If you didn’t know better, you might think the tabloid frenzy surrounding former Apprentice star Omarosa Manigault Newman’s tell-all about her short stint working in U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House was cooked up by a reality TV producer looking to launch a new show.
The Real Catfights of Pennsylvania Ave. would have plenty of sketchy characters to draw upon and rival the seediest reality shows ever to (dis)grace American television. From former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, and a host of supporting players in between, this is a White House where “everybody lies,” as Ms. Manigault Newman put it in justifying taping her conversations with colleagues and officials.
Our first reflex is to turn away from this tawdry spectacle, lest it trigger uncontrollable retching. But this is the White House, after all, the most important centre of decision-making on the planet. As hard as it is to stomach the parade of grifters floating in and out of the narcissist-in-chief’s orbit, the stakes are just too high to pretend it doesn’t matter.
Ms. Manigault Newman thought nothing of carrying a recording device into the Situation Room where she taped her own firing by White House chief of staff John Kelly. That she was able to do so is far more shocking than the mob-style threats Mr. Kelly made about what might happen to her if she didn’t go quietly. The most secure area of the White House, where the most sensitive national security discussions are held, has been turned into The Apprentice boardroom, the setting for the settling of scores between contestants vying for Mr. Trump’s approval. Ms. Manigault Newman was as conniving as those she competed against.
“Vicious, but not smart” is but one of the ugly epithets Mr. Trump used to describe Ms. Manigault Newman in a series of tweets, betraying his pattern of portraying African-Americans he doesn’t like as unintelligent. He’s put down CNN host Don Lemon, basketball star LeBron James and congresswoman Maxime Waters in this way. If you don’t think there’s anything wrong with a president behaving like this, when white nationalists have been so emboldened as to assemble publicly in the U.S. capital, then consider the following.
Ms. Manigault Newman claims to have heard a recording of Mr. Trump using the N-word on the set of The Apprentice. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says she can’t guarantee that such a recording does not exist. Still, you don’t need to know whether he ever used the N-word to identify consistent elements of racism in his past.
From his baseless attempts to convict in the court of public opinion five minority teenagers for the rape and assault of a white Central Park jogger in 1989, to his crusade to cast doubt on former president Barack Obama’s place of birth, the prepolitics Mr. Trump displayed a troubling habit of racial profiling.
That he entered politics by fanning the flames of racism against immigrants and African-Americans underscores the central conceit of the Trump presidency. With his divide-and-conquer methods, there is no line he won’t cross to fan the resentment of his base toward immigrants, African-Americans and any news outlet that seeks to report the facts. He has the gall to take credit for record-low black unemployment, as if that were proof of his magnanimity.
Frankly, I think Ms. Manigault Newman, opportunist that she is, lets Mr. Trump off too easily. She blames the President’s unhinged and erratic behaviour on his excessive consumption of Diet Coke. She writes that he has always had a button on his desk that he pushes when he craves a can of his favourite beverage. “Whenever I went to brief him, he’d push the button and get us Diet Cokes.” She says she did some research and found a Boston University study linking diet soda consumption “with dementia and increased risk of stroke.”
The study exists, although it points out that its findings “demonstrate correlation but not cause and effect.” That didn’t stop Ms. Manigault Newman from expressing confidence in her own diagnosis: “Those awkward shaking hands, struggling to bring a bottle of water to his mouth … I printed out the study and put it in his stack. He never read it.”
On Monday, Ms. Manigault Newman told NBC’s Today show: “He’s different than the person I met back in 2003. He has some serious mental impairment.”
Just some, Omarosa?