Tag Archives: White House

Gowdy poses relevant question to White House

Trey Gowdy is a South Carolina Republican U.S. House member who’s planning to leave Congress at the end of the year.

He’s not done asking relevant questions. Gowdy has one for the White House.

How did Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who quit after allegations of spousal abuse surfaced, operate without the proper security clearance for as long as he did?

Gowdy has posed the question to White House chief of staff John Kelly, who’s supposed to keep track of such things. Porter worked with an “interim” clearance, even though he had been accused by two former wives of beating them up.

I’ve always thought that such a rap would disqualify someone from gaining access to the kind of documents that Porter was allowed to handle. Rep. Gowdy wants to know how this happened in a White House that is supposed to run — in the words of the president — like a “fine-tuned machine.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray also has testified that the FBI knew long ago about Porter’s alleged domestic trouble, which has shot holes in Kelly’s assertion that the White House was blindsided by the allegations.

I believe Gen. Kelly has some explaining to do.

Gen. Kelly: in over his head

It pains me to say this, but here goes.

John Kelly is in over his head as White House chief of staff. However, it’s not entirely his fault. I have concluded that Kelly should resign and try to the best of his ability to salvage his reputation.

Kelly took over as chief of staff after Reince Priebus was shoved out the door. The thought — which I shared at the time — was that the retired Marine Corps general would whip the staff into shape. He would make ’em toe the line. He would bark orders and they would follow.

Here, though, is where that theory broke down: Two issues make it impossible for that to happen. The chief of staff needs political skill; Kelly’s Marine Corps training didn’t provide it. What’s more, the president of the United States also needs political skill; Donald Trump’s history as a self-aggrandizing business mogul and reality TV celebrity damn sure didn’t give him that skill, either.

Kelly has now been caught in a vise. Rob Porter quit as staff secretary in the White House after revelations that he beat up his former wives and a former girlfriend. He didn’t have the proper security clearance because the FBI was examining complaints against him that surfaced months ago. Yet he was hired anyway. Kelly knew all that and let it ride.

Kelly reportedly kept it secret from the president. That’s another no-no.

The conventional wisdom all along has been that the 45th president presents a unique set of circumstances that no one has seen before. He possesses zero political expertise. Yes, he waged a successful presidential campaign, of which he is more than happy to keep reminding us. But campaigning and governing are entirely different disciplines. Trump was a stellar campaigner but there is no one within his inner circle who can tell this individual the hard truth about the political implications of the decisions he makes.

Thus, the president is left to function on his own in an environment with which he has no previous exposure.

Gen. Kelly was supposed to provide him some cover. He hasn’t done it. He won’t be able to do it for as long as he occupies the chief of staff’s office.

The Rob Porter mess is only getting messier. John Kelly appears incapable of cleaning it up. The White House message machine is confused and chaotic.

Moreover, the White House communications director, Hope Hicks, has become a key player in that melodrama. Hicks is dating Porter. Yet she helped draft the statement that declared how her boyfriend is such an honorable man? Who in the world allowed her to put her hands on that statement? None other than John Kelly, who should have recognized immediately the conflict of interest that Hicks presented.

Gen. Kelly has served this country with high honor and distinction — as a decorated Marine! Hardly any of that background transfers to the White House chief of staff job.

The question now becomes, in the event Gen. Kelly calls it quits: Who in the world is Donald John Trump able to find who can perform the duties required of a White House chief of staff?

For that matter, who in the world would want that job, given the idiocy that emanates from the Oval Office?

Trump’s ‘machine’ keep misfiring

I keep circling back to a description that Donald John Trump hung on his presidential administration.

He has called it a “fine-tuned machine.” He meant, I presume, to suggest that the administration was firing on all cylinders, that is purring like a kitten, that it is well-lubed/oiled. Pick whatever metaphor you think the president intended.

Now we have yet another example of that machine grinding its gears. It has flown off the rails. It’s in the ditch … yet again.

The White House has stumbled back into crisis management mode. Chief of staff John Kelly is under intense examination for the way he handled — or mishandled — the circumstances surrounding former staff secretary Rob Porter and the allegations that he beat up his two ex-wives and a former girlfriend.

Porter has quit. A speechwriter has quit because of allegations that he abused his former wife.

The question at hand is what Kelly knew and when he knew it. He denies knowing long ago that Porter had been suspected of spousal abuse. There has been credible reporting that Kelly did know months ago, long before it all blew up this past week.

The president reportedly is angry over what Kelly knew and what he didn’t divulge to the boss — that would be Trump — about the questions regarding Porter’s conduct.

Media have reported that Kelly offered to resign. Kelly denies making that offer. White House officials are now struggling to clear up the “message” coming from the West Wing.

Chaos has revealed itself again at the White House.

We are not witnessing a “fine-tuned machine” at work. What we are watching is a jalopy in need of yet another major overhaul.

Waiting for the pundits’ new cliches

I watch a lot of TV news shows. Maybe that’s to my discredit, given that my wife and are holed up at the moment in an RV and the weather outside has been too cold to do much of anything.

