To call this past weekend in the Trump administration a garbage fire would be a disservice to garbage fires, which at least shed light and get rid of garbage.
The Trump administration is doing exactly what I do when I try to assemble Ikea furniture, in the sense that it has clearly not consulted any instructions and now before it has finished its cabinet a big piece has fallen off. Also in the sense that there are dangerous screws loose everywhere. Not in the sense that when I try to assemble Ikea furniture the lives of thousands of refugees are thrown into limbo. Or in the sense that when I try to assemble a cabinet people call Reince Priebus cruel names and he has to joke ineptly to a journalist that he and Stephen Bannon are best buddies and he gives Bannon a back rub every night. (This is an actual thing that happened.)
News reports suggest that, broadly speaking, every member of the Trump White House spends hours each day busily talking on background to the press. Also, no one in the administration knows anything that is going on at any time. Monday afternoon, Kellyanne Conway announced that national security adviser Michael Flynn had the president's "full confidence." Then within an hour Sean Spicer announced that the president was "evaluating" what course to pursue. Then by 11 p.m. Flynn had "retired." (At least, that was what Russia Today initially said he was doing, and Russia Today would probably know.)
In his letter of resignation, Flynn admitted that "Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador."
"Inadvertently briefed with incomplete information." I wish there were a shorter way of saying that. Is there another word for when you mean to tell someone something completely true that did happen, but instead you mistakenly tell them something different? Not fake news. That is for liberals. Not alternative facts. Those are just true. There's some other word for when you wish you'd told someone that something did happen but instead by mistake you told them that it didn't — but I probably would be too timid to use it, anyway.
As usual, it is not the original offense but the cover-up that is the problem. The Washington Post reported that acting Attorney General Sally Yates had informed the White House last month that Flynn had not, er, said what he'd said he said and was therefore vulnerable to Russian blackmail. The White House took no action on this at the time on the grounds that she was a woman and they could not hear her.
Gradually Flynn went from insisting that he had only offered holiday wishes and condolences to admitting that he had no idea what he said to the begrudging admission that perhaps sanctions in fact did come up, possibly, maybe, and that if you had an actual transcript of the call they would definitely sound like they had come up.
But no one has any problem with people talking to Russian ambassadors, or being otherwise cosy with Russia, or asking the Russians to hack us, or, you know — just, normal things that we have decided we are all fine with, I think? No, it was deceiving Vice President Pence that really was the problem. Every time Pence hears something untrue, an angel is removed from a state science textbook.
This resignation is good news for Pence, who was evidently worried that if current trends continued he would be typecast as Guy Who Goes On TV And Says That Someone Did Not Say A Thing He Definitely Said. Plus, the administration had too many Mikes. Maybe this was why Pence is apparently not being cc'ed on any emails and has been roving freely in a field for the past several weeks, periodically emerging to have lunch with congressional Republicans, vote for a Cabinet nominee, or offer a fetus a wedding cake.
I hope the Flynn departure establishes the precedent that if Pence has had to go on television and say that you never said something that you in fact did say, you will have to leave your job. Wait until he hears about Donald Trump.
But other than that, things are proceeding quite smoothly in the Trump White House Weekday Mar-a-Lago.
People lurk in the hallways, seeking audiences.
Aides walk around trying not to seem "low-energy" or "weak," pounding energy drinks and performing feats of strength any time the president is seen coming down the hallway.
Jared Kushner is also there, acting as a "shadow diplomat" — "shadow" in the sense that it is used in the term "shadow government," which is to say, "not actually a real government."
So far, he: almost arranged something good to happen with Mexico but then Trump sent out a tweet and instead everyone went home upset. This bodes well for Kushner's plan to make peace in the Middle East.
In other words, we have managed to successfully replicate the conditions of a Tudor court at the White House in just under one month! Bannon has even asked to be identified as Cromwell. (This, again, is an actual thing that has happened.)
Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences."