Scott Pruitt: Of Mattresses and Moisturizer

Could Pruitt’s strange purchases be a tell regarding the administration’s contingency plans? An imagined presser with Sarah Huckabee Sanders illuminates the matter…

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of mattresses and moisturizer,
Cabbages and kings–
And why the Mueller probe is hot–
And whether Cohen sings.”

Is Donald Trump a cabbage or a king? How will he react when Mueller tries to boil him in a pot? (A pot of Trump’s own making, I might add.)

At this stage in the Mueller investigation, any unusual mattress purchases by administration officials should be looked on with alarm. For, the conventional wisdom is emerging that this is not a president who’ll meekly resign in the face of even the most all-encompassing scandal. Rather, it’s easy to picture a physical standoff in which Sarah Huckabee Sanders pulls a Baghdad Bob: Milk Duds firmly planted in her jaw, she might go out to face reporters and opine: “This is not a war. I know a number of individuals in the organized crime community, and none of them believe this is a war.”

“But what about all the mattresses piled up in the Oval Office,” CNN’s Jim Acosta might ask accusingly. “What about the unusual number of packages delivered to the White House from Wayne LaPierre?”

“We don’t comment on security matters,” Sanders might reply. “And anyway, all the experts from Rudy Giuliani to Jeanine Pirro agree that the President has an absolute right to pardon himself. Granting pardons is not unusual for this President. His recent pardons of Muhammad Ali, Edith Piaf, Daffy Duck, and Gorilla Monsoon show that he’s a conscientious and compassionate individual. He’s presently holed up in the Oval Office discussing other potential pardons with his new Chief of Staff, Sheriff Sean Hannity, and his new Homeland Security Director, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.”

“When did Hannity become a sheriff?” an unnamed reporter calls from the gallery. “According to Executive Order number 14722,” Sanders replies (reading from her notes), “all members of the President’s cabinet and senior staff shall henceforth have the title of Sheriff honorarily bestowed upon them, and shall be addressed as such in official communications, and by the White House press secretary.”

“What happened to Kirstjen Nielson?” Andrea Mitchell blurts out, barging her way to the front of the queue. “Why hasn’t she been seen in 29 days?”

“The President respects Ms. Nielsen and appreciates the huge contribution she made to the security of all Americans during her tenure at the White House,” Sanders drawls. “Unfortunately, she became a BAD Homeland Security Director, and the President was obliged to eat her.”

April Ryan of National Urban Radio pointedly remarks: “House Speaker Paul Ryan is on record saying he’s not quite sure the President’s powers extend to cannibalism, but at any rate, eating other people sends the wrong signal for the midterms.”

“The President has been in close consultation with Speaker Ryan,” Sanders replies, “and both of them agree that the sa-fe-ty of the public is always the uppermost thing in their mind.”

“But don’t you think there’s some danger to our republic in normalizing practices like cannibalism?” Kasie Hunt of Kasie DC (cue music) asks. “Ritual cannibalism is a time-honored tradition in many cultures,” Sanders replies. “It’s Fake News when biased reporters claim that the President is normalizing something which is already normal.”

“Sarah, is there any history of insanity in the President’s family?” fires Jim Acosta, getting himself back in the game. “Dammit Jim, I’m a press secretary not a geneticist!” Sanders fires back. “But as far as I know, there’s not an above-average amount of insanity in the Trump clan, which can trace its illustrious history back to…” (checking notes) “Sawney Bean in East Lothian, Scotland, back in the 1500s.”

“But wasn’t Sawney Bean a cannibal?” pipes Kelly O’Donnell. “That hasn’t been proven,” says Sanders. “The matter is still under investigation, so I would simply refer you to outside counsel. And the fact that human bones were found on Mr. Bean’s property could have some totally innocent explanation. They might have fallen from a meteor. You guys in the liberal press always jump to the wrong conclusions!”

“Sarah, I want to pursue this mattress question,” Andrea Mitchell chimes in. “It’s not just the mattresses. Why is there now a contingent of a hundred armed Secret Service agents deployed in a ring around the Oval Office 24 hours a day? Who ordered that and why?

