I’ve been waiting all week to extract myself from the national horror show and get back to writing about food, films, and books. Last night M and I slipped out to Bastille Café and Bar, one of our favorite places, for a happy hour treat. We took two seats at the round high-top community table in the bar, ordered a carafe of Provencal rose’ and launched into a debrief of this week’s political scandals and alternative facts.
The Friday after work crowd was just arriving, the atmosphere cozy, and the staff upbeat and welcoming. Just what we were looking for. We took our time but eventually got around to ordering a special Romaine salad and an order of mussels, frites and truffle aioli while warming ourselves in front of the small fire pit in the center of the table.
Bastille is a classic-style French bistro where it’s not unusual to share a table with other patrons. While we were enjoying our happy hour, two women came in separately and sat at the high top with us but didn’t engage except to say hello. They were both involved with their phones anyway and we continued our conversation. M and I noted how comfortable the two women were coming in alone, ordering glasses of wine, and unwinding from their day at work. Liberated. Very civilized.
Full of wine and frites, we paid the bill and drove home. I was planning to begin writing about Bruce Springsteen’s recent autobiography – a distraction from the swirling political madness that’s dominating the news. I’m a big fan of Springsteen’s music and the earthy, working man’s aura that surrounds him, and last week I read an interesting review of the autobiography in the London Review of Books. That’s where I was planning to start.
But… when we got home, several “notifications” popped up on my phone at the same time.
One of them was from Slate.com who posted the following:
“Donald Trump isn’t accustomed to hearing prospective underlings say “No.” So it came as a shock when retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward—his first choice to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser—told the president he’d have to think about the offer. It must have been a double shock when, a few days later, Harward turned him down flat.
CNN quoted one of Harward’s friends saying that, in mulling over the decision, he was persuaded most of all by the sheer dysfunction of Trump’s presidency, describing the job he was offered as ‘a shit sandwich.’”
Unbelievable… or is it?
I was hopeful when I learned that Admiral Harward was Trump’s choice as Flynn’s replacement. I was even more heartened when I learned he had been offered the job. He has impeccable credentials – Navy Seal Team commander, Deputy Chief of Central Command, as well as being a close friend and colleague of James Mattis, the newly confirmed Secretary of Defense.
The announcement came, but the small print told us that said he was “considering” the job and negotiating its terms. Red Flag moment. I was still hopeful, but wary. It’s highly unusual to announce a high government position has been offered without knowing there will be an acceptance. Was there a problem?
Rumors were circulating last week that Harward’s friend, Mattis, was unhappy about his staff support, and it’s reasonable to assume he cautioned his friend to get assurances from the Trumpers that he wouldn’t have the same problem if he took the NSC job.
I was reassured. I knew the guy was serious, and the negotiations established that he wasn’t going to take the job without assurances that he could do it the way he wanted with the staff he needed. He was my white knight riding into Bannon’s bailiwick with the ordnance to defend himself and do the job properly. He would bring experience, knowledge, and rationality back into the National Security Council, and his demands might even include disbanding Bannon’s recently created parallel unit, the Strategic Initiatives Group, (several right-wing zealots) within the NSC.
Last night’s notifications delivered the bad news. Harward declined the job. The Trump team was unwilling to let him choose his own team, preferring to retain General Flynn’s staff, including former Fox News commentator K.T.(Kathleen) McFarland, a Trump favorite. Chalk up another win for the Trump/Bannon cabal and another setback for the rest of us.
No sale. Shit sandwich.