Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump’s Advisers: Kitchen Cabinet—or Pig Sty?

In the wake of Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory on Tuesday night, speculation now turns to the informal advisers who might influence his decisions. In the past, this group of supporters, well-wishers and friends who had Presidents’ ears were known as the “kitchen cabinet.” (The term dates back to the quartet that Andrew Jackson consulted, often far more assiduously than his regular Cabinet.) Teddy Roosevelt’s similar group was nicknamed, in keeping with that President’s hyperactive physical fitness regimen, the “Tennis Cabinet.”

I can’t imagine, however, given how little interest our President-elect has in history, that he will recall these nicknames. Nor do they adequately convey the nature of  his shameless surrogates at the tail-end of the primary season and throughout the general election.

Historian Ken Burns has called the full assembly of GOP officials who threw in their lot with Donald Trump “Vichy Republicans,” and though this captures the sense of their collaboration with evil and madness, it is neither pungent nor precise enough to describe the particular men (and it is all men) who came to cling to him as a way of keeping their hand in the political game when their fortunes were on the wane. No, only one name will do for this group: The Pig Sty.

That name evokes more than merely disgust over their opportunistic loyalty to a reality-show star manifestly unsuited to the Presidency. It also describes their treatment of women—starting with those in their personal and professional orbits, and proceeding to the Democratic candidate. No surprise in that: Like their candidate, they all belong (psychologically if not chronologically) to the era of Mad Men, when political and business leaders regarded women as playthings rather than people.

You might notice that they all have developed a noticeable stoop. This is not simply a function of their age (ranging from middle age to senior citizen), but because they carried so much water for Trump throughout his scorched-earth campaign.

Let’s examine what each brings to the table, shall we?

Chris Christie: Leading off with the governor of New Jersey was a no-brainer, considering that his photo—of noticeably porcine proportions—embodies literally, not just metaphorically, the inhabitants of this pig pen. Millions of Americans watched him at the Republican Convention, inciting the rabid crowd to chant “Lock her up!” against Ms. Clinton. More recently, many New Jerseyans wanted to shout the same thing at him when virtually the only point of agreement between prosecution and defense during the Bridgegate trial was that he’d approved the mad scheme to close two of three Fort Lee access lanes into the George Washington Bridge. Nor did it escape the nearly 80% of his state’s residents who now disapproved of his performance that he’d heaped all kinds of abuse on his former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly—first (according to her uncontested testimony at the trial) by hurling a water bottle and cursing her out on one occasion, then by hiring—at state expense—a Republican-connected law firm that, before exonerating Christie of wrongdoing, accused her of orchestrating the bridge closures—and including the gratuitous detail that the single mother of four had been involved in an affair with former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien. That last episode constitutes what a Daily Beast article has slammed as “Slut-Shaming.”

Newt Gingrich: The former Speaker of the House and GOP Presidential candidate earned Trump’s gratitude toward the end of last month when he angrily dismissed questions from Fox News' Megyn Kelly about multiple sexual misconduct charges against Trump by claiming that she was “fascinated by sex.” More than a few viewers of the exchange observed that it was Gingrich, not Kelly, who was “fascinated by sex.” How else to explain how he married second wife Marianne only six months after divorcing his high-school geometry teacher, amid acknowledgement from congressional staffers that he’d been conducting an affair; or how, 19 years later—amid impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton that Gingrich had initiated related to the Monica Lewinsky affair—the now-ex-Speaker broke with wife #2 to make way for a “breakfast companion” 23 years his junior. (See this Washington Post article about his messy marital history.)

Rudy Giuliani: His descent since hooking up with Trump has been the most frightening to behold of all these figures. Even close aides from his days as a crusading U.S. District Attorney and Mayor of New York have admitted to dismay over his vein-popping, bug-eyed appearances before the GOP convention and on cable news shows, with one quoted in a New York Times article as finding his old boss to be "painful to watch." He ranted on and on about Clinton, so eager to wound her that he couldn’t see the collateral damage to his own reputation. While stating that Mrs. Clinton could only have been a fool not to have suspected her husband of cheating on her, he never saw the natural rejoinder: Was his own ex-wife, Donna Hanover, also being a “fool” for trusting him? Similarly, in fanning rumors, offered up with only the flimsiest of evidence, that Ms. Clinton might be suffering from Parkinson’s, he suggested that listeners Google “Hillary Clinton” and “health”—totally oblivious to the idea that many were finding far more substantiated information by searching for “Rudy Giuliani” and health. Altogether, he seems to have dragged into the sunlight something monstrous from the darkest recesses of his soul.

Roger Ailes: He might have been forced out of his longtime perch at Fox News, but not before performing significant service at the conservative network. He created the echo chamber that would broadcast such dubious stories as Clinton’s imminent indictment for violations relating to the Clinton Foundation. The same network exec whose creation lashed Bill Clinton in the 1990s for sexual harassment has himself now been accused of the same offense by considerably more women (more than 20, if you’re keeping count, according to this piece from the Huffington Post). Naturally, the candidate who talked about “grabbing p---y” made this same disgraced TV executive part of the team preparing him for the debates against Mrs. Clinton.

Roger Stone: A political black arts operative par excellence, he “confirmed” Trump’s suggestion that Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in the assassination of JFK. He also peddled the phony National Enquirer story that the U.S. Senator from Texas had engaged in extramarital affairs. Of course, this was the same operative fired from Bob Dole's 1996 Presidential campaign after news broke that Stone and his wife had placed ads seeking swinging partners. (Elizabeth Preza's article from Alternet this past May had all the dirty details about this dirty trickster.)

Corey Lewandowski: During primary season, Trump’s first campaign manager ran into trouble because of a scuffle with a female reporter. This was not the first time he got in-your-face with a woman: In one dispute while he was at the Koch-funded super PAC “Americans for Prosperity,” he called one the “C” word. (See Francis Langum's article from the blog "Crooks and Liars" about this "big guy henchman" who's more than a little reminiscent of Richard Nixon's H.R. Haldeman.)

In a May 2016 article in The Atlantic that answered the question, “What Is the Greatest Prank of All Time?”, Candid Camera host Peter Funt nominated Trump’s Presidential campaign—“the 2016 reality-TV show that has convinced many people that Martians have taken over the GOP.” The Trump Pig Sty befouled the atmosphere enough that, if Funt were to consider it now, he’d have to write, “taken over America.”

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