“Again, we don’t comment on security matters” answers Sanders. “I can only say that for reasons of national security, we’re rounding up a number of individuals who currently pose a threat to peace and freedom. We want them to be as comfortable as possible during their detention, which is only temporary. In order to insure their comfort, the President and his staff are testing out mattresses from different U.S. manufacturers, with the goal of finding out which is the most comfortable, which is the most durable, and which represents the best value for the American people. And though tests are ongoing, I can say with confidence that tomorrow’s gonna be a great day.” (Grins toothily from ear to ear.)

“But following up, why the ring of Secret Service agents?” Mitchell persists. “I haven’t talked specifically with the President on that subject,” says Sanders, “but in terms of the question you’re asking regarding that matter, I would refer you to the Secret Service, which is very loyal to the President, and whose duty it is to protect the President under any and all circumstances.”

“But Sarah, you know the Secret Service won’t comment on protection procedures,” says Mitchell. “I’m sorry Andrea, I’ve already given you plenty of time. I’m moving on. Jonathan?”

Jonathan Swan of Axios: “Sarah, I want to turn to the subject of Scott Pruitt. There’s a rumor going around that he’s been sent by the President on a kind of scavenger hunt, to track down all the supplies that the White House would need to function more or less autonomously for an indefinite period of time.”

“Sheriff Pruitt is doing a great job at the EPA,” Sanders pivots, “and the President is very pleased with his efforts to drain the the swamp and rescind the tangle of Obama-era regulations foisted on the American people, causing the economy to tank, and threatening to shift our currency from the greenback to the Mexican jumping bean. These jumping beans have now been rounded up and quarantined, and are receiving humane treatment at ICE facilities in high school gymnasiums across America.”

Swan replies (politely but icily): “In case my question wasn’t clear, I’m referring to leaked security footage of Pruitt’s personal bodyguard showing up at a Chick-fil-A and trying to order 3,000 chicken sandwiches to go.”

“I believe Sheriff Pruitt has already stated his love for Chick-fil-A as a company and as a way of life. It’s not just a Godly sandwich, but also a middle of the day pick-me-up, as well as a marital aid. A large take-out order, if it actually occurred, would not be unusual given that the President currently has to spend so much time locked up with his aides, strategizing on how to make America great for the American people, who overwhelmingly support his efforts.”

Shannon Pettypiece takes up the theme: “I think what we’re getting at is that when you look at the mattresses, the armaments, the large take-out order (and we haven’t even gotten to the moisturizer), it certainly looks as though the President and his close allies are turning the White House into a kind of Fort Apache.”

Sanders: “Well Shannon, I think you might have us confused with the other party, the one that has Pocahontas for a spokesman. As for moisturizer: An army travels on its stomach, but an administration needs to save face. And what does a face run on? Moisturizer! According to OMB figures, large purchases of moisturizer have been made by every administration since McKinley. There’s really nothing remarkable about Sheriff Pruitt scouting out the different brands, seeing what’s on sale. Peter?”

Peter Baker: “Then the moisturizer isn’t for Pruitt’s personal use?” “None of the items Sheriff Pruitt has recently procured — the Bozo The Clown imitation throw rug, the 8mm projector, the two tons of Silly Putty, and the autographed picture of Charo — are for his personal use,” replies Sanders. “These are all items which any President would use in the natural course of fulfilling his duties as leader of the free world.”

And so it might go, with the Huckabee droning on until all brain cells in a 300-foot radius spontaneously die, or run away with their tails between their legs. (I realize brain cells don’t have legs. Relax, it’s only a metaphor.)

“Reporters,” said the Huckabee,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
She’d stonewalled every one.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

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Kim Jong-un Funny #1

Prepping hard for summit

According to reports emerging from the hermit kingdom, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is hard at work preparing for his June summit with President Trump. Just as we in the West find it difficult to comprehend the politics and culture of a land so foreign, our Eastern counterparts evidently have a reciprocal problem. It’s hard for even Americans to make sense of our present government; but with the aid of a jerry-built gizmo, the North Korean leader hopes to become inured to its subtleties.

