Sycophancy isn't as easy as it looks.
Consider the White House. Stuffed with people who got picked for their jobs because they appeared to worship the ground Donald Trump walked on. And now they're getting trodden underfoot.
Farewell, Hope Hicks. How you doing, Sean Spicer? Jared Kushner is still hanging around — perhaps he doesn't mind having a lower security clearance than some of the government janitors. But really, it's only a matter of time before he has to go back to his private career of failing at real estate development.
And speaking of all-purpose humiliation, look at Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He was the first senator to endorse Trump for president. A man who has never passed up an opportunity to publicly fawn over the commander in chief.
Sessions has been in hot water pretty much since the moment he took over the job and then recused himself from any investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. This was based on the fact that when he was working on the Trump campaign he had contact with a Russian.
But the president was outraged! "Where's my Roy Cohn?" he demanded. It is possible that until then, Sessions didn't realize that his boss's ideal A.G. would be somebody whose career was highlighted by McCarthy witch hunts and concluded with a disbarment for unethical conduct.
Cohn was Trump's own personal lawyer during his New York club-crawling days, and it is definitely true that if he was now in charge of the Justice Department, the special prosecutor would be fired, kidnapped or tossed in a river with a cement bootee.
So you can see why the president is dissatisfied. And of all the stupid-to-terrifying things going on in the White House, one of the most depressing may be that Jeff Sessions is becoming a sympathetic figure.
Not that he hasn't kept trying to reingratiate himself. Remember that on-camera cabinet meeting in which Trump's appointees competed to see who could gush the most compliments in the shortest period of time? Sessions came in very near the top, assuring the president that the forces of law and order were "so thrilled" to have him in command.
But he still wasn't prepared to throw himself between Trump and the special prosecutor. The president got more and more hostile. This week, he was outraged when Sessions didn't personally investigate the Russia probe's relation to a Clinton campaign-financed dossier of potential Trump scandals. It was certainly what Roy Cohn would have done. But Sessions gave the job of inspecting the situation to the inspector general.
"DISGRACEFUL!" tweeted the president. In another angry posting the president referred to the A.G. as "Session," which suggested a certain emotional distance.
Then the spelling was revised. What do you think is going on with this Twitter account, people? On Friday morning Trump was ranting about Alec Baldwin, who he called "Alex Baldwin, whose dieing mediocre career was saved by his impersonation of me on SNL."
That predawn message, too, got quickly erased and reposted, with Baldwin's name and "dying" fixed. I used to think Trump was using voice dictation, but Siri knows how to spell.
Sessions responded that "as long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor." Since he communicated via a traditional press release rather than a Fox interview or social media rant, we may never know if the president saw it.
But Trump certainly noticed with displeasure that Sessions had failed to go away. Last week, at a meeting on school safety, the president carefully placed Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi between himself and his own A.G. Bondi has been a presidential favorite for a long time. Perhaps you remember that she refused to join in a multistate suit against Trump University, a decision which had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Donald had donated money to support her campaign.
Although Sessions was obviously the highest-ranking person in the room besides the president, it was Bondi Trump called upon to speak first, praising her as "a really tremendous attorney general." Sessions may have been a little hurt by having to wait his turn, but he nevertheless went on to burble some praise for the president's meeting with members of Congress on guns.
Trump doled out one mini-compliment about Sessions's work fighting immigrant gangs, then quickly changed the subject to a rant about the state of California. ("They have the highest taxes in the nation and they don't know what's happening out there. Frankly it's a disgrace.") Sessions, probably delighted to have somebody else called a disgrace, nodded supportively.
How long do you think he'll last? Well, he's made it clear he doesn't intend to go on his own volition, and despite the massive churn in the administration, most of the departed have resigned under their own power. Trump, who we're discovering is terrible at firing people, has actually canned only three — the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, the acting attorney general and the F.B.I. director.
Hmm, what do all those offices have in common?