Monday, August 20, 2018

Trump and the Omarosa tapes:
The hunter gets f****d-up by the prey

IT’S PROVEN: Black people watch more television than any other cohort of the national population, about 44 hours a week; Nielsen determined this last year. That almost certainly includes more of all kinds of TV, including reality TV, the enclave of the weird and improbable that largely skirts the censors’ knives because it’s real, not scripted, not subject to the vagaries and imaginations of those in the writer’s room.

Black Americans have a special relationship with the tube, and there’s a certain logic to that fact: It’s taken us so long to have any influence on the programming and production of what’s on the small screen, we tend to be possessive of the programs that move us. TV, after all, reaches us where we live.

Omarosa Manigault Newman understands this, intimately. As a child of the reality TV game from much closer to its beginning, she’s gone further, deeper and higher in that airless realm than just about anyone else. All the way to the White House.

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We all watched with jaws dropped when we heard that Omarosa — her first name has always been enough, like Oprah or Shonda — had been named by candidate Donald Trump as his director of African-American Outreach, a kind of black-person whisperer for the Trump campaign.

And when Trump assumed the presidency, she was named an assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, a lofty title for anyone toiling in House Trump.

She was widely reviled in the White House for various transgressions of decorum (imagine that) or policy. It all came to a head in December, when Omarosa was fired by Chief of Staff John Kelly, aboard a year after coming aboard the Trump train.

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FOR ANYONE else, that would have been the end of it — a less-than-stellar White House career morphed into an ignominious exile from public life. But Omarosa has, since she was fired by Trump in the first season of The Apprentice, in 2004, Omarosa has proven to be a capable shape-shifter, a survivor in the ruthless realm of pop culture.

And with the Aug. 17 release of Unhinged, her tell-all book of the inner workings of the Trump White House, she’s assumed the role of the new traffic cop at the intersection of politics and reality television — the form of reality TV that takes its cues from political analysts and former government officials.

She fired the first broadside from the book when she released audiotape of a must-hear event: Kelly firing her in the Situation Room, one of the more celebrated and pivotal locations in the White House.

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Then Omarosa made it known that she told friends that she’d taped a call she received from first daughter/consiglieri Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, after Kelly fired her. In the call, Omarosa related, the couple wished her well and denied knowing her job was on the chopping block.

In the Unhinged book, Omarosa made comments about Ivanka’s relationship with The Donald: “As long as I’d known Trump, I’d observed the way he hugs, touches, and kisses Ivanka; the way she calls him Daddy.”

Omarosa continues: “In my opinion, based on my observations, their relationship goes right up to the line of appropriate father/daughter behavior and jumps right over it. I believe he covets his daughter. It’s uncomfortable to watch them.”

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ALSO IN Unhinged, Omarosa claims that Trump made a host of outrageous statements about African-Americans, Filipinos and other minorities, and was apparently subject to "forgetfulness and frustration"(which is frankly what we sorta figured out on our own).

“The person who could end up taking down the President of the United States is Omarosa,” Seth Meyers said on Late Night With Seth Meyers on Aug. 15, on NBC. “It took her 14 years, but she is finally getting revenge for Trump firing her in season one.”

As you might expect, the president has been up in arms about this, taking to Twitter, his weapon of choice, to call Omarosa a “lowlife” and a “dog” — especially pungent insults for an African American woman. Never mind the specifics and accuracy of her claims, all of which are incendiary enough. What’s really got Trump’s golden knickers in a twist is the fact of his being outflanked in the media manipulation game by a former lieutenant, an underling from the Apprentice universe.

Omarosa is matching Trump event for event, and doing it at the same dizzying, frenetic, breakneck pace that Trump has all but trademarked as a way of doing business. On most of the fronts that matter, Trump the ostensible master got schooled by Omarosa the avid student. The hunter’s been F’d up by the prey.

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And it’s been happening fast. Consider: Tina Nguyen wrote this at Vanity Fair on Aug. 13:

“It’s also possible that the far right’s hesitation to bash Omarosa proves the heft of her insurance policy: not even White House staffers know what she has on tape, and many may not want to attack her for fear of reprisals in the form of some audio kompromat. The possibility that she’s recorded Trump staffers making damning admissions, then, may have been enough to curb the right’s initial line of attack. But the relative silence from right-wing bunkers should not be mistaken for a sign that the president is in jeopardy. Though the recordings she’s released so far carry evidence of chaos within the White House, devoted Trump followers did not view Omarosa’s claims as a candid assessment of the administration.”

That was Monday, Aug. 13; by late Wednesday, everything had changed again. That was when Omarosa had released another tape, this one of Trump campaign adviser Lara Trump (the president’s* daughter-in-law), from December 2017, essentially offering Omarosa $180,000 in hush money — or, more accurately, abut $15,000 a month to go away and not be a distraction.

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AND THAT was before Thursday, when Omarosa told The New York Times that she may have a trove of other tapes, texts and other matter. “Mr. Trump’s aides have been concerned that they will make appearances on other tapes, of which Ms. Manigault Newman is believed to have as many as 200,” reported Maggie Haberman and Ken Vogel of The Times.

There’s been speculation as to what kind of hold Omarosa has over The Donald. Unlike others who were unceremoniously fired from The Apprentice and walked quietly to the exit-interview limousine, Omarosa worked with Trump again for years, appearing on other shows, including Celebrity Apprentice, All-Star Celebrity Apprentice and The Ultimate Merger. There’s a sense that Trump has a grudging respect for her toughness, her willingness to cut corners and throw other Apprentice contestants under the bus — an absolute comfort with being as ruthless as he was.

That would explain her attitude in the wake of Unhinged. “Believe me, my tapes are much better than theirs,” she said Aug. 16 on MSNBC, tweaking a favorite Trump locution to express sincerity, “I don’t have any fear,” she said. “I am not going anywhere ... Donald Trump has met his match.”

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It’s all got everyday people staking out interesting positions. Gregory Wright wrote this fiercely provocative speculation on the web site, the same site where Unhinged was on Thursday anointed the No. 1 Best Seller in sales:

“I was one of Donald Trump's biggest supporters knowing he would become president the day he announced his candidacy. Omarosa worked very hard to get Donald Trump elected believing he would make America great again.

“... Omarosa has proven that the man I voted for does not get to decide who works in the White House, who runs the White House or who even gets to advise the president. Omarosa never betrayed Donald Trump. She is a patriot for exposing the deep state coup that has taken place inside the White House. Donald Trump may be compromised or his life or the lives of the people he loves have been threatened. How else could it be that John Kelly says the White House works for him, not the president. ,,, Then Kelly fires her without the president’s permission again showing who is really in charge.

“Donald Trump is just a puppet. He has no authority as the president. He does what John Kelly tells him to do. He only does what John Kelly tells him to do. ... The right way to pull off a military coup is do it without anyone outside of the White House knowing it ever happened.”

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THAT LAST PART may be a bit over the top; a “military coup,” something out of Seven Days in May, might be an idea with too many moving parts to make a reality for even Marine Corps veteran Kelly to pull off.

And anyway, Omarosa knows where the metaphorical bodies are buried; she was a party to various White House political funerals for a year, and she previously worked with The Donald for 15 years to put other secrets wherever they may be. Who needs the threat of tanks in the streets? Omarosa’s apparently got the goods in the book.

Seth Meyers took a shot too, one that Apprentice viewers will understand. “Let’s be honest,” he said. “The only fitting way for this presidency to end would be Trump to get indicted and leave the White House crying in the back of a cab.”

Image credits: Omarosa: Rex/Shutterstock. Unhinged cover: © 2018 Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster.

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