Schiller’s last star turn involved bullying newsman Jorge Ramos out of a Trump rally. Long a human security blanket for Trump, Schiller now hangs out at the White House. His appearance at FBI headquarters signaled that the buddies — Trump and Schiller — were in charge of this power play.
Like a boy who plays with matches and sets the back yard on fire, Trump has been surprised by the effects of his actions. He expected Democrats who resented Comey’s election season performance to applaud the firing. Of course, this thinking ignores the fact that Comey was in charge of investigating Russia’s influence on the election and very real concerns about providing stable leadership to the American people. The FBI is so vital an agency that directors receive 10-year appointments precisely because they shouldn’t be fired on the basis of presidential pique.
In the aftermath of the President’s incendiary act, we have seen the adults around him scramble to put out the fire. White House spokesman Sean Spicer reportedly met with his staff near bushes on the White House grounds while nearby reporters sought comment, and Kellyanne Conway was dispatched to offer on-air gobbledygook to CNN’s Anderson Cooper. At one point, she complained to Cooper that people “are looking at the wrong set of facts.”
The struggle of the administration officials tasked with cleaning up the Trump/Comey debacle resembled the frenzied effort of parents who do whatever they can to shield fellow diners when a child has a meltdown in a restaurant. They know they have lost control of the situation, but there’s not much you can do once the meatball has sailed across the room and the spaghetti has been dumped on the floor.
White House officials have tried to cover the mess with shifting explanations. First it was a sudden loss of confidence. Next it was a long-simmering dissatisfaction. And, most recently, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt it was because Comey was a “showboat.” But the equation doesn’t add up.
Fortunately, the President himself, true to first grader form, can’t help but give us clues to his process.
In his first tweet about the controversy, he taunted “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer” and complained that the New York senator had gone from Comey critic to defender. Hours later he was at it again, tweeting that Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal “cried like a baby” during a previous and unrelated controversy. In the tweet, which was written as Blumenthal spoke on CNN, he called the senator “Richie” and said, “He should be the one who is investigated.” Next he’s going to say, “I’m rubber, you’re glue…”
Watching Trump this week recalls the days when he was a tabloid sideshow in New York City, and his antics energized headline writers who couldn’t get enough of his boy-in-daddy’s suit behavior. In the most notable example, Trump became a source in the war of scoops over his divorce from his first wife Ivana.
But now the man is President, and he seems incapable of controlling his temper even if, in the long run, maturity would serve the country’s interests. If you want proof, just consider the report from Time magazine on Trump’s odd White House habits, including the fact that he got extra dessert when he dined with the magazine’s writer. A grown-up, upon getting two scoops of ice cream when others at the table only received one, would quickly fill his companions’ dishes. A child, who sees every moment as an opportunity to demonstrate he is the special boy, would, as Trump did, just wolf it down.
The solution to the problem posed by the fact that we have a first grader in the Oval Office lies in whatever systems exist to take decisions out of his hands. The courts have already acted to thwart him on his proposed ban on Muslim visitors to the United States, and Congress possesses the power to moderate other initiatives. Next must come special counsel to run the Russia investigation, who could be appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Rosenstein was the author of a critical memo that the White House is citing to justify Comey’s dismissal. By all accounts, he is an adult who understands the need for a credible investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. He should act before he’s hit by a meatball.