Requiem for Reince – Vanity Fair
Let’s be gracious about this much: firing Reince Priebus was a perfectly sound decision. Donald Trump had reduced the poor fellow to a nerve-wracked White House prowler who couldn’t get an invitation to meetings or assert any sort of order. The only reason to have appointed Priebus, just the sort of Republican Trump had run against, was to make inroads with the legislative branch and do business with establishment Washington. But Priebus proved useless on that front, too. It’s no wonder he got the boot.
But Trump is Trump. We could surely have lived with a president who bucked orthodoxies, or spoke a little too crudely, or who tried to make big changes to taxation or immigration or foreign policy. That he picked fights with self-important gasbags, many of them journalists, was fine, too. But we couldn’t—and can’t—live with a president who is incapable of self-restraint. It’s getting mighty dangerous. Firing Reince Priebus won’t fix Trump’s biggest problem, which is Donald Trump.
It’s ironic that Trump seems to revere most strongly the sort of person he’s least able to imitate: steely old military men. Replacing Priebus will be homeland security chief John F. Kelly, who is by all accounts a good fellow, very much the sort you’d like in a chief of staff. He’s to all appearances quiet, dignified, cool, and self-effacing. That he’s agreeing to trade in a much better job for the one of the worst in the executive branch suggests a strong sense of self-sacrifice.
But unless Kelly is empowered to snatch away Trump’s mobile device and smash it with a hammer, Trump will keep making all the most useless sort of news. Trump lost weeks of time and inestimable clout when he tweeted out that Barack Obama had been spying on him. He brought a special counsel onto himself when he fired his F.B.I. director and tossed out shifting explanations about why. He alienated his most loyal supporters with his public insults of attorney general Jeff Sessions. There’s no reason to think that will change.
What happens to Jeff Sessions now? We know that Trump wishes he’d appointed Sessions to DHS instead of the Department of Justice, so maybe Trump hopes to make a switcheroo. But for Sessions to agree to that would require loyalty of a nearly deranged variety. Trump could change his mind in an hour, leaving Sessions in the lurch. Or Sessions would have to undergo another round of Senate confirmation hearings, this time with accusations of perjury (in my view unfounded, but that’s beside the point) hanging over him. Not to mention that Sessions likes his current job.
We can always hope that Kelly proves to be such a Trump whisperer that we get an entirely new president. Even if you are happy to see much of Trump’s agenda fail (as millions of us were when the “skinny repeal” died last night, for instance), the cost of having an openly erratic head of state is too high to be worth it. So good luck to General Kelly. The egomaniacal 71 year-old billionaire demographic is notably resistant to change, even in response to the pleadings of a Marine, but you never know. Or at least that’s what we can tell ourselves. It’s Saturday.
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