Donald Trump does not need any help to look bad. He does a pretty good job of that all by himself much of the time. What he does need is a White House staff that doggedly seeks to position him and his family in the best light.
Every president is entitled to that. In the Trump White House, that role falls most directly on the shoulders of acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Yet three times in as many days, they have served the president and his family very poorly.
First was the stunning incident of the White House Military Office asking that the U.S.S. John McCain be out of the president’s sight while he was in Japan. The White House Military Office exists to provide support for the president in his role as commander in chief, including communications, emergency relocation, nuclear launch capabilities, medical treatment, and coordination of military assets such as Air Force One, Marine One, and Camp David.
It is not supposed to immerse itself in such issues as the backdrop for a presidential speech. That’s the responsibility of the civilian staff. It was wrong of the White House Military Office to do what it did, but the bigger offense was how the White House staff handled it. The president, who admits to disliking John McCain, said he would not have done what the rogue Military Office requested. Something has to be pretty bad for the president to say he wouldn’t do it.
Mulvaney undercut his boss when he said on national television that the request was “not unreasonable.” Yes it was. It was worse than that. It was disgraceful. Mulvaney should have sung from the same page as Trump and said that while he could understand the motivation for the request, it was not what the president wanted, it was a mistake, and the White House Military Office has been told so in no uncertain terms.
Second, the White House did nothing to extinguish the false narrative that the president called Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex, “nasty.” Here’s what happened: Trump was asked by a cheeky British interviewer, no doubt seeking to make trouble on the eve of Trump’s historic visit to the United Kingdom, about Markle’s comments a few years ago that she would remain in Canada if Trump — whom she once called misogynistic and divisive — was elected. That came as a surprise to Trump who said: “I didn’t know that. What can I say? I didn’t know that she was nasty.”
Obviously he meant “nasty” to him in those comments, which she made long before becoming a member of the Royal Family. It was not a reference to anything else — certainly not to her as a person. In fact, Trump made a point of following that up by saying he was glad she had joined the Royal Family and believed she would make a “very good” princess. “It is nice, and I am sure she will do excellently,” he said. Very gracious comments indeed. Inexplicably, the White House staff left it to Trump himself to deny the false charge (that he had insulted Markle), which is really the essence of Sanders’ job.
And third, no one on the White House staff has offered any explanation of what Senior Adviser Jared Kushner meant when he told an interviewer he did not know if he would call the FBI if Russians approached the Trump re-election campaign with information that could be “helpful.”
For starters, one wonders why Kushner ever agreed to sit down for an interview with Axios, and who prepped him for it.
That aside, his answer was hardly the scandal some are making it out to be. He is right not to indulge in speculation about hypotheticals. That never serves a useful purpose. Kushner did not say he would not alert authorities, he merely said he was not sure about going to the FBI. Given the relationship between the FBI and Trump, if I were Kushner, I’m not sure I would go to them either. There are plenty of other agencies to which Kushner can report election tampering.
It is the first and foremost responsibility of every member of the White House staff to look after a president’s best interests and advocate for him aggressively. Those not doing so should be invited to continue their careers elsewhere.
Mark Weinberg is a communications consultant, speechwriter and the author of “Movie Nights with the Reagans” (Simon & Schuster). He served as special assistant to the president and assistant press secretary, and later as director of public affairs, in Ronald Reagan’s White House.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.