SPE­CIAL COUN­SEL, STEP ASIDE

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - GLOBE FOCUS - TA­BATHA SOUTHEY TART tsouthey@globe­and­mail.com

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.

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