Meet the Fiery Corporate Raider Who’s the New Special Advisor to the President


Republicans needn’t fear that Carl Icahn’s departure from the Trump administration means it’s no longer the richest ever. For not only has Trump self-dealt so much he doesn’t need billionaires to boost net-worth anymore, but his new Special Advisor isn’t any poorer than Mr. Icahn. (So maybe he still does?)

Vast wealth, or at least its appearance, is so necessary for entry to this White House that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s pearls double as her identification at security. Of course, the new Special Advisor doesn’t have this problem: unlike Ms. Sanders, he’s hard to mistake for a millionaire.

At a press conference to announce the appointment, Mr. Trump praised his new advisor as “a corporate raider who takes no prisoners,” who “doesn’t tolerate little people” (presumably, the managers of raided corporations). Adding that “very good books have been written about his takeovers,” Mr. Trump directed the press to read—then, more characteristically, asked them to watch the “huge blockbusters” —that chronicle his friend’s raid on the mining conglomerate Erebor Inc.

When pressed to defend that controversial takeover, which saw the now Special Advisor violently seize (only to later lose) a veritable mountain of ancestral assets to its rightful heirs, Mr. Trump demurred.

“No one, let me say it again for you monkeys, no one has sat on more gold for longer than my very good friend. Not me, when I’m on the toilet. Not Melania, when she’s crying on the floor at Mar-o-Lago. Not Barron—and he’s been in a gilt bassinet for eleven years.”

When asked about his new advisor’s not entirely successful deals with “little people,” Mr. Trump returned, “Bilbo was a bad hombre: his riddles in the dark were so unfair, my guy stood no chance, and I think Frodo would tell you that.”

Early the next morning, Mr. Trump tweeted the following image and caption: “Watched new Special Advisor & very close friend roast not-funny no talent Stephen Colbert last night. Sad!”



On the Scarily Parallel Lives of Trump and Nero

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White House aides still hopeful that insight into the president’s behavior will salvage their careers best put down their DSM-5, their Freud, their Psychology for Dummies and pick up Suetonius’s Lives of the Caesars.

That’s because, were the Roman historian writing today, he could easily scrub his “Life of Nero” of its murders, perversions, and exaggerations and reissue the account left over as a “Life of the Donald.”

Editors might advise him to follow Plutarch and publish them as parallel lives, but Americans likely wouldn’t need him to.

For when he’d tell us that Nero, who fancied himself a musician, “treated his fellow [extertainers] as though they were his equals, and would fuss over them, pay court to them, and sometimes insult them,” we’d immediately think of Trump, asking us to pray, only days after his inauguration, for Arnold’s ratings, or to condemn Meryl for her Oscars insult, or to commend Kanye for his visit.

When Suetonius would note that Nero’s friendship or dislike “depended on how generously or how feebly [he was] applauded,” we’d remember that our president rails against the media only because it refuses to grovel, praises brutal dictators so long as they’ve complimented him. When he’d remind us that Nero “continued to make frequent appearances” onstage years ahead of schedule, we’d recall how Trump continues to rally on the campaign trail even as 2020 seems ages away.

We’d update Suetonius on Trump’s latest attempt to erase the Obama presidency, and he’d relate how Nero, “to destroy every trace” of his predecessors, “ordered all their statues and busts taken down.” We’d lament how reality television put Trump in office, and he’d remind us that two millennia earlier Nero realized it was good politics for “the common people to watch him” exercise, drive, wrestle.

We might even mention Trump’s threats of “fire and fury,” and then Suetonius would look at us disconcertedly, and remind us of what we all already know about Nero—that under him, Rome burned.


“The Burning of Rome” (J.M.W. Turner, 1834)

On What Louise Linton Has ‘Given’ Us

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It’s a shame Louise Linton, wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, spent only one day in “#Kentucky,” as a longer stay with America’s “#nicest #people” might’ve made her a little more like them. (Though her Instagram comments [see above] suggest not even a lifetime of coal mining, black lung, and falling behind would’ve had that effect).

To be fair, Ms. Linton’s outburst came after a long day of arduous, unpaid state labor. After posing with $200 billion in gold (more than Mar-o-Lago’s interiors prepared her for), Ms. Linton had to surreptitiously crop out hubby’s (regrettably un-photogenic) face, even while shaking the hand (claw?) of a reptile she found 1) weirdly possessive of American treasure, 2) apparently home for summer (hibernation?), and 3) also possibly the Senate Majority leader (R-KY).

All this “#sacrifice,” after an acting career that has already “given” so much “to the economy”! (A glance at Ms. Linton’s IMDB page—which lists, Book-of-Martyrs-like, her sacrifices for such genre-defining films as “The Echo” (2008), “Intruder” (2016), and “Rules Don’t Apply” (2016)—leaves admirers of cinema wishing she had given less freely. The munificence of her husband, the “Foreclosure King” of southern California and benefactor of charity-blockbuster “Suicide Squad” [2016], is almost as sorely regretted by Hollywood’s homeless.)

Lest she end up a couture Jacob Marley, perpetually weighed down by the hashtag chain she forged in life (“#rolandmouret pants #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf #valentinorockstudheels”) and therefore unable to lecture sacrificially from 30,000 feet, Ms. Linton might do well to reflect on these words, from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!


On the Beauty of Steve Bannon’s Ugliness

White House Chief Strategist Bannon attends swearing in ceremony for new Supreme Court Associate Justice Gorsuch in  the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington

Before we celebrate Steve Bannon’s departure from the Trump administration, we might consider what we’ve lost in a man who happened to be as ugly as his ideology.

If you espouse white nationalism, which has burned, murdered, and terrorized to make hatred the law of the land, then being as physically repulsive as your ideology is morally repugnant is no small accomplishment.

But with his hobbit-at-an-AA-meeting face, serial-killer-before-he-axes-you eyes, and Jackson-Pollock age spots, Bannon manages this—miraculously, with ugliness to spare. Liberals trying to bury white nationalism in the ideological graveyard couldn’t have imagined a better public face (or, should I say, death mask) for the movement than Steve Bannon.

In the documentary “Blind Spot” (2003), Traudl Junge, Hitler’s secretary, recalls the effect the Führer—with his Charlie Chaplin mustache, military uniform, and manicured appearance—had on young German women, who would write him love letters by the thousands. It is hard to imagine even the most hardened alt-right ideologue, much less an apolitical teenage girl, sending Steve Bannon a love letter.

But this is unlikely to be the case for whoever replaces Bannon as the most visible white nationalist in American life. As many observed last week, those neo-Nazis who marched on Charlottesville, and whose images circulated widely—online, in print, on cable news— were unnervingly young, sporting polo shirts and finely cropped hair. While some of the older Nazis wore the typical black leather emblazoned with skulls and swastikas, the majority seemed to don their Sunday best.

In his tailored sport coat (with pocket square), loafers, and dress-pants, Richard Spencer, the 39-year-old neo-Nazi leader, looked like the white guy next-door—just more trim, better dressed, and more camera-ready. And that should frighten us.