Tag Archives: West Wing

Key aides disserve POTUS and the nation

Believe this or not, but I am going to give Donald J. Trump the benefit of the doubt on the latest tempest that is sweeping through the White House.

The president said he learned only recently of Rob Porter’s record of spousal abuse. I want to believe him. Indeed, I actually am inclined to do so. Porter quit his post as staff secretary to the president when it became known that he had beat up his two former wives and a former girlfriend.

The bad guys here appear to be two of Trump’s closest aides: chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Donald McGahn.

We have seen considerable credible reporting that suggests Kelly and McGahn knew about Porter’s alleged wife- and girlfriend-beating a year ago, but kept it quiet. The FBI had received complaints and were holding up Porter’s top secret security clearance because of the probe it was conducting into the allegations. And yet, absent the security clearance he needed given the hyper-sensitive nature of the documents he handled, Porter got hired anyway.

Kelly says he know only recently about the “full details” of the allegations? McGahn, too? Please. These men appear to have kept vital information from the man who is supposed to know these things.

Kelly should depart the White House. I say that with regret. I had high hopes that the retired Marine Corps general would rub off on the mess he inherited when he moved from Homeland Security secretary to the West Wing. It hasn’t happened. Indeed, it seems he has taken on some of the president’s more unpleasant characteristics, such as dismissing accusations leveled by women against men.

As for McGahn, he recently received praise for reportedly threatening to quit if Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting his investigation into the “Russia thing.” Now it appears McGahn has joined the cabal of secret-keepers operating within the White House. He needs to hit the road, too.

As for the president, I remain committed to my extreme antipathy toward him on manner of issues and behavior.

On this matter, though, it looks to me as though he — and the nation — have been served badly by two men who should have spilled the beans on their colleague’s spouse-beating history.

What about the ex-wives, Mr. President?

Donald J. Trump took time today to wish his former staff secretary all the best and made sure to say he has denied allegations that he beat up his two former wives.

The president was referring to Rob Porter, who quit this week after allegations surfaced of serial spousal abuse by the guy who was supposed to have a top-secret security clearance because of the sensitive nature of his West Wing job.

He wished Porter “well” and said he hopes he has a “great career ahead of him.”

But … the president neglected to mention either of the former wives or a former Porter girlfriend, who’s also made a serious allegation against the former close White House aide.

No mention of their pain. No mention of the seriousness of the allegations they have leveled. No mention of how he won’t tolerate any form of spousal abuse in his administration.

Yes. It’s, um, sad.

GOP about to ‘eat its young’?

The late Texas state Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo used to joke that congressional and legislative reapportionment every decade was an opportunity for the Republican Party “to eat its young.”

His humor, I guess, was aimed at how Republicans — and I’ll presume Democrats, too — would redraw boundaries to make their own members vulnerable to political challenge.

I never quite understood Bivins’s example, but we might be about to witness a political war taking shape among Republicans that will produce some intraparty casualties. Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, has said the party is about to go to war with itself.

There will be the Bannon wing — comprising uber-nationalists/isolationists — against the “establishment wing” of the GOP.

He told “60 Minutes” that the Bannonites and the establishment types are going to fight tooth and nail for the attention and affection of the president of the United States. Bannon believes that the Republican majority in Congress is disserving Donald J. Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan do not want Trump’s “populist message” to succeed, according to Bannon, who intends to fight for that message.

Bannon no longer draws a government salary, but he’s stands atop a formidable forum as editor in chief of Breitbart News, the media company from which he entered the White House at the start of the Trump administration. Bannon is a frightening dude, given his company’s occasional rants promoting anti-Semitic and white nationalist views.

I’m not particularly concerned about the outcome of this internecine battle. I don’t support the president’s agenda. Nor do I want Bannon anywhere near the center of power. The president chose well when he asked John Kelly to be White House chief of staff; indeed, Kelly is the reason that Bannon no longer advises the president from within the West Wing’s walls. That doesn’t mean Bannon has disappeared.

I’m quite sure that if the fight erupts within the party that the president’s ability to govern will suffer, given any evidence within the administration — starting with the man at the top — of any political skill or knowledge.

As for the Republican tendency to “eat its young” … bon appetit.

Bannon got the boot, but he’s still around

I am going to admit something that critics of this blog will applaud: I am wrong far more than I am right.

So, when I am right — or when my suspicion turns out to be correct — I feel a need to call attention to it.

Stephen K. Bannon got the boot recently as one of Donald Trump’s key White House advisers. Chief of staff John Kelly showed Bannon the door. My suspicion was that Bannon wouldn’t disappear entirely, that he’d remain a factor in the president’s policymaking.

Dammit anyway! Bannon appears to be hanging around.

Here is what I posted on Aug. 20:

Bannon’s gone, but is he … really?

Bannon returned to his roots, as editor of the far-right-wing publication Breitbart News. He reportedly chats with the president, according to sources in the White House, when John Kelly isn’t around. Think about that for a moment. Does that sound like the action of a junior high schooler who steals a cigarette from Dad when the old man is looking the other way?

The bigger issue, though, is that Bannon’s ultra-right-wing world view — his anti-globalism, uber nationalistic, allegedly racist ideology — will continue to help inform whatever passes for policy from the president.

Bannon is a scary dude. He didn’t belong on the National Security Council. Trump eventually removed him from that post. He didn’t belong anywhere near the Oval Office, but there he was, sitting next to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who also has no business being near the center of power.

So he gets shown the door out the back of the West Wing. He now vows to be Trump’s “wing man,” that he’ll work to keep the GOP based fired up and putting pressure on the president to do their bidding.