What I am hearing is beginning to bore me to sleep.

I keep hearing the TV talking heads — the pundits, if you please — repeating the same “cool” words and phrases they like hearing themselves and each other say.

“At the end of the day” remains at the top of my list of phrases to jettison.

“Walking back” a statement is another one that is gaining ground in the toss-it-on-the-scrap-heap contest.

There also are “cool words” that seem to crop up in pundit-speak. “Kalashnikov” is one of them. It kind of rolls off the tongue and when I hear pundits and/or commentators mention the weapons used on a battlefield, they are bound to mention “Kalashnikov” rifles because they like sound of the name. Admit it: You know what I’m talking about.

Here is one of my latest “favorites.” It’s when Congress and the president keep “kicking the can down the road.” This usually refers to non-decisions they make regarding budget matters.

Congress cannot get a long-term budget approved. The president cannot persuade anyone on Capitol Hill to do anything. What happens? They end up “kicking the can down the road,” which is code for “failing to do their job.”

Come to think of it, why don’t the talking heads just say it loudly and proudly, that our government leaders are, um, you know … ?

The pundits sit around those tables talking to each other and they speak in that strange jargon that they use with each other or when they’re on the air talking to you and me.

Look, I’m not a grammarian. I don’t pretend to be a wordsmith in the mold of a Faulkner, Steinbeck, a George Will or a William F. Buckley. I tend as well to fall back into habit-forming word usage and phraseology.

I suppose if I’m patient enough, new phrases will sprout, kind of like weeds in the garden. We’ll all know them when the pundits keep repeating themselves.

‘Some are true, some are false’

Donald Trump is trying to invoke some damage control in the wake of the latest tumult that is roiling the White House.

The president who once many years ago accused the Central Park Five — group of young African-American men — of raping a woman after they were exonerated is now concerned about “due process.”

He said former White House staff secretary Rob Porter is entitled to “due process” in the wake of allegations by two former wives and an ex-girlfriend that he beat them up.

Then he tweeted this, in part: “Some are true and some are false,” he said, referring to the types of allegations that have been leveled.

Whoa! Hold on there, hoss!

If “some are true,” then what bleeping differences does it make if any others are false? It takes just one “true” accusation, in my mind, to be a deal breaker. It only takes one instance of such spousal assault to disqualify anyone from the kind of position that Porter acquired in the Trump White House.

Here’s the entirety of what the president tweeted this morning. You decide:

Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?

Now he is concerned about due process.

That is, um, rich.

It’s time for Gen. Kelly to go

I’m wrong more than I am right. John Kelly moved from one key Trump administration post to another one amid high hopes that he would whip his new office into shape.

I was among those who had longed for a transformation and thought Kelly would be able to deliver it. I was mistaken.

Kelly needs to leave the White House chief of staff job. I hope he can resign under his own power, so to speak, and be done with it.

The White House mess has deepened in recent days with accusations that former staff secretary Rob Porter assaulted his two former wives and a former girlfriend. Kelly has made an utter hash of the White House response.

The key question now is whether Kelly knew about the allegations long before he said he did and kept it from the president of the United States. It appears that’s the case.

Kelly once ran the Homeland Security Department. He moved to the chief of staff post after Reince Priebus had lost control of the White House operation. Kelly, a decorated Marine Corps general, was seen as a supreme control freak and someone who could bring discipline and order to the West Wing. Sadly, that effort appears to have failed.

I am in no position, of course, to recommend anyone to the chief’s job. It’s painfully clear to me that Gen. Kelly has squandered his opportunity to right a listing operation.

He cannot disparage those who accuse a key aide of serious misconduct. He cannot be an apologist for a president who continues to exhibit a horrifying blind spot when it allegations from women surface about the conduct of men. My hope was that his Marine training and his understanding of the meaning of public service would have served him better in this critical job.

Gen. Kelly must go. Immediately.

‘Innocent’ men keep quitting their day jobs

I know in my head — and, yes, my heart — that usually we’re allowed the presumption of innocence when we stand accused of wrongdoing.

But why do all these “innocent” men keep quitting their day jobs when women accuse them of beating them up, sexually abusing them, sexually harassing them?

If they don’t quit, then why do their employers keep firing them?

Roger Ailes got canned as president of Fox News; Bill O’Reilly was shown the door, too, by the same network. They both denied ever doing what the women accused them of doing, even though they and their networks paid out millions of bucks to female accusers. Go figure.

Matt Lauer got canned by NBC after women accused him of improper sexual behavior. Lauer hasn’t yet acknowledged publicly doing anything wrong.

Most recently, we have watched the departure of Rob Porter as White House staff secretary after his two ex-wives and a former girlfriend accused him of beating them. Porter says the allegations are false, but he quit anyway. The president stands by his man, calling him a good guy who did “a good job” while working in the White House.

Al Franken quit the U.S. Senate after he was accused of misbehavior with a female TV journalist; Franken, though, said the allegations weren’t entirely accurate. Huh?

