The Pariah President

English borrows a lot of words from other languages. Ketchup may have come from the Cantonese “keh jup” – tomato sauce or tomato juice – or it may have come from the Malay word “kicap” – fish sauce – but it doesn’t much matter now. Ketchup comes from Heinz, in Pittsburgh, now owned by a Brazilian conglomerate.

Pariah – the word we use for an outcast of the worst sort – originally referred to any member of the lowly Paraiyar caste in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Using the word “pariah” is considered extremely offensive to Dalits in India – but that doesn’t matter much now either. The Indian caste system may have once given us the word “outcast” but now we know who to “cast out” of polite society – for being a total jerk – without that Indian stuff. Or maybe not – we still call that person a pariah. It’s a useful word, for emphasis.

That’s a useful word to emphasize where Donald Trump stood at the end of the third week of the first August of his presidency. It was a bad week. He had become a pariah:

The mother of the woman who was run down by a car during violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., said Friday that after seeing President Trump’s comments equating white supremacist protesters with those demonstrating against them, she does not wish to speak with him.

“I’m not talking to the president now; I’m sorry,” Susan Bro said. “After what he said about my child.”

Some people should be cast out of polite society for being a total jerk:

In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Ms. Bro said that she had initially missed several calls from the White House, the first of which came during the funeral of her daughter, Heather D. Heyer, who was killed when a man drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters on Saturday.

She said that she had been too busy with the funeral and working to set up a foundation in her daughter’s name to watch the news until Thursday night. That was when she saw footage of Mr. Trump’s explosive Tuesday news conference, in which he said that there was “blame on both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville.

“I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters like Ms. Heyer with the KKK and the white supremacists,” Ms. Bro said….

“You can’t wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying ‘I’m sorry,'” she added. “I’m not forgiving for that.”

She cast him out, and Greg Sargent adds context:

Bro’s emotional response to Trump is a reminder that his reversion to his current reprehensible posture didn’t have to happen. While his flat condemnation of white supremacy did not undo the damage caused by his initial statement on Saturday blaming “much sides” it largely said the right thing. Republicans were pleased and relieved by it. The mother of the young woman who died had thanked him for it.

But then Trump just had to make a large show of returning to his original position, dividing blame between white supremacists, Nazis and Klansmen on one side, and those protesting their racism, hatred and belief in the inferiority of African Americans and Jews on the other. We know Trump did this at least in part because he did not want to be seen surrendering to pressure to single out racism and white supremacy for full blame. He was in a rage because he “felt he had already given too much ground to his opponents.” He didn’t want to deliver the statement condemning white supremacy because he was “loath to appear to be admitting a mistake.”

Like a total jerk, he made it all about him:

We expect presidents to recognize that their role carries with it obligations and duties to try to calm the antagonisms that are being unleashed at moments like this. That’s particularly true right now, with experts warning that Trump’s handling of Charlottesville’s aftermath could cause an escalation in white supremacist activity – meaning it could end up encouraging more violence and death. But Trump’s response at this critical moment is rooted largely in megalomania and a desire not to be seen capitulating.

That can make you a pariah, but there was more:

Nearly all of the remaining members of the Presidential Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigned in protest on Friday, citing President Donald Trump’s failure to fully denounce white supremacists following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Of the 17 remaining members on the council, who were all holdovers from previous administrations, 16 members signed a letter to Trump announcing their resignations and strongly condemning his response to the car attack carried out by an apparent white supremacist that left one woman dead and at least 19 others injured.

“Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville. The false equivalencies you push cannot stand,” they wrote in the letter. “The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill. We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wind advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions.”

“Elevating any group that threatens and discriminates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, orientation, background, or identity is un-American,” the members added.

This was just more of the same:

The mass resignations follow the dissolution of two of Trump’s jobs advisory panels, the manufacturing council and the Strategy & Policy Forum, after prominent business leaders spoke out against Trump’s pandering to white nationalists. The disbanding of those panels began when Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier resigned from the manufacturing council and issued a blistering condemnation of Trump. Several CEOs on the council followed suit, and members of the Strategy & Policy Forum privately discussed leaving the panel. As the advisory councils began to fall apart, Trump abruptly announced he was disbanding them himself, in an apparent attempt to prevent further public fallout.

This, however, was a bit different:

Andrew Weinstein, a lawyer appointed to the committee by former President Barack Obama, told TPM on Friday that Kal Penn reached out to the group this week about quitting in protest. Weinstein also confirmed that the members of the committee purposefully spelled out the word “resist” with the first letter of each paragraph, crediting Penn with that idea.

