Friday, 4 August 2017

The Poisoned Well

President Trump's latest director of communications barely lasted a week. Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone accurately predicted Scaramucci's tenure would be "freakish, embarrassing and all too short."

Rumour has it that the Mouth of Sauron turned down the job.

Mordor may be a volcanic wasteland, but the job security is better.

Ed at Gin and Tacos evaluted Scaramucci's appointment as a sign that Trump had given up on being President. I think it's worse than that: Trump hasn't given up, but he is so far gone that this is what trying looks like.

My personal guess is that Trump really, really wants to be a popular and beloved President. Maybe he feels it will fill the icy void he possesses where others might have a soul. His role model is Ronald Reagan -- the demigod of Republican mythology, not the important but flawed figure he was in reality.

Not only is Trump following a model who never really existed, but he has no understanding of how to approach his goal with the materials at hand. His flailing efforts only serve to push it further out of reach. He dimly perceives this is so, but has no idea why. He lashes out at subordinates, the press, the intelligence services, and the Democrats, but this merely makes his position worse.

Trump's minions divide into four distinct groups, in roughly descending order of ability and qualifications for public service:
  • Current and retired generals
  • Corporate executives
  • Political hacks
  • Family members
With very few exceptions, no one with a shred of integrity or good sense has any wish to work for Trump. He was forced to staff his administration with third-rate mediocrities, insofar as he bothered to fill the positions at all.

Now he is driving out the third-rate hacks like Priebus and Spicer, and rapidly burning through fourth-rate specimens like Scaramucci. Secretary of State Tillerson has had to publicly deny rumours he is about to resign. Trump has poisoned the well, and even marginally capable candidates are becoming hard to find. At this rate, by Christmas he'll be appealing on Twitter for someone, anyone to be his fifth chief of staff.

It's as if the most incompetent cook in the world marched into a kitchen, intending to create a feast worthy of a Michelin star. He's eaten in fine restaurants in the past, so how hard can it be? He has no need to study the techniques of others; he firmly believes his natural genius is sufficient to the task at hand.

He is soon surrounded by ruined ingredients and broken utensils. His resources become less and less with each futile attempt.

Every now and then, he emerges from the kitchen in a cloud of choking black smoke to insist that everything is fine, even as the bouillabaisse explodes across the ceiling and an electrical fire starts in the sous-vide machine. If he brings himself to admit that everything is not fine, he blames his materials, his critics, everyone but himself.

For an amateur chef, it might be harmless, as long as no one tried to eat the dishes he produced. For the President of the United States, it is distinctly worrying.

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