Holy mackerel, man! The list of these clowns quitting while not acknowledging any wrongdoing just baffles me.

The innocence presumption, as I understand it, is reserved for those accused of criminal activity. None of these individuals I’ve mentioned has faced a criminal accusation. They face political accusations, which is a different matter altogether.

Still, I cannot remember when I’ve seen so many “innocent” men pull the plugs on their careers.

Strange, yes? You bet it is!

Another of Trump’s ‘best people’ takes a hike

The hits — no pun intended — keep on coming at the White House.

Rob Porter, the staff secretary to the president of the United States, has resigned. Porter’s departure, though, comes amid allegations that he assaulted his two former wives, one of whom he beat up while the two of them were, um, on their honeymoon.

Porter denies the allegations. White House chief of staff John Kelly originally called him a man of “honor,” then walked back his high praise when the allegations became known. White House press officials said that Kelly became “fully aware” only recently, despite reports that Kelly knew about the allegations months ago.

As for Donald Trump, he supposedly didn’t know, either until just the other day about what the ex-wives have accused Porter of doing to them.

This breakdown in proper vetting represents yet again a serious breakdown in the screening of key White House personnel.

National security adviser Michael Flynn was ousted after lying to the FBI and to Vice President Pence about conversations with Russian election hackers; former chief strategist Stephen Bannon got the boot after he, too, got caught up in the Russia matter; ex-chief of staff Reince Priebus was shoved out because he couldn’t control the White House.

On and on it has gone.

Now it’s Porter, one of the president’s closest aides. Porter, who’s now dating White House communications director Hope Hicks, is supposed to have the highest security clearance possible to do his job, which includes handling hypersensitive documents. He didn’t have one.

Good grief, man!

The president wants to invoke what he calls “extreme vetting” to keep undesirable immigrants from entering the United States of America.

How about some extreme vetting of the people with whom he surrounds himself? He pledged to hire “the best people” to make key decisions and to provide critical advice.

Rob Porter has now been accused of beating his wives. This is how Trump defines “the best people”?

FBI set to clash with POTUS over memo

This is a new one.

The director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, is now clashing openly with the man who nominated him, the president of the United States.

At issue is the release of a Republican-authored memorandum that alleges FBI misdeeds relating to a dossier that suggests improper relations between Donald J. Trump and the Russian government.

GOP House committee members want the memo released, suggesting it contains “evidence” of a “secret society” within the FBI. Wray disputes the idea. He is standing foursquare in defense of the agency he has led for just a few months. He’s also taking on the president himself, urging him against releasing the memo.

Trump has let it be known he is inclined to release the memo, which could undermine the FBI with critics of the document say doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story of what the FBI knew and when it knew it. White House chief of staff John Kelly has said the memo will be made public “pretty quick.”

We might be witnessing something virtually unprecedented. Trump might fire the second FBI director in less than a year, unless Wray quits beforehand. And standing with Wray is the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller — another former FBI director — as special counsel to examine the “Russia thing.”

From my vantage point, I believe we are witnessing a big-time train wreck that is going to produce more than its share of collateral damage.

One of the casualties — if Trump releases the memo to the public — might be Rosenstein. Wray might hit the road. Oh, and what about Mueller, the man who was universally praised when Rosenstein selected him to lead the Russia investigation after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself?

I keep circling back to the president’s assertion that there’s no evidence of “collusion” between his campaign and the Russians who hacked into our electoral system in 2016.

If that is the case, then let Mueller’s investigation proceed. If there’s nothing there, then let the special counsel make that determination. The more protests that come from Republicans — and from the president — the more I am inclined to suspect there’s a fire burning under all that smoke.

As for Wray, he told senators he would be unafraid to challenge the president if the need arose.

The need has arisen.

Trump speech will get graded on style points

We are about a day away from Donald John Trump’s first State of the Union speech and I believe I can anticipate how the media are likely to critique his performance.

You see, the president isn’t very good at reading a speech from a TelePrompter. He prefers to wing it. When he ad libs, he gets, um, a bit carried away. We saw it time and again on the 2016 campaign trail and again after he took his presidential oath.

The State of the Union is a different sort of forum. It traditionally produces a high-minded assessment of the nation’s condition, along with a laundry list of legislation the president wants Congress to enact.

I will be among the millions of Americans who will tune in to watch the president tell us about the “state of our union.” I suspect strongly I’ll disagree with how he likely will proclaim all the success he has achieved in his first year in office. I likely will agree that the state of our union is “strong,” but I won’t buy the notion that the Trump administration deserves all the credit for the nation’s strength and vitality; the president inherited a nation in good condition, no matter how much he tells us about the “disaster” that awaited him.

Let us make no mistake, though, about how the media will assess the president’s State of the Union speech. They will look at his comfort level speaking to the nation from a prepared text. They also will wait for those moments when he veers off script.

The White House has sent signals that Trump plans to take his foot off the pedal just a bit. The flacks tell us the president intends to speak of “unity.”

We’ll see how that goes. I am a skeptic.