Those stuffy CEOs didn’t think of that, and they also didn’t think of this:

The members went beyond Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville violence in their letter, however, criticizing him for attacking the press, threatening arts and humanities funding and pulling out of the Paris climate agreement as well.

“Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions. We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” the members concluded. “Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We ARE better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on your to resign your office, too.”

In short, get out, resign now, and Matt Shuham takes up the story from there:

Hours after that letter was made public, according to the New York Times’ Sopan Deb, an unnamed White House spokesperson claimed that Trump had planned to not renew the executive order authorizing the committee “earlier this month.”

You can’t quit! I already fired all of you! I just hadn’t mentioned it yet!

That was pretty lame, as was this:

The anonymous White House response to the disbanded arts committee had another gaping hole in its logic. It argued against the committee by saying it “merely redirects funding from” other federal agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and Institute of Museum and Library Services. “These cultural agencies do tremendous work and they will continue to engage in these important projects.”

However, Trump’s own proposed budget blueprint would have eliminated all of those agencies.

Oops. Others will notice that too, but of course no one has ever met a Republican who ever gave a damn about the arts and humanities and all that sissy stuff, or about girly-men like Kal Penn. The business of America is business, after all, but Trump was a pariah there once again:

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn said Friday he is giving up his role as a special adviser to President Donald Trump on regulatory reform, ending an association that had sparked an uproar among Democrats and raised ethics questions.

In a statement posted on his website, Icahn said he had a conversation with Trump on Friday where the two agreed that he would cut ties with the administration.

Icahn said he had received a number of inquiries about whether his role – which was informal and unpaid – would overlap with the duties of Neomi Rao, who was appointed as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The Senate confirmed Rao in July.

In fact, someone else was doing the job already, officially, and the whole thing seems a bit fishy:

Icahn – whose net worth has been estimated at $21.6 billion by Forbes – endorsed Trump early in his path to the White House and has known him for decades in New York. He was repeatedly mentioned as a potential Treasury secretary, lead negotiator on trade deals with China and Japan, or both. Icahn played a central part in getting Trump to choose Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

But Senate Democrats seized on Icahn’s position as a deregulatory czar and the potential benefit that lighter regulations would have for his investment firm, Icahn Enterprises.

In May, Democrats questioned whether Icahn broke the law by influencing the administration’s biofuel policies. Democrats also pressed on whether Icahn used his role to help his investment in insurance giant AIG.

It was time to end this bit of nastiness, now exposed, and there was a final blow:

Icahn’s advisory work for Trump raised questions about conflicts of interest. Walter Shaub, who served as head of the Office of Government Ethics until July, said in a tweet responding to Icahn’s letter: “Essentially says: I quit a position that didn’t exist (which I didn’t have) and had no duties (which I didn’t perform) – ps. I was never here.”

Shaub had written to White House counsel Don McGahn asking for a clear description of Icahn’s advisory role.

No one knew. It was time to end this, but the Friday hits kept coming:

President Trump is pressing forward with plans for a large-scale political rally in Phoenix next week, despite pleadings from the city’s mayor and other elected officials not to hold a polarizing event while feelings remain so raw over the hate-fueled violence in Charlottesville.

“I absolutely think it’s inappropriate to be holding a political rally a few days after an innocent woman was mowed down by a neo-Nazi,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), whose district includes downtown Phoenix. “It’s throwing tinder onto an ongoing fire.”

His words echoed those of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D), who earlier this week made an extraordinary request for Trump to stay away out of fear that the president’s appearance would “enflame emotions” and draw violent agitators from outside the state’s borders.

The message was clear. You are the President of the United States. You are a pariah. Stay away.

There was a reason for that:

Arizona was the scene for several raucous Trump rallies during last year’s campaign, including at the convention center where the president is scheduled to appear. Another rally in a Phoenix suburb was briefly delayed after dozens of protesters blocked a highway leading to the rally site, carrying signs that included “Stand Against Racism” and “Combat White Supremacy.”

Stanton and others have voiced heightened concern about Tuesday’s event because of speculation, fueled by Trump, that he could use the appearance to announce a pardon for former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio (R).

Arpaio, who was vocal Trump supporter during the campaign, was convicted last month of criminal contempt for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. In Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, Arpaio has been reviled for years by many in the jurisdiction’s burgeoning Latino community.

