Farewell Sean Spicer – some would say ‘good riddance’ – and welcome Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his replacement as White House press secretary.
Welcome, as well, to Anthony Scaramucci, a former lawyer and hedge fund manager as White House communications director, now Sanders’ boss.
So much for the polite pleasantries – but what does it all mean?
No one seems to know, not even the New York Times or the Washington Post. No doubt they are, even as I write, scrabbling around to find out who these new people are. And what their arrival means, or is intended to mean, for the public face of the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, what goes on in Donald Trump’s White House is as mysterious as what goes on in Donald Trump’s head. Or perhaps Ivanka Trump’s head. Or Donald Kushner’s.
Has there ever been such costive chaos in Washington?
Trump claims that his administration is working hard and accomplishing a great deal, and getting no credit for either. That, of course, is all the fault of the American media, which ‘has it in for me’ and will stoop as low as it is possible to stoop and stop at nothing to discredit Trump and all his works. If that is even close to the truth, that the media has eschewed searching for the truth in favour of propagating fake news and biased propaganda, then democracy in the United States is in even more trouble than many Americans think it is.
It is, though, patently not true. American newspapers and other forms of media are far from perfect and some may be in some cases justifiably accused of imbalanced reporting, even of attempting to hound this president to an early departure. But few, if any, media outlets are so dishonest or unscrupulous that they are prepared to forsake fact in favour of fiction in such a cause. The press, as we used to call it, simply does not work that way, if only because it cannot work that way. There are too many checks and balances within the industry; too many honest newsmen around to allow it to happen. If that is not the case, as many Americans seem to believe, that America really does have, as Trump himself has alleged, a vast conspiracy committed to subverting a democratically-elected government, then this whole business becomes more than a political skirmish.
Allegations of media plots are all hogwash, of course, as are so many of the public utterances of members of this administration. And even if there was a liberal conspiracy, there are plenty of right-wing media outlets – Fox News for one – and an endless array of far-right commentators on television – Sean Hannity comes immediately to mind – to redress the balance.
No, the Trump administration’s problem is not the press, or any of the other perceived obstructionists. The Trump administration’s problem is the Trump administration. From the president himself down, this government has little or no idea how to work the system, because they are far too intent on destroying it. That leaves little appetite for learning how to do anything else. In six months, most of Trump’s major policy initiatives have been shot down, either by the courts or the Congress – with a Republican majority in both houses – one has to keep reminding oneself – or the media.
Trump has quarrelled with the security services. He has picked fights with senior people in his own party. He has offended foreign leaders. He has become disillusioned – and vice versa – with many of his personally selected assistants and advisers, of which Spicer is only the latest victim. Trump is now said to be at odds with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was supposed to be the man wielding the pump in draining the Washington swamp.
If the capital was a swamp before, it now resembles the Florida Everglades, vast, impenetrable and infested with alligators and venomous snakes.
The Obamacare replacement bill is dead. The tax bill has yet to be conceived, except as a wistful concept that will keep Wall Street happy. There is no chance of a wall being built along the Rio Grande. Not a cent has gone, or is likely to go any time soon, into the massive refurbishment of America’s crumbling infrastructure. The list of what has not happened goes on, and on.
It will continue to go on, ad infinitum, until someone in Washington, presumably someone in the leadership of the Republican Party with the necessary skill and will does something about the endemic paralysis.
Don’t hold your breath, would be my advice.