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Other View: White House chaos has only just begun

That was fun.

Just 240 or so hours ago, Anthony Scaramucci, absent relevant experience and credentials, became the White House communications director. It was a palace coup that also forced the departures of press secretary Sean Spicer and chief of staff Reince Priebus from the administration of President Donald Trump, and appeared to leave Steve Bannon’s future in doubt as the presidency’s Dark Lord.

On Monday, Trump and his new chief of staff, John Kelly, showed Scaramucci the door, just days after Mooch phoned the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza and offered him a raunchy, self-aggrandizing assessment of his White House goals and disdain for anyone who might stand in his way. Scaramucci, a communications director who was bad at communications, deployed the same foul, brawny language that his boss has been specializing in for decades. But Moochismo made POTUS — already suffering through the bungling of Obamacare repeal and other setbacks — look bad.

So out went Scaramucci. This is sad. Judging from his tweets from Air Force One, Mooch clearly liked his new job.

While Scaramucci’s tenure only lasted an eye-blink, he certainly won’t be the last member of Team Trump who loses access to Air Force One. Trump’s presidency, like his business career, has been marked by unpredictability, lax management, wasted time and energy, backroom skullduggery, and a cult of personality so radioactive that it burns most of whatever’s exposed to it.

The Trump soap opera isn’t episodic, either. Chaos and uncertainty are what Trump thrives on and what he relishes. So the latest round of White House crazy shouldn’t raise questions like “Is this as bad as it gets?” or “Will the Trump presidency finally turn a corner?” This past week, like the weeks before it and the weeks to come, is what it will always be like.

All of this poses a challenge to Trump supporters and critics, not to mention the rest of us, because the permanent chaos makes it so easy to forget that the presidency isn’t supposed to be a parade of carnival sideshows. A similar mental hurdle exists around the myriad financial and business conflicts that engulf the White House. Those conflicts are so wide-ranging, flagrant and unchecked that it would be easy for Trump-watchers to succumb to scandal fatigue as a psychological survival strategy.

When it comes to the internecine warfare at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, each changing of the White House guard makes it tempting to latch on to the idea that the adults have, at last, taken charge.

Scaramucci gave a generally lauded first press conference 10 days ago, air kisses to reporters and all, but then, boom! And Kelly comes into his new role as Trump’s chief of staff as a well-regarded former general with the disciplinary skills seemingly needed to lasso the whirlwind. But as Bloomberg View columnist Albert R. Hunt has noted, “It’s doubtful that all the warring White House factions, working for a president with few core beliefs, lend themselves to a chain-of-command structure.”

Chaos and collapse can also play out over long stretches in Trumplandia. Trump ran a promising and lucrative casino business into the ground over a numbingly long period of about 25 years, extracting piles of money and perks for himself. Along the way, he left investors, vendors, employees — and Atlantic City, New Jersey — in the lurch. Trump also cycled through a long line of casino executives, managers and partners, none of whom altered his modus operandi: extraction.

So the Anthony Scaramuccis, Roger Stones, Marc Kasowitzes, Kellyanne Conways, Sean Spicers, Reince Preibuses, Corey Lewandowskis, Paul Manaforts and Stephen Millers of the world will come and go, taking turns sharing the stage with the White House’s only star, and doing their best to support his guerrilla sensibility. But they, like all Trump advisers, are interchangeable, apt to be jettisoned if they forget to put the boss first — or to kid themselves that his presidency is about anything other than extraction.

A rotating cast of advisers means that Trump will always set the tone, pace and agenda of his administration. So buckle up, America, because the president is just getting started.

Letter: The troubling truth about sex crimes in Idaho

The Sexual Violence in Idaho report recently released by the Idaho State Police reflects the truths the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence hears from survivors of sexual assault across Idaho. Survivors often choose not to report to the criminal justice system for numerous reasons, such as justifiable fear of not being believed, of others finding out, and that reporting will not increase their safety or emotional well-being.

When individuals do report, they are often faced with a system which reflects our culture’s biases and discrimination. Women, girls, individuals who are gender nonconforming, especially those from marginalized communities (individuals with disabilities, individuals marginalized by their racial or ethnic identities and individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) who report sexual assault are often met with a system that is doubtful or suspicious.

