples of the “Dear Leader” school of political leadership. That said, if Vladimir Putin appears to be Trump’s role model, there’s no reason to think the cunning Russian dictator is anywhere near as susceptible to flattery as our man-child president.

Nor as vulnerable, ultimately, to public opinion. In Russia, anybody as dangerous to Putin as Gen. Michael Flynn appears to be to President Trump would already be dead. A figure like former FBI Director James Comey would be in prison or exile. He’d be well-advised to avoid high balconies and open windows.

But this ain’t Russia.

Trump’s feckless attempts to co-opt, then fire Comey—a cagey, experienced political infighter—track almost exactly with Flynn’s legal perils. He first sought the FBI director’s personal loyalty one day after Assistant Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that Kremlin operatives had compromised Flynn. Trump then asked Comey to lay off Flynn the day after newspaper accounts forced his firing. Why?

The president’s attempts at damage control have failed spectacularly. “Do you think Donald Trump colluded with Russia?” Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton asked during Comey’s recent Senate testimony.

“That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an open setting,” Comey answered, definitely not the response Cotton was looking for. He said a final answer would have to come from the ongoing FBI investigation.

Did I mention how cagey Comey can be?

Meanwhile, if upwards of one-third of American voters appear to have chosen party (in the person of Trump) over country, the rest of us surely have not.  Moreover, Trump supporters’ loyalty to him is based less upon indifference to Russian meddling in U.S. elections than simple disbelief. Many seem to be buying the president’s (pardon me) childish alibi that Democrats have made it all up to explain away Hillary Clinton’s losing the election.

How these things normally work is that zealous supporters cling to Dear Leader until the day after it all comes crashing down. Then suddenly nobody knows him anymore.   

In Health Care Debacle, Trump’s Desperate Quest For Someone To Blame

Alas, poor Donald.

Unlike his personal hero Vladimir Putin, President Trump can’t have his political opponents thrown into prison, shot dead in the street, or flung off fourth floor balconies. In Moscow, Russian soldiers could have herded those women in stupid pink hats into stockades like cows. If a few opinionated heifers got roughed up, well, they asked for it, didn’t they?

Instead, Trump was reduced to making excuses for the failure of his farcical Obamacare “reform” by launching impotent attacks against just about everybody in Washington. Because the great man himself couldn’t possibly have bungled his oft-repeated vow to repeal and replace his predecessor’s signal political achievement. Not him.

Because nothing is Donald J. Trump’s fault — ever.

First it was Democrats — specifically excluded from having any input whatsoever into the GOP bill — whom the president tried to blame. His own party refuses even to vote on his brilliant plan and it’s the Democrats’ fault?

Next, he urged his Twitter followers to watch Justice with Judge Jeanine,  a Fox News program hosted by an abrasive New Yorker and longtime Trump pal. Jeanine Pirro obligingly opened her program by urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to resign. For all his “swagger and experience,” she argued, it was all Ryan’s fault that caused “our president in his first 100 days to come out of the box like that.”

That is, to use one of Trump’s favorite insults, as a big loser.

By Sunday morning, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus went on TV claiming it was all a big misunderstanding. Why, the president had no clue what Judge Jeanine would say. Trump, he said “thinks that Paul Ryan is a great Speaker of the House.”

Yeah, right. Sure he does. To Ryan’s face, anyway.  

On NBC’s Meet the Press, Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Pennsylvanian of the kind often derided as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by hardliners, said that Trump had privately accused him of “destroying the Republican Party.”

The “Republican Party,” in this formulation, signifying Trump’s massive ego.

What the big dope appears incapable of understanding is that for Northeastern Republicans in competitive districts, voting for the Trump/Ryan bill would amount to political suicide. With a Quinnipiac poll showing that only 17 percent of voters nationwide favor full repeal, all the threats and promises Trump could muster couldn’t bring Yankee Republicans around.

“Ryan and Trump,” explained veteran GOP operative Rick Wilson, “ran into the political version of advertising’s famous Bad Dog Food Test: you can’t sell bad dog food even with good advertising. The dogs won’t eat it.”

Writing in The Daily Beast, Wilson also blamed “Trump’s character, which is never pretty. Trump’s clumsy I’m-just-joking threats against members of Congress fell utterly flat, as did promises of his favor. His word means nothing and lawmakers know it. In Trump’s long, sordid life no deal, contract, agreement, or vow has ever been sacred and inviolable. Ask his wives, partners, contractors, and clients. He is a man without a single shred of regret at breaking even the most solemn commitments. In Washington, no matter how corrupt it looks from the outside, the only currency in a tough vote is trust.”

Gee, I wish I’d written that.

Then by Sunday morning, roughly 48 hours after the bill’s collapse, Trump finally settled upon more plausible villains. “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus,” he tweeted, “with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”

To the ideological purists of the House Freedom Caucus, no remaining vestige of Obamacare’s government-subsidized premiums would have been acceptable. Not even the Ryan/Trump bill, which would have stripped health insurance from a mere 24 million Americans. Not mean enough. These birds don’t merely want to return to pre-Obama health care. To them, the Confederate States of America would be a better model.

But see, here’s the thing: Completely unknown to Trump and Ryan—Trump because virtually everything is unknown to him, Ryan because he’s spent the previous seven years indulging in GOP performance art—the Affordable Care Act has greatly changed Americans’ views. Catch phrases like “socialized medicine” no longer frighten people.

By now, almost everybody knows somebody whose life and/or finances were saved by this imperfect law. Like citizens in virtually all functioning democracies, they’ve come to see health care as a right—not a consumer artifact available at a price.

In response to Trump’s petulant threat to let Obamacare “explode,” most agree with the Kansas housewife who told the AP that sure, the law needs adjusting: “But if your roof leaks, you don’t burn down the house to fix it.”

As long as President Obama was there to veto the GOP’s 60 purely theatrical votes to repeal the law, Speaker Ryan didn’t actually need a workable replacement.

You’d think a fellow con man like Trump might have suspected that he never really had one.