As White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham had the dubious achievement of never holding a press conference, which is akin to an Olympic swimmer never getting wet. But Grisham has written a book in which she tries to atone for her sins by providing fresh evidence of what we already knew about her former boss.
Her account may seem like a pointless rehash of the past. But given Trump’s ambition of returning to the White House, the value of Grisham’s experience is what it reveals about the future: that a second Trump presidency would be even worse than the original one.
Trump promised to staff his administration with “the best and most serious people,” which was the opposite of the truth. He mostly chose subordinates who were distinguished only for being undistinguished. Those who were relatively able and accomplished soon found they were not only ineffectual but unwelcome.
One of the most notable things about Trump’s appointees is how many came to regret working for him. His first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, privately called Trump a “f—ing moron.”
John Bolton, who served as national security adviser, found Trump’s behavior “irrational” and “deeply disturbing.” John Kelly, who was White House chief of staff, told friends that Trump was “the most flawed person I have ever met in my life.”
Grisham was never a person of stature. She had a history of drunk driving and had been fired from other jobs for alleged malfeasance. As press secretary, she defended Trump’s characterization of “Never Trump” Republicans as “human scum.”
But as prosecutors know, sometimes the best witnesses are terrible people, because that’s who criminals hang out with. That someone who owed so much to Trump would quit over his incitement of the Jan. 6 mob, as Grisham did, is heartening evidence that even some lowlife loyalists can’t completely suppress their gag reflex.
Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Grisham recounts, Trump said: “Okay, I’m going to act a little tougher with you for a few minutes. But it’s for the cameras, and after they leave we’ll talk.” She says his temper is “terrifying.” He called her to deny Stormy Daniels’ rude description of his private parts. Grisham says, “I should have spoken up more.”
No, she should have quit earlier or refused to work in his White House to begin with. Given her soiled past, though, she was in no position to be fastidious. She was typical of Trump subordinates who had their jobs because Trump couldn’t attract better people or couldn’t tolerate them.
Corey Lewandowski, recently accused of drunkenly and repeatedly groping a woman at a charity event, falls into the same category. Before becoming Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, he was a failed politician who had worked for a member of Congress who went to prison for corruption. In the campaign job, he was charged with battery for manhandling a female reporter. Soon fired, he continued advising Trump in the White House.
On Monday, Trump lost a case he had pursued against Omarosa Manigault Newman, accusing her of violating a nondisclosure agreement in her book about her time in his White House. One of the few African Americans in his administration, the former “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant wrote that he is “a racist, a bigot and a misogynist” whom she suspects of suffering from dementia.
What would be different about a second Trump presidency? Some of the mopes who worked for him would not be willing to do so again, forcing him to replace his low standards with no standards.
Some, however, would be willing to return, despite knowing firsthand how incompetent, corrupt and deranged he is — and how eager to trample the Constitution. His personnel would be a malodorous mix of the unqualified and the unprincipled. All would have the single quality essential to Trump aides: a willingness to grovel in the most humiliating fashion to appease him.
Both Trump critics and Trump admirers may see Grisham as a repellent, hypocritical failure, like so many of his other former aides. But if he gets another term, we’ll find she’s not the bottom of the barrel. Under Trump, there is no bottom.