On Monday afternoon, the nation’s attention turned to a strange spectacle, which has become common during the Trump era. After receiving a subpoena for records relating to his time in the Trump campaign, former aide Sam Nunberg began dialing every media organization he could. The afternoon was wall-to-wall Nunberg, a spray of unreliable interviewers confronting an increasingly uncertain and belligerent subject. By late evening, CNN’s Erin Burnett, sitting across from Nunberg, seemed to confirm what many had speculated: “Talking to you, I smelled the alcohol in your breath.” (Nunberg denied that he was drinking.)
The surprising series of interviews re-introduced the world to Nunberg, who had largely disappeared from the public eye. His interviews have drawn attention to the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But they should also uncover a pattern in Donald Trump’s political life: He hires the worst. And it’s not just about mismanagement. Trump hires people whose qualities he shares.
Their karmic faults are, in fact, their personal flaws.
Which makes Nunberg a useful character study. Put aside his bizarre interviews for a moment (though we’ll get back to those). Nunberg was already well known to political journalists, in part because he was kicked out of the campaign for racist social media posts, and in part because he was a documented fabulist. He suggests that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and would host a “hip hop inauguration”. [sic] Ball” taking the oath is exactly the kind of racist yuck-yucking that Trump, the country’s premier birther, is comfortable with.
cartoon on president donald trump
Simple lies also have a piece with Trump’s communication style. Nunberg revealed last year that he had made up a story about Trump that led the administration to hope Chris Christie would bring Trump’s fast-food lunches during the campaign. why lie? Why not? There seems to be no punishment for this in Trump’s world, and moreover, it gave Nunberg a chance to humiliate Christie (something even Trump likes to do).
But accidental lies are far from the only rhetorical virtue on Nunberg and Trump’s part. Let’s return to yesterday’s interviews. Teenage insults, shocking (potentially baseless) claims and random favors were Nunberg’s belligerent strings of textbook Trump. “Do you think I’ll ever talk to that idiot?” He asked about Special Counsel Robert Mueller. When it came to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Nunberg went for “a rough slog” and “a joke.” (Trump has called comedian Rosie O’Donnell both “fat” and “slob”, while calling someone a “joke” is his lay down to go.,
Plus, Nunberg’s ability to keep all eyes on what was happening on Monday afternoon as viewers wondered what he might do next is the most Trumpian move of them all. The Russia investigation is too big to sideline permanently, but for one afternoon, the pressing question didn’t seem to be “What did Nunberg and others do in the campaign?” rather than “is he drunk, mad or secretly cheating on us all?”
The same pattern of reflective traits can be seen in other disgraced or embroiled members of the Trump administration, from conspiracy-theorist Michael Flynn to shadowy real-estate scion Jared Kushner, from anti-racial Steve Bannon to unfiltered braggart Anthony Scaramucci. And the same is true of other insiders, all reflections of some uncanny part of Trump’s personality.
As with Scaramucci and Sebastian Gorka and others, Nunberg will quickly fade from the front pages. But his public spectacle this afternoon serves as a reminder that problems with the administration begin at the very top, and that no matter how many personnel changes we make, the chaos and strangeness will be with us as long as Trump is president.