We’re stuck living in a nightmare in which the president spends his time on Twitter saying terrible things about all sorts of people. And while we used to think of Omarosa as a conniving celebrity-seeker, we are prepared to forgive her. Because she is an eyewitness. A whistleblower. A weapon for our cause.
There will be no mention of Omarosa in today’s column. None. There are things that matter — the parlous military situation in Afghanistan, for example — and Omarosa and her explosive new tell-all, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House,” which is published by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, just isn’t one of them.
Look, I’m not saying it wouldn’t matter if it turned out, as Omarosa alleges in “Unhinged,” that there could be a tape of President Donald Trump using an infamous racial slur. That, indeed, would be newsworthy, assuming it’s true.
I’m also not saying that Omarosa’s claim to NBC’s Chuck Todd that she personally heard the tape of him using that slur after her book went to press should be dismissed out of hand. But so far it’s just hearsay and speculation, and hence not worthy of a column in The New York Times.
I mean, at least it’s not worthy of one yet. This is why this column will stick to Afghanistan, where hundreds are dead after the Taliban nearly overran the strategic city of Ghazni.
Granted, it is interesting that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders “can’t guarantee” that the president had never used the notorious epithet. Is this not a non-denial denial? If Sanders isn’t unwilling to give the president the benefit of the doubt on some of his other dubious claims, why would she be willing to be less-than-categorical now?
But this, too, remains to be confirmed. Meanwhile, Pakistan, with its expanding nuclear arsenal, deteriorating economic situation and ever closer ties to China, appears set to get a prime minister with pronounced sympathies for the Taliban. How should U.S. policymakers respond?
That’s a significant question, with serious implications for long-term U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and throughout South Asia. And the last thing anyone should want is to have it obscured by the still-unproven allegations from Omarosa.
I don’t mean to suggest that Omarosa hasn’t been able to corroborate some of her claims with surreptitious audio recordings of conversations with Trump, Chief of Staff John Kelly and assorted campaign aides. Nor would I claim that doubts about Omarosa’s credibility shouldn’t be weighed against graver doubts about the credibility of the president and his senior advisers.
On the contrary, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that we urgently need to have a national conversation about all this, especially as it relates to issues of race, gender, power and media credibility. But — and I’m saying this only for the narrow purposes of this column — shouldn’t we care that U.S. air power had to be called in to dislodge the Taliban from Ghazni after elite Afghan army commandos were routed by the insurgents?
OK, we might as well admit we don’t care. Not now. Because, if what former campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson says on the Omarosa recording from 2016 is true, then what Pierson said the other night on Fox isn’t true, which doesn’t necessarily mean there is a tape, but does mean that he — that is, Trump — said it. At the very least, it means that she, Pierson, said he said it, even if she now says he didn’t.
And this should be of interest to all Americans.
Well, maybe not for the 14,000 or so U.S. troops currently sweating it out in Afghanistan, with nary a notice from the country that sent them there. But they’re the ones who volunteered to be in Trump’s Army. Who volunteered the rest of us?
We’re stuck living in a nightmare in which the president spends his time on Twitter saying terrible things about all sorts of people, including Omarosa. And while we used to think of her as a conniving celebrity-seeker who would scruple at nothing to get her way, we are prepared to forgive her. Because she is an eyewitness. A victim. A whistleblower. A weapon for our cause.
In a word: a Resister.
At some point in the future — give it a month or two — the Resistance will have to ask itself whether its interests were well-served by presenting, as a key witness for its side, perhaps the only person in the White House with less credibility than the president. The Resistance might also wonder whether the obsessive focus on which racial slur Trump might or might not have uttered many years ago matters to the average American. If “grab them by the p — didn’t sink Trump as a presidential candidate, why should “n — ” sink him this time?
For now, however, the biggest single beneficiary of the Omarosa obsession is, of course, the president. Carnival shows are his preferred form of politics, and Omarosa (in her new incarnation) is the fresh new act. We elected Donald Trump to keep us jittery and entertained. He’s delivered.
Afghanistan and other hard subjects will have to wait for another column. Another administration, too.