January 30, 2018


How the Swamp Drained Trump : A year after arriving in Washington promising to hand power back to the people, the president has instead given the city's insiders precisely what they wanted. (MCKAY COPPINS, 1/30/18, The Atlantic)

Ask Sam Nunberg who's to blame for the swampification of the Trump White House, and he'll bitterly rattle off a list of cabinet officials, family members, and presidential advisers.

A longtime Trump adviser who helped launch the billionaire's presidential campaign, Nunberg now sees establishment spies and sell-outs infecting every level of the administration. He refers derisively to the president's chief economic adviser as "Gary 'Carried Interest' Cohn," or alternately, "Mr. Goldman Sachs." He seethes that National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has "never missed giving a speech at a George Soros-funded event in his life." Defense Secretary James Mattis is, in his view, a "John McCain type of Republican (which is to say, the bad type); and Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and their cohort of cosmopolitan allies are "a bunch of Democrats." (If you're having trouble making sense of these insults, it's likely because you don't speak Breitbart--suffice it to say, they are not minor slurs.)

"It's Washington as usual!" Nunberg fumed to me in an interview. "It's a little perverse and Twilight Zone-ish."

It would be easy to dismiss this criticism as jealousy. Nunberg was unceremoniously pushed out of the campaign early on amid an internal power struggle, and despite years of advising Trump, he was never offered a job in the White House. But his grim diagnosis of the administration echoes the complaints of many early Trump-backers.

Among the nationalist ideologues who staked their hopes on his presidency, there's a widespread fear that Trump is being captured and co-opted by the "globalist elite." While his loyalists are quick to praise what they regard as his greatest accomplishments--such as withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and instituting a travel ban on several majority-Muslim countries--they also acknowledge that the population of true-believing Trumpists in the White House is shrinking. For every Stephen Miller or John Kelly in Trump's orbit, there are dozens of résumé-polishers and this-towners who have no interest whatsoever in draining the swamp. And without a robust policymaking apparatus dedicated to advancing the ideas formerly championed by the likes of Steve Bannon, it has only gotten easier for the establishment forces in the West Wing to handle the president.

As The Wall Street Journal recently outlined in its "How-To Guide" for dealing with the commander in chief, each would-be Trump-whisperer has developed his or her own technique. When Trump wants to take serious trade action against other countries, for example, advisers will sometimes come up with reasons to stall, "hoping he'll forget what he wanted done and move on to something else." When Trump is weighing defense options, Mattis will gently steer him with a combination of flattery and Jedi mind tricks. "He says, 'Your instincts are absolutely correct,' and then gets [Trump] to do the exact opposite of what his instincts say," a source told the Journal.

One person close to the White House, who requested anonymity to describe internal dynamics, told me that Trump is so fully buffeted by handlers like this that some days the best chance he has of hearing from an adviser who actually shares his instincts is a late-night phone call with one of the primetime Fox News hosts. "Unless he's talking to Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, or Laura Ingraham after their shows," the person said, the president's populist allies can't "get to him."

Posted by at January 30, 2018 7:36 PM