Bannon is no longer employed by the White House. If only he was actually gone.

Gen. Kelly leaves giant footprint

Sebastian Gorka has been shown the White House door.

Who is this clown, ‘er , West Wing aide? He is, or was, one of Donald Trump’s anti-globalist whisperers. He’s a Hungarian-born guy who was hired by the president to be an “expert” on terrorism.

It turns out Gorka’s academic and foreign policy credentials aren’t nearly as sparkling as he let on. It also turns out that the guy didn’t actually have any duties. He just sort of … was just there.

White House chief of staff John Kelly, thus, apparently decided he’d darkened the White House door enough. So he kicked Gorka to the curb. Good deal.

Let’s see. Since Kelly took over as chief of staff from Reince Priebus he’s managed to:

Kick communications director Anthony “Mooch” Scaramucci out of the White House; usher uber-anti globalist Stephen K. Bannon out of the West Wing; and now it’s Gorka who’s gone.

All that’s left is to finish cleaning the White House of the some of the other radicals who are perched throughout the inner circle; policy adviser/speechwriter Stephen Miller comes to mind immediately.

Gen. Kelly, of course, cannot control the president’s impulses, which run wild every morning when he awakes and grabs his cell phone to start firing off those tweets.

Sebastian Gorka’s departure, though, is a welcome step as the retired Marine Corps general seeks to establish some semblance of sanity within the White House.

Bannon’s gone, but is he … really?

Stephen K. Bannon’s departure from the West Wing of the White House has been hailed as a victory for sanity and reason.

But is he gone? Really gone? Will the alt-right guru disappear into the mist, or into the swamp? Don’t hold your breath, dear reader.

Bannon served as “senior strategist” for Donald Trump. He is an avid “anti-globalist.” He takes pride in steering the president toward his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord and for terminating the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Bannon also has been waging a feud with the reasonable elements of the Trump administration. He and national security adviser H.R. McMaster didn’t get along. It then fell to White House chief of staff John Kelly — like McMaster, a general-grade military man — to engineer Bannon’s departure.

So, he’s no longer checking in at the White House.

Bannon has returned his former post, as editor of Breitbart News, the far-right media organ. You now are allowed to bet the farm that Bannon is going to use his new/old job to undermine McMaster some more, only from outside the White House grounds. Bannon said in an interview after his departure that the presidency for which he fought is now “over,” meaning that in Bannon’s view the president has pivoted toward the “globalist” wing within his inner circle.

Bannon is having none of it, vowing to “fight for” Donald Trump, suggesting he’s going to use Breitbart to push an agenda at odds with the likes of Gens. Kelly and McMaster as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis.

I believe the president needs to keep cleaning house. He needs to show other alt-right devotees — such as speechwriter Stephen Miller and supposed “terrorism expert” Sebastian Gorka — the way out the door.

As for Bannon, suffice to say this guy looks ready to exact some revenge against those who got him tossed.

Do you think this means the end of chaos in the White House? Umm, I’m thinking we’ve got a lot more of it in store.

Bannon is gone; POTUS remains

Before we all cheer ourselves hoarse over the departure of far-right provocateur Stephen Bannon from the White House, I’d like to offer a not-so-subtle reminder.

Donald John Trump Sr. is still the president of the United States.

Make no mistake: I am delighted to see Bannon shown the door. Chief of staff John Kelly stepped up and did his job with authority and a bit of panache.

However, as we’ve all been reminded so painfully for the entire length of the Trump administration, the president calls the shots; everything happens or doesn’t happen because of the Man in the Oval Office.

Gen. Kelly is able to whip the White House staff into shape. He cannot whip the Big Man into similar shape. He cannot persuade Trump to control his Twitter impulse. He cannot get the president to keep his mouth shut when he meets with reporters, which was astonishingly evident this week in that jaw-dropping press encounter at Trump Tower.

Bannon’s “alt-right” point of view is gone from the White House. Does any of this mean that the West Wing’s newfound professionalism is going to find its way to the Oval Office? Does it mean that the president will start cracking the books and start learning about the executive branch of government over which he now presides? Does it mean he’s going to actually read the U.S. Constitution and come to grips with what it says about how governing is a team sport, with Congress and the courts also playing a role?

You know the likely answer to all of that. It ain’t likely to happen. None of it. We’ll still have an out-of-control president who has managed to alienate himself from damn near every key player on Capitol Hill.

Oh, and remember? This is just Day 211 of Donald J. Trump’s term as president.

Business advisory councils’ demise no huge deal, except …

The dismantling of two advisory councils by the president of the United States won’t matter in the grand scheme of the Donald John Trump administration’s method of operation.

The president doesn’t listen to advice. He doesn’t value the expertise of his advisers. He keeps his own counsel. He then acts on some gut impulse.

So, with the departure of the American Manufacturing Advisory Council and the Strategy and Policy Forum we haven’t lost anything of great value — to this administration.

The context, though, is important.

CEOs from both panels — which serve on a volunteer basis — were bailing en masse as a result of Trump’s hideous and jaw-dropping rant on Tuesday about the Charlottesville riot, the one where he blamed “both sides” for the violence and the tragic death of Heather Heyer and those two Virginia state troopers.

Moreover, they had informed the president of their intention to quit, effectively ending their existence. Trump, though, decided to get ahead of them with a tweet that said he was taking the initiative and ending the councils himself.

Put another way: Donald Trump lied. Again. Plainly.

It’s the context of these councils’ demise that gives this story its legs.

If only the president would have valued whatever advice they could provide him, then the country would be the lesser for their departure.

Many of us are left to wonder: Are White House staffers and, oh, possibly Cabinet members next to head for the exits?