The Kim Jong-un Funnies – Collect them all!

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Tom Price – Leaving on a Jet Plane

A paean to the disgraced HHS Secretary, who was thrown out with the Friday trash.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s health secretary has resigned, after his travel on costly charter flights triggered investigations and angered his boss.

Tom Price’s partial repayment and public regrets couldn’t save his job.

The Health and Human Services secretary became the first member of the president’s Cabinet to leave office in a turbulent young administration that has seen several high-ranking White House aides ousted. Price served less than 8 months.

When interviewed about future plans, Price said he expected to be found hanging around airport bars and giving away free high schools.

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The views expressed are those of the author, and do not represent any other person or organization.

Anthony Scaramucci: First Day Report Card

Comparing Scaramucci to departing Sean Spicer on criteria like the Hostage Video Factor, Sphincter Rating, Comic Potential, Effusiveness, and Hair Helmetry…

Up and down this nation of joy, this nation of plenty, there is visible mourning going on. Whether on park benches in the humblest of burgs, or the gold and cocaine flecked halls of Hollywood production studios, comedians of various ranks and strata are crying into their sleeves, donning black fedoras, and dolefully humming the tune from Chopin’s Funeral March. Spicey is gone.

The incoming Anthony Scaramucci had a good first day by (admittedly low) Trump administration standards. No post press conference surgery was required to remove foot from mouth. He did not offend Holocaust victims or misrepresent easily checkable facts in an obvious way. While fencing with reporters, he maintained something passing for a sense of humor, and did not become peevish or petulant. He did not hand late night comedians material on a silver platter as his predecessor did; instead they’ll have to dig for it.

This brings us to the first of our comparison criteria: the hair helmet. I have to admit right off the bat that Anthony Scaramucci has a better hair helmet than Sean Spicer. For those unfamiliar with this fashion staple, here are a few examples beginning in the 1950s:

Ex. 1: The classic hair helmet sported by Lloyd Bridges in the 1950 sci-fi extravaganza Rocketship X-M

Ex. 2: The modern variant embraced by Anthony Scaramucci

Ex. 3: The hair helmet worn by Eddie Munster in The Munsters

Ex. 4: The Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri hair helmet from The Sopranos. (The addition of “wings” does not actually result in flight.)

Ex. 5: Leona “Pistachios” Helmsley was one of the helmet’s few female proponents.

Ex. 6: Barack Obama experimented briefly with the hair helmet, but found it too unwieldy.

Having a hair helmet held in place by a combination of Dippity-Do and Plaster of Paris is clearly an advantage for any incoming communications wonk (or even Chief of Staff), so we have to give Scaramucci the edge here. But how will he fare on the Hostage Video Factor? This is defined as the extent to which a spokesperson for the president looks like they’ve had a gun put to their head and been forced to mouth words praising their captors for their kindness and good treatment, while all the while their eyelids are blinking in Morse code: “HELP ME! I DON’T WANT TO BE SAYING THIS. THEY MADE ME!”

Spicer was, of course, a passed master at this. Armed with a flotilla of alternative facts and a hornet’s nest of moxie, he would grit his teeth and try to defend the indefensible, but you could often tell his heart wasn’t in it. In his waning days, he would fall back on the boilerplate response that “The president’s tweet speaks for itself,” which was really his way of saying “The president’s tweet was so insane, counterfactual, and off-the-wall that I won’t even bother trying to defend it.” By contrast, Anthony Scaramucci is a slick salesman. He rates no better than zero on the Hostage Video Factor because he actually enjoys retailing Donald Trump as World’s Greatest Statesman to a gullible public.

This brings us logically to the Effusiveness Factor. Sean Spicer was rarely effusive in his defense of Trump, but rather adopted the manner of a grim Republican institutionalist. To Spicer, Donald Trump was the latest product churned out bearing the Republican brand, and therefore had to be defended for the sake of the party. Picture a customer service rep who tries to tell people complaining about a mail-order pain reduction gizmo which actually electrocutes them that “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!” That’s Sean Spicer, but to his credit he did it mechanically and joylessly, with little effusiveness and quite a bit of bumbling.

