It may seem that by now the level of ugly incompetence, twisted bigotry and ego-driven destructiveness inside the Trump White House is well understood. Nope.
New York Magazine is featuring an excerpt from Michael Wolff’s upcoming book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. And, as with any dip behind the scenes at the Trump White House, what you instantly discover is that things are much, much, worse — no, make that much, much, much worse — than you could possibly imagine.
The biggest theme: None of them expected to win. That may sound benign, but it’s not. They really didn’t expect to win. And because they didn’t expect to win, they didn’t ponder little things like the fact that their candidate couldn’t go two minutes without boiling over. Or that they’d done absolutely nothing to prepare for governing. Or that they hadn’t bothered to vet any of the “best people” they’d assembled. Or that they’d treated laws like toilet paper.
Michael Flynn, the retired general who served as Trump’s opening act at campaign rallies, had been told by his friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. “Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” Flynn assured them.
But they weren’t going to win, so it wasn’t a problem. The Trump campaign wasn’t just saturated in this attitude, they were reassured by it. Because the very last thing any of the people in the campaign wanted was for this brainless, anger-fueled jackass to win. Losing, was going to be great.
Not only did Trump disregard the potential conflicts of his own business deals and real-estate holdings, he audaciously refused to release his tax returns. Why should he? Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable-news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.
Trump’s own team didn’t just think he “would not” win, they were convinced he “should not.”
People have often compared the making of law to the making of sausages. But a glimpse behind the scenes of Team Trump makes watching hog butchery seem like tripping through a flower garden. Everything about the organization is beyond disorganized, worse than inadequate, actively awful.
The quality of the people and the love they held for each other is well demonstrated by this friendly chat between Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon as they put together Trump’s White House staff.
“What has he gotten himself into with the Russians?” pressed Ailes.
“Mostly,” said Bannon, “he went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin. But Putin couldn’t give a shit about him. So he’s kept trying.” …
“He’s had a lot of lunches with Rupert,” said a dubious Ailes.
“In fact,” said Bannon, “I could use your help here.” He then spent several minutes trying to recruit Ailes to help kneecap Murdoch. … Bannon wanted Ailes to suggest to Trump, a man whose many neuroses included a horror of senility, that Murdoch might be losing it.
“I’ll call him,” said Ailes. “But Trump would jump through hoops for Rupert. Like for Putin. Sucks up and shits down. I just worry about who’s jerking whose chain.”
Best of all was the high regard that everyone had for Donald Trump. From his friends …
Few people who knew Trump had illusions about him. That was his appeal: He was what he was. Twinkle in his eye, larceny in his soul. Everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance.
To his transition team …
Ailes had a suggestion: John Boehner, who had stepped down as Speaker of the House only a year earlier.
“Who’s that?” asked Trump.
To his business partners …
“Here’s the deal,” a close Trump associate told Priebus. “In an hour meeting with him, you’re going to hear 54 minutes of stories, and they’re going to be the same stories over and over again. So you have to have one point to make, and you pepper it in whenever you can.”
No one can say that Donald Trump’s campaign staff wasn’t united — by the idea that Trump was an idiot who really, really shouldn’t be president.
The only thing worse than listening to Trump’s moronic statements is listening to everyone else. There’s not a single voice on the team that comes across as anything close to competent, and few that make the hurdle of “sane.” Only Kellyanne Conway seemed to have a real plan — one that demonstrated how everything worked on Team Trump.
She had spent a good part of the day calling friends and allies in the political world and blaming Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Now she briefed some of the television producers and anchors whom she had been carefully courting since joining the Trump campaign — and with whom she had been actively interviewing in the last few weeks, hoping to land a permanent on-air job after the election.
Find someone to blame. Run for the door. Don’t look back.
It’s too bad we can’t all follow that plan.