In short, don’t be a total jerk:

State Sen. Catherine H. Miranda (D) said a pardon of Arpaio would be devastating for a Latino community that felt “terrorized” by the sheriff for many years.

She urged peaceful protest but fears mayhem on Phoenix’s streets, particularly if Arpaio is pardoned during the visit.

“It just keeps the hatred and racism alive,” Miranda said. “If he does that, it’s not going to be a good day here. What I fear is more chaos.”

She offered this advice to Trump: “We highly recommend the president visit Charlottesville and heal that city.”

Catherine Miranda has a sense of humor. Trump is not going to show up in Charlottesville at a memorial survice and, like Barack Obama, quietly start singing “Amazing Grace” to get everyone to start singing that in inspirational loud unison. No one has ever heard Trump sing. That’s probably a good thing.

There was only one thing for Trump to do. It was time to fire Steve Bannon:

President Trump on Friday dismissed his embattled chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, an architect of his 2016 general-election victory and the champion of his nationalist impulses, in a major White House shake-up that follows a week of racial unrest.

With Trump’s presidency floundering and his legislative agenda in shambles, administration officials said his empowered new chief of staff, John F. Kelly, moved to fire Bannon in an effort to tame warring factions and bring stability to a White House at risk of caving under its self-destructive tendencies.

Something had to be done, but there was the good…

A combative populist on trade and immigration, Bannon was arguably Trump’s ideological id on the issues that propelled his candidacy. He served as a key liaison to the president’s conservative base and the custodian of his campaign promises.

And the bad…

Bannon had been a lightning rod for controversy since joining Trump’s campaign last summer, but he attracted particular scorn in recent days for encouraging and amplifying the president’s divisive remarks in the wake of last weekend’s deadly white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville.

And the ugly…

The departure is the latest jolt to a White House riven by extraordinary turnover. In Trump’s first seven months in office, he has lost, to high-profile firings or resignations, a chief of staff, a chief strategist, a national security adviser, a press secretary, two communications directors and a deputy chief of staff.

And there was the scrambling for survival:

The tumult could continue, as some White House officials said Friday that they expect some of Bannon’s internal allies to exit with him. Two such people are national security aide Sebastian Gorka and presidential assistant Julia Hahn, although both have portrayed themselves in recent talks with colleagues as Trump allies first and Bannon allies second.

Despite his ideological similarities with Bannon, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller is seen as safe. He joined the campaign long before Bannon and has his own relationships with the president and other senior advisers. He has also distanced himself from Bannon in recent weeks.

And there was the new problem:

Bannon returned Friday to Breitbart News – a fiery, hard-right site that has gone to war with the Republican establishment – and resumed his previous role as executive chairman, presiding over an evening editorial meeting. An announcement on the site said Bannon informed the White House on Aug. 7 of his intention to leave, contradicting the accounts of White House officials, who said he was fired this week, as well as Bannon’s own statements to friends this week.

In an interview with the Weekly Standard, Bannon cast his departure as the end of an era. “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” he said. And he described himself as liberated.

That’s bad news:

“I feel jacked up,” Bannon said. “Now I’m free. I’ve got my hands back on my weapons. Someone said, ‘it’s Bannon the Barbarian.’ I built a fucking machine at Breitbart. And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up.”

He knows what he knows, but he had been a total jerk too:

Bannon had a mythical reputation inside the White House, but he routinely skipped important policy meetings, and his nationalist views were often absent from key White House proposals. He became fixated in recent months on trade and immigration issues, and he had a large dry-erase board in his office that served as a checklist for promises in those areas. But some of his ideas – such as a proposal to raise the top tax rate on the wealthiest Americans – were easily batted away by other senior advisers in the White House.

Bannon had been advocating internally against sending additional troops to Afghanistan, putting him at odds with national security adviser H.R. McMaster and others. Yet he was excluded from a South Asia strategy session Trump convened at Camp David on Friday with nearly two dozen senior officials.

He will be sidelined no longer:

Bannon has told associates in recent days that if he were to leave the White House, the conservative populist movement that lifted Trump in last year’s campaign would be at risk. One person close to him said that the coalition would amount to “Democrats, bankers and hawks.” Bannon also predicted that Trump would eventually turn back to him and others who share the president’s nationalist instincts, especially on trade.

