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How long will Mark the Knife last?
Bob Franken
Bob Franken is an Emmy-winning, syndicated columnist. - photo by File photo

Forget March Madness brackets; the real gambling has to do with Trump Madness. The hottest bet of all: How long will Mark Meadows last as White House chief of staff?

Meadows, the right-wing congressman from North Carolina, is resigning and moving from the Capitol to the White House and replacing Mick Mulvaney, who had been the right-wing congressman from South Carolina before he joined the Trump team and ended up as acting chief of staff. “Mick the Knife” was Mulvaney’s nickname, because of his ruthless campaign to cut any federal expenditures that helped the poor, elderly, disabled or otherwise vulnerable. But now he’s been stabbed in the back by “Mark the Knife.” Meadows takes over as the fourth chief of staff that blunt instrument Donald Trump has had in the 38 months of his administration -- a record, by the way.

Actually, Mark Meadows is way more of a smooth talker than Mick Mulvaney, who had a bad habit of going off message when he spoke in public. History will remember Mulvaney as the one who admitted that Trump had been trying to squeeze the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and his immortal words “get over it.” 

Meadows doesn’t make mistakes like that. After all, he had taken the usual career track to the top of Trump’s world: He looked good on TV as he vigorously defended the Trumpster. He has always had plenty of material. 

Trump’s latest outrage involves his perennial habit of making things worse, this time during the coronavirus panic. He constantly contradicts the experts as they do their level best to combat an illness they don’t fully understand. Trump regularly makes it clear he doesn’t even comprehend what they don’t understand. He shoots off his mouth misstating facts, in a nutshell, acting like Donald Trump. Not that the experts are covering themselves in glory. 

It’s not at all reassuring when the best advice they can give is wash your hands a lot, replace handshakes with elbow bumps and don’t touch your face. In Washington, that last one is a real problem for all of the two-faced politicians. 

All we can really do is plan our staycations. The travel industry is taking a big hit. For that matter, the entire financial structure is teetering, so we probably can’t afford a trip this summer, when the kids are out of school. Of course, the kids might be out of school for an extended period of time and do classwork online. That’s fine for families that can afford computers or mobile devices and fine for those who can afford to feed their children. However, millions of the poor cannot, so the schools are the only places they get basic nutrition.

How do we deal with today’s gig economy where so many workers scratch out a living by going from one service job to the next? Most of them are uninsured, so how do they access whatever health care they need from the coronavirus or any other conditions? They cannot afford any quarantines, a worst case but plausible scenario.

The disruption scenarios boggle the mind, but President Trump assures us that the dreaded disease will just dissipate. Now he has a new chief of staff, who’s supposed to make it all better while his boss does what he does best — get in the way.


Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.





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