Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fighting fire with gasoline:
Lewandowski may be back on the Trump bus


IN WHAT could be President* Trump’s latest subversively contrarian staff hire — you know, the kind of thing that made him hire former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who couldn’t stand the Environmental Protection Agency, to be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency — Trump is considering Corey Lewandowski, the irascible, assaultive Trump 2016 campaign manager, for a return to House Trump.

You remember Corey. A walking IED, Lewandowski was fired from the Trump campaign he directed in July 2016, facing battery charges after rather physically moving a reporter out of Trump’s path. This after weeks of baiting and taunting the media and vilifying anyone who didn’t kiss The Donald’s ring.

The president* is weighing Lewandowski’s return, and that of former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, to help with rapid-response messaging in the wake of the still-mushrooming scandal surrounding Trump, the campaign and Russian involvement in the 2016 election process.

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But as much as anything, the possible return of Lewandowski and Bossie to the Trump fold speaks volumes about one of the biggest problems the administration has to confront: a president* who is, inexplicably, still in campaign mode instead of the one required to govern a nation and its people.

If he comes back, Lewandowski’s likely to be the marquee headache. House Trump is deciding how best to use this daffy thug to the president’s* advantage: Will they let him run loose in the White House or keep him chained up on K Street or Z Street or wherever they quarantine the mushwits in Washington (the ones who aren’t on Capitol Hill)?

The chattering class isn’t waiting. Rumors of Lewandowski’s serving in or around the White House “have senior Trump administration officials gnashing their teeth,” The Daily Beast reported Monday. “It would be another trainwreck,” one White House official told The Beast. “I'm dreading that it could even happen … though he'll probably be kept outside [the White House], it's looking like.”

The Daily Beast reported that “[o]fficials suggested it is more likely that Lewandowski lands at a parallel communications operation designed to push back against waves of bad press that have consumed the White House since Trump was inaugurated. Axios reported on Tuesday that the White House is considering bringing on Bossie and Lewandowski ‘as part of an outside-inside duet.’”

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WHICH, IF it happens, would be a waste of time and taxpayer money. The challenges the president* faces are so numerous, they won’t respond to the convenience, the relative luxury of one problem being isolated from another. The crew at House Trump needs a holistic solution, having to resolve not just one self-inflicted crisis but at least three, and each of them is a truly full-blown crisis, not just a “distraction.”

The biggest problem to be solved is the one that sits in the high chair at the White House. The crises that Lewandowski and Bossie may be brought in to fix have their origins at Trump’s own gilded doorstep. Which probably won’t stop either of them from creating issues of their own.

“Word is [Lewandowski] won’t be in the White House proper. More of a shadow adviser,” one official told The Daily Beast. “When, not if, he does something crazy, there’ll at least be a degree of separation.”

"I gagged when I [first] heard that," another senior Trump aide told The Beast. "[Corey] will not be an asset in the West Wing. He would be a hothead in a [White House] that needs the opposite.”

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Perversely, the administration plan makes practical, tactical sense. When it gets crazy, you double down on the people you trust, the support system that keeps you going — the same one that, to one degree or another, helped get you where you are.

“At times of crisis obviously it’s important that you surround yourself with people you can trust, and Corey certainly has proven his loyalty,” said Alex Conant, a partner at the public affairs firm Firehouse Strategies, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s communications director during the 2016 campaign.

BUT. “The challenges Trump faces are not his staff’s fault. Staff changes won’t matter unless they come with systematic changes to how the president is running his White House,” Conant told Politico. And that’s the problem with bringing these two back under the big top. They’re not what’s needed by Trump & Co. They’re the opposite of what’s needed. They’ll probably exacerbate the situation, making things worse for everyone. They’re likely to be a case of fighting fire with gasoline.

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TRUMP’S POSSIBLE addition of Bossie confirms this. Most recently Bossie has been chairman of the conservative advocacy group Citizens United, and from that position took point in advancing the case that led to one of the Supreme Court’s most momentous decisions, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a ruling that basically empowered corporations to impersonate human beings for the purpose of influencing political campaigns with mountains of cash.

But in the early 90’s, Bossie was on the staff of the Senate committee investigating Whitewater, and thus starting his career as a Clinton bĂȘte noire. In 1997 and 1998, he was an investigator for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, tasked with finding campaign finance irregularities by President Clinton — a hot-dog job he performed with relish. Until he got fired by the people who hired him, for going too far.

“David Bossie is so craven and maniacal that in the heyday of the overreaching, Gingrich-era Congress, the top Whitewater conspiracy theorist in the House had to fire him for doctoring evidence,” said Bill Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, to The Guardian (UK) last September.

“He certainly knows how to set fires,” said Clinton administration image medic Mark Fabiani, to Politico. “Whether he’s good at putting them out or not, I have no idea.” A saga to be continued ... until it’s discontinued.

Image credits: Lewandowski: Fox News. Trump: Mark Wilson/Getty Images. Bossie: Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons.

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