On the other hand, Anthony Scaramucci is the guy who tells you: “What you’re feeling isn’t really lethal electricity coursing through your veins, it’s joy. I love this product, I love this brand, I love Donald Trump, I love the team. I love Junior Mints, they’re so refreshing!” (Then he blows you a kiss.)

Scaramucci’s “love” for Donald Trump is love for a product successfully marketed using discreditable techniques — a product which may be hazardous to your healthcare and comes with a long list of side effects, such as burgeoning cynicism that American democracy can really work, that it won’t crash-and-burn while aping reality TV.

Love is a profound spiritual emotion. When it’s wasted on things undeserving of love, this tends to cheapen life and discourse. Despite his riches, Scaramucci (or “The Mooch” as he’s known on The Street) is a cheap money man on the make for political power. He’s so childishly enamored of that power, it comes naturally to him to make gushingly absurd, over-the-top statements deifying the object of his affections (whom he previously scorned). The Mooch is by nature a fawning flatterer of This Year’s Princeling, ready to trumpet tiny hands as gargantuan mitts, and to rewrite history favouring the Monarch.

When it comes to Comic Potential, Sean Spicer rates a perfect 10 for reasons that have become all too obvious. (If anyone’s memory is flagging, just look to the Beeb’s “Best Sean Spicer memes and ‘facts’.”) Spicer was the teacher you loved to sass because you knew how easy it was to rile him, and it was worth being sent to detention just to see him throw one of his hissy fits. “Don’t you dare shake your head at me, young lady!”

Whereas, Scaramucci — despite his monolithic hair helmet and effusive praise of All Things Trump — only rates about a 3 for Comic Potential. He’s a skilled manipulator who knows how to inoculate his presentations with dashes of humor so that they don’t seem quite so outlandish; and like a good knuckleballer, he knows how to change speeds and mix in different kinds of junk to keep reporters off-stride. Though he doesn’t hail from Hollywood (but rather Wall Street), he epitomizes the maxim that “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

One might liken Scaramucci’s use of Trump to the old Wall Street pump-and-dump scheme. Right now the Mooch is pumping Trump like a biomed stock that just went public, but it’s easy to picture him dumping Trump, timing the moment to a nicety so as to position himself as one of the rubes who was fooled by the gaudy patter, rather than one of its purveyors. “Oh how it pains my heart to have to say this,” Scaramucci might opine at some future date (next Sunday A.D.?), “but it appears the man I believed in so deeply secretly colluded with the Russians. I want to prove to you that I’m honest in the worst way. So even after the impeachment, as a patriotic American I plan to stay on and help our great new president develop the trust of the American people, which he so richly deserves…”

This brings us to the Repulsiveness Factor. Sean Spicer was frequently irritating, but never repulsive. People sometimes felt a little sorry for him because, through whatever vicissitudes of life, he became the guy whose job it was to put lipstick on a pig day after day. You could feel sorry for Spicey the way you felt sorry for Rhoda Morgenstern because her job was dressing department store dummies.

But for those who see through his charm and feelgood manner, Anthony Scaramucci is not a sympathetic figure. When we hear him claim that Donald Trump has “good karma,” we instinctively want to throw up. Obviously, Trump has bad karma for acting like a creep in myriad areas of life, up to and including an election campaign which he won through dirty tricks and low rhetoric, ultimately becoming the poster boy for the Ugly American. Indeed, writing in the Guardian, comedian Frankie Boyle refers to Trump as “a man so obnoxious that karma may see him reincarnated as himself.”

Seriously, between Scaramucci and Trump, you could make the world’s biggest fluffernutter, with Ivanka supplying the white bread (using peroxide as needed, if Kellyanne hasn’t bogarted it all).

Though Sean Spicer’s college nickname was “Sean Sphincter,” to me Anthony Scaramucci moves in wider circles. 😉

Regardless of political persuasion, one thing we can probably all agree on: When it comes to Donald Trump’s new wartime consigliere, there’s a lot to unpack — especially above the scalp.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.


Sidebar: Is Scaramucci Trump’s Mini-Me? Let’s consult The Daily Show

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