John Kelly Still Has a Job: Why Team Trump Will Never Get Right with Female Voters
I’ve been away from Contemptor for nine months. My sabbatical from this vital, independent website in no way reflected a personal or professional disengagement with politics and the media. To state the obvious, getting away from either cultural force in the age of Trump is a futile act unworthy of Sissyphus. Among other projects that have claimed attention, my first non-fiction book – a series of celebrity reflections on the Chicago Cubs – will hit shelves on March 29. An exciting and busy time. Still, I’ve been watching, listening, and sometimes writing about the current exercise in Executive Branch madness.
In January for example, I couldn’t refrain from observations on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018 – the continued strength and dignity of Civil Rights legend and Congressman John Lewis, versus the racist, undignified shame of POTUS 45 when it comes to fighting for equality in America. This story was easy to grab, courtesy of David Letterman’s new and compelling Netflix interview program. It made for a nice piece on my personal website.
However some of the issues and challenges facing our nation and its media apparatus sometimes feel too complex, overly daunting, and specifically threatening to certain socioethnic groups. Taking on some of these topics, and developing coherent thoughts in a web-friendly thousand words or less, sometimes proves impossible before the next piece of breaking news demands attention.
At other moments away from Contemptor, to be honest, the effort of putting my pained – and very female – American perspective out into the world hasn’t always felt worthwhile. I trust my voice and believe that our democracy faces unprecedented peril that requires committed resistance. But as a female writer, sometimes a break from Twitter trolls to come up for air is necessary self-care. One particularly dedicated jeerer, @lightbluecollar, last week blamed me and my work for an 18 month-old case of mother/daughter incest in Oklahoma. I’m no stranger to angry white men on the Internet, but it’s a source of personal exhaustion to engage them with the anger and ignorance on 11 that comes with Making America Great Again.
Anyway, here I am – older, wiser and ready to resume the rhetorical battle for our country, its solvency and soul on this platform. While we’re on the subject of being trolled, let’s talk for a moment about the Trump White House and its continually audacious personal and civic inability to respect women – the interest group that comprises more than half of the American electorate.
The Rob Porter scandal is nearly two weeks old, a veritable eternity for the Trump administration and its ability to generate controversy. Yet the story still occupies front page real estate on The New York Times website. Why? Because of Camp Runamuck’s puzzling, but by now expected impotence in publicly condemning domestic violence, and rooting its practitioners and acolytes out of the West Wing. Reporting team members Maggie Haberman and Julie Hirschfeld Davis write today:
“On Day 10 of a scandal over spousal abuse that laid bare the internal dysfunction and public relations miscalculations that have racked the Trump White House, John F. Kelly, the chief of staff, issued a memo widely seen as an effort to turn the page.
The five-page document ordered a review of security clearance procedures that had allowed Rob Porter, the now-fired staff secretary, to handle highly classified materials even though the abuse allegations had prevented him from receiving a permanent clearance.”
Unless these new “procedures” include the sacking of misogynist shitbags like Kelly, who knew about Porter’s history of abuse while publicly praising the wife beater as a “rising star” when the scandal broke, nothing in this administration will ever change. Certainly not while the Commander-in-Chief is himself a misanthropic chauvinist accused of harassing and assaulting at least 22 women.
Like so many stories that spin ugly and out of control from this White House, the Porter situation isn’t as simple as one man accused of one heinous crime that went ignored while he continued to work in an unconventionally inept administration. Where should a reporter look for the “in” that permits digestible narrative structure? Haberman and Hirschfield David try to do it all with this passage:
“In a West Wing where senior officials have developed something of a bunker mentality to keep the chaos at bay and survive each day, this better-not-to-know approach allowed the Porter problem to fester and raises questions about whether the White House is capable of creating a system with greater accountability.”
Perhaps embattled Chief of Staff John Kelly will yet help himself and the rest of the White House rediscover its ass with both hands on this particular matter, although there’s every good reason for doubt. The sad truth is that Porter is neither the first nor the last member of Trump’s A-Team to exhibit disgusting patterns of conduct against women. The ongoing scandal is just the latest evidence of this administration’s disregard for females, their bodies, truths and personhood – see the infamous 2016 Roy Moore campaign in Alabama, former White House strategist Steve Bannon’s own history of spousal abuse, and of course, the well-documented misconduct by the President.
So we’ll keep marching – and writing. It’s exhausting, but as Hillary Clinton often reminded us throughout her 20016 campaign, we’re stronger together.