Until then, he’s trouble:

Bannon allies said they expect him to remain largely loyal to the president, while training his harshest fire on those in Trump’s orbit he believes bring a Democratic, “globalist” worldview to the administration. But with Bannon out of the West Wing, Breitbart is more likely to begin mobilizing its audience against the White House on issues such as immigration, where it thinks Trump is not keeping his campaign promises, said someone familiar with the organization’s approach.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who is close to Bannon, said Trump’s base could revolt. “With Steve Bannon gone, what’s left of the conservative core in the West Wing? Who’s going to carry out the Trump agenda?” he asked in an interview…

“This looks like a purging of conservatives,” King said. “The odds of him completing his campaign promises, even to the limit of his executive authority, have been diminished by this.”

It’s “war” now – that word is all over the Breitbart site now:

The consequences on Capitol Hill could be wide-ranging. House and Senate Republican leaders have long been wary of Bannon, and their allies were cheering Friday at the news of his departure. But among the hard right in Congress – including Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus – there was anger and doubt that anyone left in the White House shares their appetite for political confrontation.

But this had to be done:

This past week, as mainstream Republicans lambasted Trump for his handling of the Charlottesville violence, many on the White House staff led a drumbeat for the president to dismiss Bannon and any other aides who have connections of any kind to the white nationalist movement, this official said.

“The fevered pitch was basically outrage from dozens on the staff that anybody who’s ever had a part of that has to be purged immediately,” this official said.

They didn’t want to be pariahs too, but this was all about the big guy:

Trump, meanwhile, had been upset about Bannon’s participation in a book by Bloomberg News reporter Joshua Green, “Devil’s Bargain” – particularly a cover photo giving equal billing to Trump and his chief strategist. Every time Green was on CNN, where he is now a contributor, Trump grew unhappy with his references to Bannon as a thinker and strategist – and upset that the conversation was not instead about Trump.

Bannon’s critics noticed that Trump hated this narrative, and they would casually mention the book whenever they could in private conversations, slowly building a case against Bannon as a self-promoter.

This week, at a moment when even his allies and confidants agreed that his job security was as precarious as ever, Bannon further imperiled his standing by giving an interview to the liberal American Prospect magazine, in which he sniped by name at his enemies within the White House – including Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council – and publicly contradicted the administration’s stance on North Korea.

Okay, this war had been going on for weeks, but now it will escalate:

“The president and his agenda have many enemies throughout Washington – on Capitol Hill, in the media, in the White House and throughout government,” one Bannon friend said. “There is no better person to fight back against the swamp than Stephen K. Bannon. Everybody is on notice: Anyone working against the will of the American people will be exposed and held accountable.”

That seems to include President Trump now. He had become a pariah. Now he’s made matters worse. He’s now a pariah to the far right too. He’s doubled his trouble.

Maybe he should just quit. David Von Drehle, previously an editor-at-large for Time Magazine, suggests just that:

Evidence is piling up that Donald Trump does not really want to be president of the United States.

He certainly doesn’t look happy in the job. In his previous life, Trump met whomever he wanted to meet and said whatever he wanted to say. But like all presidents, he finds himself ever more isolated, and his displeasure shows on his face. The loneliness of the job – which so many of his predecessors have ruefully reported – is wearing on him.

And it’s more than that. Past presidents also tell us that no one can fully appreciate the dimensions of the job in advance. With no previous political experience, Trump’s learning curve has been even steeper than usual, and the more he sees of the job, the less he wants to do it. He balks at the briefings, the talking points, the follow-through.

And then the real test came along:

As some Trump associates tell it, he never intended to be elected. But having won the part, he doesn’t want to play it, a fact irrefutable after Charlottesville. Rather than speak for the nation – the president’s job – he spoke for Trump. Rather than apply shared values, he apportioned blame.

It may be time to get out:

If Trump were still in private business, he would have no trouble diagnosing this situation. A serial entrepreneur like Trump learns to recognize when a venture isn’t panning out. Over the years, he splashed, then crashed, in businesses as diverse as casinos, an airline and for-profit seminars. His willingness to fish has always been matched by a willingness to cut bait.

Or, as a veteran boss, he might see his predicament as a personnel move that hasn’t clicked. Trump has made many, many hires over his career, and some (as recently as Bannon’s) don’t work out. “Not a good fit,” the saying goes.

It’s the same thing here:

The presidency is not a good fit for Trump. It’s a scripted role; he’s an improviser. It’s an accountable position; he’s a free spirit. Yes, the employment contract normally runs four years. But at his age and station, what’s the point of staying in a job he doesn’t want?

And what’s the point of being a pariah? A pariah president is powerless. He really could go back to being a total jerk on his own time, in private. Everyone would be happier. And no one would make fun of Trump for slathering ketchup on his well-done steak.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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