Hal Holbrook has played some fantastic roles in his movie acting career. None are more memorable for me than his portrayal of Deep Throat, the top Nixon leaker, in the classic “All The President’s Men.” The scenes where he is slowly leaking the real story behind Watergate to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward are priceless.
This week, the president’s men include Ronny Jackson, Scott Pruitt and Mick Mulvaney.
My favorite line from the movie is when Deep Throat says to Woodward: “Forget the myths the media has created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.”
I use the adjective “bright” in a very broad way when applying it to people. It doesn’t just mean intelligent. Well-meaning, optimistic, thoughtful are all attributes that help one earn the label “bright” in my book.
It’s pretty dark in the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue neighborhood these days.
Admiral Ronny Jackson, President’s Trump’s recent nominee to head the massive U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, was obviously unqualified for that job. But in the course of the vetting for this nomination, it has become clear that he may not be qualified for his current job. More than 20 current and former colleagues, subordinates and military personnel have alleged Jackson engaged in unprofessional, medically unethical, and possibly even criminal behavior while serving as the president’s physician. Again, these are mere allegations that have led to Jackson’s withdrawal from the nomination. They also represent further evidence of the Trump team’s inability to judge character, and appropriately vet the people it hires.
The New York Times did a comprehensive piece on Scott Pruitt on April 21 that all Americans should read. It details alarming and ethically inappropriate behavior Pruitt engaged in while serving in the Oklahoma Senate. Pruitt, the current EPA Administrator, engaged in the purchase of a luxury home from a prominent telecommunications lobbyist in the state for $100,000 below market price. It was financed by a banker friend of his, Albert Kelley, who has since been barred for life from the finance industry as a result of a banking violation. That’s right, for life. The kicker to this story is that Kelley is now also on Pruitt’s EPA team.
Pruitt continues to have the full throated support of the president. Why wouldn’t he? The president’s team had knowledge of all of this prior to hiring him. Right? Maybe Pruitt’s behavior could have been a clue of numerous ethics investigations to come. Just maybe.
And then there is one of Trump’s shiniest of golden boys, Mick Mulvaney.
While addressing 1300 bankers this week regarding how his office operated while he served in the U.S. House, he said “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” That is commonly known as “pay to play” governing. It is also the kind of thing the head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau should never say, and more importantly, never have actually done. Democrat Senators are now asking for a list of visitors that Mulvaney has met with so the public can see who has been paying for the right to play in his office.
Even lobbying organizations in DC are condemning his comments.
Let’s not forget that Mulvaney is not just the head of the CFPB. He is also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Before he’s done, he might take over the IRS and the Treasury just so he can be in charge of every aspect of American money.
Is this what people were voting for in 2016? The Trump Administration’s approval rating is quivering between 32% and 41%. I believe even this base views the above behavior as undesirable.
Indiana is preparing for its primary election on May 8. We have been inundated with several Republican candidates’ TV and digital campaign ads each claiming to be the most likely to be the president’s man. Not to be sexist, but yes, all of the ads I have seen from this mold have come from men.
Why would anyone want to be one of this president’s men? Why would a candidate want voters to believe he is that? This GOP strategy is rampant across the nation.
Signing up for this sad strategy makes candidates seem less optimistic, less capable or even less well intentioned. But most of all, it makes them seem like all the rest of this president’s men: just not very bright guys.
Another great column. Thanks, Mike.