Among the most clichéd lines in Washington right now is this one: Like rats off a sinking ship. I am reminded more of hyenas.
In the African bush, the dog-like creatures secrete from their backsides a mephitic ooze called “hyena butter” as a way to mark their territory and sniff out fellow members of the pack. In D.C., the pack that has run with the top dog these last four years carries his unmistakable stench—to say nothing of the Capitol’s halls, smeared last week with the feculence of Trump’s mob—and now comes the spectacle of many of them desperately trying to rinse off.
One of the first to quit was Mick Mulvaney, the president’s former chief of staff who became special envoy to Northern Ireland. He told CNBC the morning after the riot that he “didn’t sign up for what you saw last night” and that Trump was “not the same as he was eight months ago.” Hilariously, Mulvaney is currently pitching himself to investors for his new hedge fund as a man who knows how Washington works.
In D.C., the pack that has run with the top dog these last four years carries his unmistakable stench.
The same day, Trump’s former communications director Alyssa Farah tried masking her scent via an interview with Politico. “I made the decision to step down in December because I saw where this was heading,” she said. But in December, she was singing a different tune, saying that the administration had left the country “stronger, safer, and more secure.” Maybe she’s psychic and could foresee the 20,000 National Guard troops camping in the Capitol and hotels in Dupont Circle this week.
Even more cynical was the defection of Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary and wife of Mitch McConnell. She stood shoulder to shoulder with the president during the infamous Trump Tower press conference following Charlottesville. When asked then about the beef between Trump and McConnell, she smiled and replied, “I stand by my man—both of them.” After this latest Trump-incited white-supremacist jamboree, Chao was fresh out of jokes, writing in her resignation e-mail to staff that she was “deeply troubled” by the “entirely avoidable event.” As for her other man? McConnell had no pushback on The New York Times’s report that he was “pleased” about impeachment.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos skedaddled as well, writing in her resignation letter that “impressionable children are watching all of this.” They weren’t before?
“I made the decision to step down in December because I saw where this was heading.”
Ambitious political appointees tainted by Trump must have been panicking as the week unfolded and the world outside of Washington condemned their boss in myriad unprecedented ways. Deutsche Bank, long Trump’s preferred cookie jar, has reportedly decided it will do no further business with him. The City of New York terminated all contracts with its native son. Silicon Valley slammed shut Trump’s accounts; not just Twitter and Facebook and YouTube but Snapchat and Shopify. Even Pinterest—hardly a digital cantina for neo-Nazis—has done some pruning of pro-Trump conspiracy theories that had seeped onto its site.
Soon, a tsunami of earnest and anonymous accounts about “dismayed” Trump officials reaching their “breaking point” washed up all over the press. Even Melania’s posse scrammed. Some deserters were people you’ve never heard of before, and it’s likely that many experienced a genuine crisis of conscience. But, for the most part, the whole thing reeked.
On MSNBC, Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan, said it best: “Resigning in protest in the last two weeks is really not resigning in protest. It’s a paid vacation on the taxpayer dime, after many, many years of enabling this man.”
Democrats weren’t the only ones to balk. Nobody was more incensed by the mutiny than the last holdouts at the White House. As The New York Times’s Annie Karni reported, people such as Stephen Miller and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who have been tarred so heavily by the president so as to have few other career prospects, have been dubbed the “dead enders” within Trumpworld. One such sorry individual, Jason Miller, fumed to Karni about his turncoat colleagues: “They’re bottom-feeders who are showing their true colors. The Democrats are still going to hate them, the Trump base is going to hate them for being a rat that’s jumping ship.”
I wouldn’t be so sure, Mr. Dead Ender. Power in the capital is shifting. After a period of fumigation, plenty of these stinkers will find work again. In the end, we’re talking about a town in which someone with the last name of Cheney just became a hero to the left.
Shawn McCreesh is a Washington, D.C.–based writer