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EDITORIAL: Revolving door, misplaced sympathy
Who’d have thought, as last week dawned, that by Friday it would be former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and not U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that would be out on his ear?
But the quick demise of blink-and-you-missed-him White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci? That was a little easier to see coming.
The eyebrow-raising turnover is just one reflection of the mercurial nature of the Trump White House. Already, as the Washington Post reported on July 25, the administration has lost “an acting attorney general, a national security adviser, an FBI director, a communications director, a director of the Office of Government Ethics, a press secretary and dozens of U.S. attorneys.”
The parade continued last week as Priebus followed former White House spokesman Sean Spicer out the door in the wake of President Donald Trump’s hiring of Scaramucci. “The Mooch,” as he called himself, spent his first (and only) week hyperventilating over White House leaks, threatening to fire staffers, and potty-mouthing all over the media.
If the heat is to be lowered on the simmering inner workings of the White House, the cook will have to be new Chief of Staff Gen. John F. Kelly, who was sworn in Monday after leaving his post as secretary of Homeland Security. His quick dismissal of Scaramucci was a solid first step. Still, wish him luck. It will be the managing up — i.e., imposing some measure of order on Trump himself — that may well prove his biggest task, and the surest measure of his success.
In the wake of such fast-moving machinations, it’s hard to believe it was only one week ago that all eyes were on Sessions, the “beleaguered” attorney general who was eliciting a surprising amount of congressional and public sympathy in the wake Trump’s, ahem, mistweetment.
The president had been waging a childish Twitter campaign against Sessions in what appeared to be a campaign of public humiliation aimed at forcing the A.G. to step down.
Sessions was professionally undermined and personally mistreated. But don’t expect any crocodile tears from this quarter.
Sessions, after all, had as much to do as anyone not named “Trump” with getting the nation’s 45th president elected. He was an early and enthusiastic supporter, and his endorsement as a then-senator from Alabama lent much-needed D.C. gravitas to Trump as he fought off 16 challengers for the GOP presidential nomination.
But the politically risky early endorsement, the tireless campaigning, the giving up of a safe Senate seat to join the Trump administration — all have been forgotten by the Tweeter in Chief.
In recusing himself from the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, Sessions committed Trump’s version of a cardinal sin: He sided with the rule of law against the interests of Trump.
So while Sessions stewed, his former Republican colleagues in the Senate began speaking out on his behalf, even sending signals to the White House that they will be none too eager to consider a replacement should the attorney general exit, either voluntarily or otherwise.
“If Jeff Sessions is fired there will be holy hell to pay,” declared Sen. Lindsay Graham last week.
All well and good, but Sessions has no one to blame for his predicament but himself. To paraphrase the noted parable, he knew it was a snake when he got it elected.
Trump’s volatility, his unpredictability, his disrespect for … well, everyone from women, to Mexicans, to war heroes to the pope — all this was well known before he launched his campaign. And none of it has changed with his elevation to the White House. This is what makes Kelly’s new assignment such a tall order.
So Sessions, like Preibus and Spicer and so many other past and current members of the administration, shouldn’t be surprised to find himself on the receiving end of presidential mistreatment, or summarily shown the door. That is the price of admission to an administration who supporters paint as unconventional and critics decry as dysfunctional.
If there is sympathy to be proffered, it should be directed at those who are threatened by the health, education, environmental, immigration and other policies being pursued by the current administration, not those endeavoring to carry them out.