Grim mood at White House as crisis mounts
WASHINGTON: Less than four months ago, a keen set of young up-and-comers strode into the White House in their best high heels and power ties, bursting with optimism and pride in serving their country.
Now, their stint in the White House — the supposed apogee of their lives, something to brag about someday to the grandkids — has begun to look more like it would be an albatross tied around their necks.
United States president Donald Trump may have left behind his domestic woes as he jetted off on Friday on his first foreign trip, but he also left behind a White House staff that is increasingly demoralised and overwhelmed.
On Wednesday, inside the offices of the White House’s West Wing, the news struck like a thunderclap — a special counsel had been appointed to investigate ties between Trump, his inner circle and the Kremlin.
As a television on the wall blared the news over and over, young aides to the president sat stone-faced and mute. “Collusion”, “grand jury”, “impeachment” — the pundits were droning on, but those words stood out.
Communications staff scuttled from meetings to their desks and back, in the vain hunt for a way to spin news that could define the rest of Trump’s presidency.
For months, Trump’s staff have lived with exhaustion, backstabbing and a seemingly perpetual drumbeat of crisis. This latest experience was played out in full view of the world, and for the history books.
A White House photographer stalked the hallways snapping pictures of a historic, if harrowing, moment for posterity, before being shooed away.
Trump’s management skills have not translated into a finelytuned White House.
Backbiting and almost daily rumours about mass firings are the norm. Staff privately complain about the administration’s incompetence and understaffing.
Aides say they often wondered whether they will be allowed to return to work the next day — half expecting heartbreak, half wanting deliverance.
For a few Trump aides, like Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the maelstrom has played out in a brutally public way. Spicer had to suffer the humiliation of his colleagues briefing the press that he will soon be a goner.
One would-be successor, Kimberly Guilfoyle — a former lawyer, model and now Fox News presenter — even said recently she was talking to the White House about taking over Spicer’s job.
“I think I have a good relationship with the president,” Guilfoyle told The Mercury News.
“I enjoy a straightforward and authentic, genuine relationship, one that’s built on trust and integrity, and that’s imperative for success in that position.”
Spicer — like key aides Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Steve Bannon — on Friday boarded Air Force One for a pressurecooker first foreign visit to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Palestinian territories, the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily.
For the staff happy to be left behind at the White House, the next week may offer some much needed respite. AFP
A duck and her brood walking towards the West Wing of the White House on Friday. Aides say they often wondered if they will return to work the next day, half expecting heartbreak, half wanting deliverance.