SPECIAL COUNSEL, STEP ASIDE
All the Toddler-in-Chief needs, writes Tabatha Southey, is a play date supervised by her
Washington is leaking, the same way that Niagara Falls is “leaking.” The news these days reads as if there’s a parking garage in Washington so full of shadowy figures that none of them can get an empty parking space in which to breathe portentously any more. They’re all packed in there, seven or eight to a vacant spot. Some are on parked cars – perched in a row on the bumper, lying like sardines on the roof of a Lexus – trying to shout out their secrets over each other to a waiting crowd of journalists. “Get out your notebook!” “What? Get out? We just got here?” “No! Get! Out! Your! Notebook! There’s mor … ”
“Our phone book? It’s 2017, nobody has a phone book!”
The journalists are wearing hip waders because Washington is leaking. Nearly lost in the off-the-record deluge this week was this snippet: National Security Council officials admit, according to one source, that they make a point of including Donald Trump’s name in “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned.”
Oh, America, I feel for you in these times. The first three to four months of a presidency can be exhilarating, but they’re never easy, and reports – so many reports – are that this has been a particularly difficult stretch for you. In an effort to be supportive, to reach out to you, our neighbour – to be honest, I keep seeing you crying in your national driveway – allow me to give you some tips from that classic, What to Expect When You Elect a Giant Toddler Leader of the Free World.
1. Pick your battles. You’ll probably never get your President to understand that the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard aren’t just interchangeable masses of people in uniform eagerly awaiting his thoughts on how mean the press has been to him. “I won’t talk about how much I saved you on the F-35 fighter jet. I won’t even talk about it. Or how much we’re about to save you on the Gerald Ford, the aircraft carrier,” he told the commencement crowd at the Coast Guard Academy this week. You might be tempted to remind the Toddler-in-Chief that the Coast Guard does not operate either piece of military equipment. Keep your presidential parenting powder dry. Consider buying him a set of actual little green plastic army men to play with as a distraction from people who have work to do. 2. Sometimes a toddler can’t yet differentiate between fact and fiction.
That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s lying. This, however, is not one of those times. Odds are astoundingly high that if your President-toddler is talking, he’s lying. Unless, it seems, he is talking to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in which case, multiple sources say, he is unbelievably candid. Err on the side of caution. Did your President happen to remark on the colour of the sky today? Go double-check. It can’t hurt. 3. Imaginary friends can be a source of reassurance. They often provide comfort in times of insecurity. Don’t be alarmed if your toddler talks about them. An imaginary record-breaking inauguration crowd is another matter entirely. You should really get that looked at.
4. Have a bedtime strategy. When picking out a story, try for something calming, a book that may address some of his fears and possibly stave off nightmares. See if your local library has a copy of The Little Emoluments Clause That Couldn’t Really Do Much they are selling in anticipation of the proposed cutting off of their federal funding. Make an elaborate ritual of checking under the bed for Department of Justice special counsels. Remind your President that John McCain never actually does anything. 5. It’s important to teach your child-President about boundaries. For example, use a map and explain gently, but firmly, that “This is the Mexican border, you can’t send police, soldiers or invoices for big, stupid walls beyond here.” 6. It’s generally safe to leave your President unattended in a car. However, it is vital that you not leave him unattended with FBI directors overseeing an investigation into his campaign. 7. Encourage your young President to share his toys. Discourage him from sharing Israeli intelligence with Russian officials. Explain that this is a “special, no-fun kind of sharing” called “an international incident.” 8. It has been reported (leaking!) that some of your President’s staff are worried about leaving him alone with other heads of state. This is a good instinct. Your President now has selfinflicted wounds on his self-inflicted wounds. You will long for the day you had a president who just tried to give other another world leader an unsolicited shoulder massage. Maybe stick to supervised foreign-dignitary visitation until you are confident the man you have just chosen to govern you will not say anything colossally stupid (so never). 9. Presidents (well, mostly just your President) can be very impression
able. While you don’t want to discourage him from making new friends, it’s important to know who might be influencing him. If he tells you his new best friend is “John Smith. Totally normal American. Not at all from Great Nation of Russia,” maybe try to arrange for him to spend more time with little Angela instead. Also, avoid scheduling any more play dates with “Michael Flynn.” That’s not a pseudonym or anything; Michael Flynn just has a nasty habit of reportedly altering U.S. military operations for the benefit of the Turkish government while secretly being on their payroll. 10. Teething is a difficult time for any administration. Giving your President a teething ring can make things much more comfortable for him and you. As convenient as it might seem, do not allow your President to chew on an intercontinental ballistic missile. They are both too large for even your President’s mouth and, of course, usually tipped with nuclear warheads. Try to keep your President from gumming on either NATO or NAFTA. It turns out, they’re more delicate than we thought. Ideally, your President should not be allowed to mess with anything more vital to your country’s security than NBC’s Tuesday night schedule. 11. Don’t discuss private body parts with your President. That’s just weird; he’s the President. Maybe leave a note on his desk reminding him that the phrases “grab ’em by the pussy” and “hot mic” are two things you never want to hear on CNN again. Put his name in the note, at least twice. 12. Travelling with your toddler-lead
er brings additional challenges. A nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe with stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia can … Oh, dear God, I have no advice. There’s really no way out of this. He has apparently asked that the trip be shortened to five days. Cave! Cave! Cave! I don’t know; bring crayons. No, bring one big, heavy crayon. Lay it on his chest and watch him struggle like a turtle on his back. This may at least earn you back some cred with the rest of the Five Eyes. 13. Sometimes a little bribery may be
necessary. Call it “positive reinforcement” and you’ll feel less ashamed. If getting two scoops of ice cream when everyone else gets only one is what it takes to get your President to behave himself, a little extra ice cream isn’t going to hurt him any more than his belief that the human body is “like a battery” whose finite energy can be depleted by exercising. 14. The next three years may feel like one very long, very awkward parent/
teacher conference. Remember, not communicating is important. Seriously, why bother? Do not, White House staff, squander the dregs of your credibility writing presidential parent’s notes explaining that you’re certain Donny did not tell little James to drop his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. You might follow this up with a note asking if Donny can be excused from both gym class (the battery thing) and allegations that he has tainted the United States’ relationship with Israel by disclosing highly classified information to Russian intelligence as though that top-secret information was a rare Pokémon card, if Pokémon cards could get intelligence sources killed. Remember, your toddler was in the presence of men he wanted to impress and, one assumes, a live mic, and you did ask him not to boast about sexually assaulting women. This one’s kind of on you, and it promises to be the lamest sequel to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ever. “We have a leak. It’s high up.” “Yeah, it’s the President.” Roll credits.
15. Offer limited choices. Tell your President that he can either publicly state “No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly,” as he did this week, or tweet “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” as he did this week. It won’t matter; nothing you do matters. He’ll do both, because he is totally out of control; these are the end times, but at least you can tell yourself you tried. Remind him gently and often, “Don’t use your words.” That won’t help either.