Under the Trump Bus
Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 1, 2017
On behalf of current and former Trump-circle employees, associates and whisperers, I went back to find a photo of the Trump campaign bus, seen above, just to check its size. It’s a big one, which is appropriate, because Donald Trump must be planning to throw a lot of people under it to keep himself safe from harm.
It took almost no time at all before Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, the Trump campaign officials who were indicted yesterday, and George Papadopoulos, whose guilty plea as a Trump foreign policy adviser was made public, were being thrown under that bus as unimportant, non-influential folks who have had little sway over getting Trump elected president.
“Few people viewed the young, low-level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar,” Trump tweeted. The White House has repeated offered comments to distance themselves from Manafort, as if he had not been the head of the Trump campaign for months.
Of the mountain of reactions to the first charges from the special counsel’s office on all-things-Russia (from Fox & Friends’ denials and distractions to serious analysis of the legal cases to partisan cheerleading), I found the personal loyalty question particularly intriguing. At a time when companies, employees, political partisans, even baseball fans are increasingly lukewarm about acknowledging, not to say admiring, long-term personal relationships.
Given that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office has talked with tons of Trump people about the issues of the investigation, there undoubtedly will be lots more chances for the president to weigh in on how close or not each individual has been to Trump himself or to his campaign. Just as clearly, each individual in Trump’s circle can’t logically be the closest or most important to him, so there is room for differentiation. But it seems unreasonable that only Donald Trump is to remain unruffled by all the investigative success while all around him there are problems that range from the ethical to poor business practices to involvement in what may amount to illegal campaign practices.
Clearly, this is a hallmark of Donald Trump, whether president or not. If someone in your lifeboat acts up, throw him overboard to the sharks.
The Washington Post editorial page noticed, and offered up what a more “presidential” response might be. You can see it here. It is a statement that seems modestly contrite, separating the president himself from those charged, but acknowledging that they were or are part of his general circle.
Importantly, the editorial concludes, “I recognize that the special counsel must be allowed to continue his probe without interference, and I pledge my administration’s full and open cooperation with both Mr. Mueller and the ongoing congressional investigations into possible Russian meddling in the election. The principles at stake are higher than partisan advantage or the fate of my administration. Foreign interference in our democracy should be of paramount concern no matter our party affiliation — and I owe it to the American people to do all I can to prevent such interference from taking place again. Leaders in a democracy must work to earn the public’s trust anew every day. I hope my efforts to support the special counsel in his work will reassure all Americans of my commitment to our nation’s founding principles, no matter the circumstances of my election. I am humbled both by the great responsibility you have given me and by the knowledge that in a democracy, nobody is above the law — not even the president.”
Perhaps our society has lost too much loyalty, some that we have allowed to fritter away. We have watched as companies shed employees of longstanding, overlooking the obvious — that we are ditching employees at earlier and earlier ages. We have accepted employees who agree to contribute for maybe a year or two before moving on. We have become used to having to build careers that will zig-zag among companies and even industries.
We have accepted the idea of not getting too attached to sports figures who may leave our local teams after increasingly short stays. We have accepted shifting global alliances and treaty obligations. On a more personal front, we have accepted divorce rates exceeding 50% of U.S. marriages, optional ethnic and religious identity, and increasingly hazy views of “home” look like.
Much of this change is reasonable, even good because it forces us to make balances in our lives. In the end, I’d argue that losing loyalty may prove more expensive than we care for it to be.
At the White House, the balance is simple: It’s all for Trump personally and the hell with everyone else.