The White House must be a very unhappy place to work these days, at least if a new report from The Washington Post is any indication.
Besieged by daily scandals and new revelations from the Mueller investigation, the Oval Office has grown accustomed to suffering the repercussions of their own misdeeds for so long that — in a sad state of affairs — dealing with a crisis that’s not directly related to their own actions seems like a “reprieve.”
Before the shooting in Parkland, Florida, the White House was consumed with trying to manage the backlash from the security clearance and domestic abuse scandals surrounding the departure of White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter; from the luxury travel extravagances of Trump’s ultra-privileged cabinet secretaries; from the revelations of the President’s multiple affairs with porn stars and Playboy models; and from that continuing albatross around the President’s neck, the Mueller investigation into his campaign’s collusion with Russia to win the 2016 election and its subsequent cover-up and obstruction of justice.
With media attention shifted to the latest in a now regular series of mass shootings, The Washington Post reports that White House staffers were relieved to have an excuse to cancel a previously scheduled media briefing from Chief of Staff John Kelly where he was certain to have to face difficult questions regarding his role in the Porter domestic abuse scandal, citing the shootings as the reason.
“For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” said one White House official, speaking anonymously to reflect internal conversations. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”
“But as we all know, sadly, when the coverage dies down a little bit, we’ll be back through the chaos,” the official said.
Republican strategists welcomed the distraction that the death of 17 innocent people provided to the President.
“From an awful, cynical, purely-political point of view, the tragic events in Florida probably helped the White House this week by distracting from the awful wave of scandal and bad news they have faced,” said Michael Steel, a Republican strategist.
The pause in attention also gives the White House additional time to coordinate their responses to the multiple crises they face and avoid the multiple contradictory accounts that usually dribble out of the embattled administration in reply to each day’s latest disaster.
“The national tragedy in Florida has really, for now, turned the page on some of these crises,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist close to the White House. “They’re going to come back, but what it does do is give the White House a chance to collect itself and, if they can, organize a communications strategy and get their ducks in a row.”
Whether they’ll be able to take those widely scattered ducks and arrange them into neatly ordered defensive rows remains to be seen.
Having provided no real acceptable responses to the scandals that were on the front burner before the Florida shootings, the Trump administration still needs to address the issues of White House security clearances, profligate travel expenditures, sex scandals, and Robert Mueller’s ever-tightening noose.
Once the Presidents Day holiday weekend is over, they’ll find that the American public hasn’t forgotten about these issues and will be demanding answers that can’t be avoided by tragic distractions.