As the world seems consumed by all things Ukraine, it’s time once again to dust off the ever-popular, evergreen headline: Rudy, Rudy, Rudy.
As in, what happened to the nation’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani? He held so much promise. He was the prosecutor and leader who cleaned up New York City. He was the man of the hour after the 9/11 terrorists left Manhattan smothered in toxic ash and shocked into disbelief.
Lately? He’s been behaving a bit thuggishly, frankly, more closely resembling the crooks he prosecuted than the quick-witted, intensely likable agent of change. Where have you gone, dear Rudy?
While we’re at it, what happened to Lindsey? As in Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, once widely beloved for his penchant for truth couched in humor. For the past couple of years, he has defended the president with a rare passion that erases memory of the man who once, truthfully, tweeted that The Donald was “not fit to be president.”
Credit Graham, at least, for calling Trump on the “worst mistake of his presidency”: opening the gate for Turkey to invade Syria and attack Kurdish forces who helped the U.S. defeat the Islamic State. But if you want to ruin your reputation, your career and possibly your life, Trump World might have some use for you. No one who enters Trump’s orbit leaves unscathed.
We lack a sufficient number of digits to list all who’ve come and gone — sometimes to federal prison. Although turnover in any White House is relatively high, given the stress and demands of the job, officials are exiting this administration much sooner than the norm.
Some have cited irreconcilable differences (former Defense Secretary James Mattis); others have left early enough to preserve future options, though only a couple come to mind — former press secretary Sarah Sanders and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, whose next political move is subject to rampant speculation. And like Graham, while Haley has largely remained supportive of Trump, she issued biting criticism last week about Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds.
Still others have simply been tossed under the proverbial bus idling on Pennsylvania Avenue, awaiting the next victim who otherwise would be known as a person Trump used to like but now can hardly remember his name. One-time lawyer Michael Cohen springs to mind. Who? He did only “small deals” and was “not somebody that was with me that much,” Trump said of the man who paid $130,000 in hush money to porn-star Stormy Daniels. Remember Cohen? Trump, not so much. “He wasn’t a very good lawyer, frankly,” he has said.
Many West Wingers have been reduced to such shame and infamy that departure was the only option. But for some, shameless is the better descriptor. As in former press secretary Sean Spicer — recently all gussied up in white pants and a chartreuse, puffy-sleeved shirt so garish that it hurt one’s eyes to watch him on “Dancing with the Stars,” the ultimate dead-end junket for the serially embarrassed.
One can only wonder what lies ahead for Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, now that a campaign finance scandal has materialized involving two of his “associates,” who were arrested last Wednesday evening as they tried to leave the country with one-way airline tickets. The two American citizens allegedly had raised foreign money and then made a large donation to a Trump super PAC, which prompted a Federal Election Commission complaint.
Poor Rudy. Depending on how things go and what we learn in the next few days or weeks, Giuliani could become “that guy from New York, who wasn’t even a very good mayor.”
As for Graham, he’s sticking around for now. Never mind what he said about impeachment back in the Clinton days. That was about lying under oath and refusing to cooperate with an inquiry, after all. Trump lies no matter what. See the difference? The word around here, besides, is that Graham has snuggled up to Trump enough to guarantee his Senate reelection come 2020, and now can risk a little criticism.
There’s an obvious advantage to being a senator rather than a hired hand. But, as one Southerner to another, Sen. Graham, I wouldn’t look back next time you leave the White House. Like Lot’s wife in the Book of Genesis, you might turn into a pillar of salt.
Parker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.