Here in Idaho, according to the report and reflective the Idaho Coalition’s experiences, approximately 19 percent of reported rapes result in an arrest, only 15 percent have a case filed, and only 4 percent result in a sex crime conviction. We must change this long-standing trend. We must begin to change the way our criminal justice system responds though the provision of training that addresses biases, and discrimination toward individuals who experience sexual assault. We must develop trauma-informed policies for our responders. We must continue to reexamine current Idaho sexual assault statutes to ensure they are reflective of current evidence.

We must continue to lift up the voices of the thousands of girls, women and individuals who are gender nonconforming who experience sexual assault in Idaho. We must support individuals who experience sexual assault through the dedication of our time and talents to organizations that work to end sexual violence. We must listen to and believe and support survivors through our words and actions.

Jennifer Landhuis


Idaho View: Tommy veers to the right; Raul takes the bait

This appeared in the Lewiston Tribune:

Judging from the forum among Idaho’s GOP gubernatorial candidates July 21 in Coeur d’Alene, Boise developer Tommy Ahlquist is altering his public image and running hard to the right.

Congressman Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, is taking the bait.

And if you look closely, you just might see a slight grin emerging across Lt. Gov. Brad Little’s face.

That’s not how things were shaping up just a few months ago.

With former state Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, opting to run for the 1st District House seat instead of governor, the path was clear for Labrador to claim the lion’s share of the GOP’s conservative base.

The polls created that impression. Last April, the Idaho Freedom Foundation put Labrador’s support at 39 percent vs. 7 percent for Fulcher. Against that was Little’s 27 percent and Ahlquist at 2 percent.

The following month, pollster Dan Jones and Associates gave Labrador 22 percent of the GOP vote, Little 18 percent and Ahlquist 8 percent. The poll did not mention Fulcher.

In spite of never having sought elective office before, Ahlquist’s background would seem to define him as a moderate. He’s a Boise developer. He gave $5,000 to A.J. Balukoff’s 2014 Democratic campaign against Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. He’s had nice things to say about Boise Mayor David Bieter, who is a former Democratic legislator. Until recently, Ahlquist has not been particularly active in GOP primary politics.

So there was the expectation that he’d be competing for Little’s center-right establishment base.

Nothing doing.

Between taking a hard stance against same-sex marriage and pledging to find $100 million worth of bloat in Idaho’s budget, Ahlquist is mining votes from Labrador’s wing of the party.

In Coeur d’Alene last weekend, Labrador fired back: “I’d like to welcome Tommy to the Republican Party.”

They debated:

President Donald Trump. Ahlquist said he was more like Trump because he was running as a political outsider.

Labrador pointed out he knew Trump, that he campaigned for Trump and that Trump was a friend of his.

Tax cuts. Between Ahlquist and Labrador, the only question was how deep and how fast. Taxes needed to be “sliced and diced,” Ahlquist said. A former state lawmaker, Labrador said he was for tax cuts before tax cuts were cool, and that he would cut income taxes to a 5 percent uniform rate.

Only Little was restrained, saying this issue is more complicated than comparing one state’s tax rate with another’s.

Education. Ahlquist and Labrador bemoaned the current state of public schools; Little argued many times teachers are expected to compensate for “the condition of the kids when they show up.”

What’s going on here?

Theory No. 1—There’s a batch of conservative Mormon voters in eastern Idaho who are up for grabs between Ahlquist and Labrador. Both are members of the Mormon church.

Theory No. 2—There’s not much opportunity to convert members of Little’s establishment wing. He has deep roots with agriculture and the state’s business lobby. He’s been Otter’s loyal second in command. And Little’s slice of the GOP electorate may be more robust than the polls suggest.

Theory No. 3—After a career that includes service in the Senate and as lieutenant governor, Little knows the nooks and crannies of state government; Labrador and Ahlquist prefer to argue philosophy among themselves rather than debate details with him.

Theory No. 4—Ahlquist’s political consultants are handing him this simple advice: It’s a Republican primary, dummy. If you want to win, pivot as far to the right as you can get.

Either way, you can’t deny Ahlquist’s strategy—or the fact Labrador is taking it seriously.