Opinion: A Trump fawners almanac

March 09, 2018
  • By Gail Collins
  • New York Times

Sycophancy isn’t as easy as it looks.

Consider the White House. Stuffed with people who got picked for their jobs because they appeared to worship the ground Donald Trump walked on. And now they’re getting trodden underfoot.

Farewell, Hope Hicks. How you doing, Sean Spicer? Jared Kushner is still hanging around — perhaps he doesn’t mind having a lower security clearance than some of the government janitors. But really, it’s only a matter of time before he has to go back to his private career of failing at real estate development.

And speaking of all-purpose humiliation, look at Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He was the first senator to endorse Trump for president. A man who has never passed up an opportunity to publicly fawn over the commander in chief.

Sessions has been in hot water pretty much since the moment he took over the job and then recused himself from any investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. This was based on the fact that when he was working on the Trump campaign he had contact with a Russian.

But the president was outraged! “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” he demanded. It is possible that until then, Sessions didn’t realize that his boss’s ideal AG would be somebody whose career was highlighted by McCarthy witch hunts and concluded with a disbarment for unethical conduct.

Cohn was Trump’s own personal lawyer during his New York club-crawling days, and it is definitely true that if he were now in charge of the Justice Department, the special prosecutor would be fired, kidnapped or tossed in a river with a cement bootee.

So you can see why the president is dissatisfied. And of all the stupid-to-terrifying things going on in the White House, one of the most depressing may be that Jeff Sessions is becoming a sympathetic figure.

Not that he hasn’t kept trying to reingratiate himself. Remember that on-camera Cabinet meeting in which Trump’s appointees competed to see who could gush the most compliments in the shortest period of time? Sessions came in very near the top, assuring the president that the forces of law and order were “so thrilled” to have him in command.

But he still wasn’t prepared to throw himself between Trump and the special prosecutor. The president got more and more hostile. Last week, he was outraged when Sessions didn’t personally investigate the Russia probe’s relation to a Clinton campaign-financed dossier of potential Trump scandals. It was certainly what Cohn would have done. But Sessions gave the job of inspecting the situation to the inspector general.

“DISGRACEFUL!” tweeted the president. In another angry posting the president referred to the AG as “Session,” which suggested a certain emotional distance.

Then the spelling was revised. What do you think is going on with this Twitter account, people?

Sessions responded that “as long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor.” Since he communicated via a traditional news release rather than a Fox interview or social media rant, we may never know if the president saw it.

How long do you think he’ll last? Well, he’s made it clear he doesn’t intend to go on his own volition, and despite the massive churn in the administration, most of the departed have resigned under their own power. Trump, who we’re discovering is terrible at firing people, has actually canned only three — the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, the acting attorney general and the FBI director.

Hmm, what do all those offices have in common?