Saturday, July 29, 2017


Reince Preibus has been defenestrated, and tales of his tenure as White House chief of staff are coming out. You probably already know about this one:
President Trump reportedly once summoned former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus to kill a fly in the Oval Office during a meeting, according to a Friday report.

A source told The Washington Post that once during an Oval Office meeting, a fly began buzzing around Trump’s head, distracting him. Trump eventually summoned Priebus and told him to kill the fly. As a senior White House staffer, the chief of staff would not ordinarily be tasked with such matters.
And this one from Priebus's last moments on the job:
When Air Force One touched down Friday afternoon at Andrew's Air Force base, Priebus, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and social media director Dan Scavino all loaded into a Suburban. But moments later, Miller and Scavino hopped out of the vehicle, and as word trickled out about the chief of staff's ouster, reporters inched close to snap photos of Priebus, who sat alone on the rain-soaked tarmac. Priebus' vehicle then pulled out of the presidential motorcade, which proceeded along to the White House without him.
We're regularly told that Donald Trump could become a totalitarian dictator. While I don't think he would have any qualms about becoming one, I don't think he has -- what's the word I'm looking for? -- the will to be one. A genuine tyrant in his situation would see opportunities to seize and consolidate power and would take full advantage of those opportunities. Trump doesn't do that.

The problem isn't that he's too lazy. He expends a tremendous amount of energy rebutting critics and seeking out the adulation of worshippers. And he puts a great deal of energy into ridiculous games of dominance and submission, like the ones he played with Priebus. He prioritizes being a petty tyrant rather than concentrating on being a real tyrant.

Yes, I know: His administration has cracked down on immigrants. He gave a speech to cops yesterday in which he flippantly endorsed rough treatment of arrestees.
“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, and I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,’” Trump said.

“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over, like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody, don’t hit their head, I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’” he added.

His remarks received significant applause.
Repression appeals to Trump. He's hired a lot of people who are eager to repress.

But he's willing to move them out of key positions when he thinks it will help him accomplish something he really cares about. As attorney general, Jeff Sessions is prepared to give the federal government's OK to repressive policing. Trump likes that -- but he's willing to fire Sessions in order to end Robert Mueller's investigation of him and his campaign. John Kelly was a fierce advocate of Trump's immigration crackdown as homeland security secretary -- but Trump just removed him from the position and made him chief of staff.

Other things just matter more to Trump than ruling America with an iron fist. He wants to be surrounded by subordinates who prostrate themselves before him. He wants Russiagate to go away. He wants to trash-talk -- but, so far, not truly repress -- the media. (He's not Putin. Media outlets aren't being forcibly nationalized and journalists aren't being murdered.) And he wants to make speeches in front of adoring crowds who tell him he's magisterial and witty and really getting those liberals and elitists to shed tears.

He wants to spend all of his time feeling like the ultimate dominant male. If he devoted less time to that, he really might be able to get the whole country to submit.

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