A CONVERSATION WITH WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF REINCE PRIEBUS, WHO, IT TURNS OUT, UNFORTUNATELY FOR HIM, DOESN’T REALLY KNOW WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT

2017 February 13

 

Q.

Of course. Thank you for having me. I anticipate this’ll be a very fun interview. I’ve been looking forward to it all week.

Q.

Like I said, I’ve been anticipating all week that this’d be a very fun, non-serious interview, so if you could ask me very fun, non-serious questions, that’d just be great.

Q.

Maybe you didn’t hear me the first two times.

Q.

I’m pretty sure I’ve always done my hair like this. In what you call this “sleazy and creepy slicked-back 80’s style.” I’m definitely not trying to look like one of Mr. Trump’s sons, in the hopes that maybe Mr. Trump might confuse me for one and thereby maybe appreciate me.

Q.

Well, your hair looks dumb, too.

Q.

No, I disagree with all of that. Especially the part about how if everyone in the Trump White House were an animal I’d be a scared and ragged dog with its tail between its legs. I like to think I’m more like a cougar with its claws out. And like blood all on its jowls.

Q.

I most certainly do not have self-identity issues.

Q.

Can we please, please, please get to the fun, exciting questions? Like about how Kevin James is a phenomenal actor, and “La La Land” is a shit movie, and how Mr. Trump is basically a Super Bowl champion because of his incredibly close and real relationships with so many of the New England Patriots? And that that also makes him a true American patriot, with a lower-case P?

Q.

You’re really just going to press me on this stuff, aren’t you? Fine. But I’m warning you: You may not like the answers you get. Or maybe you will. I don’t know. No one really talks to me anymore.

Q.

About that first part? Forget I said anything. No, wait, don’t. I need to flash my cougar claws. OK. You can do this. What I meant was you liberal elites all hate everything we humble and rational conservatives say. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’ll just be making shit up. Which I definitely won’t be doing. But of course you’ll accuse me of doing it. It’s just the woeful world we live in, now, I guess. Now, if you want to ask a real question?

Q.

Mr. Trump’s fans simply love the fact that he communicates directly to them via Twitter. It’s just so refreshing. So it’s not a problem, his use of the platform.

Q.

Well, yes, that’s a problem. Trying to get official Republican policy to line up properly with his seemingly random Twitter promises. Trying to make good on those promises without basically destroying the whole damn system. But that’s like the extent of what’s problematic about it.

Q.

Yes, I suppose endorsing certain businesses and condemning others is an issue as well. But it’s only an issue because you say it is. If you didn’t say it was, then it wouldn’t be one. You see what I’m saying? Plus, Mr. Trump’s fans don’t mind all that stuff.

Q.

There are more than just a handful of “toothless ignoramuses,” I assure you.

Q.

What they find so reassuring is that he’s not acting like a standard politician. I mean, that’s what this whole election — an election I’m told to tell you he won in a landslide, I should add — what it was all about. Upending the political norms. Doing away with the establishment. Taking the politicians out of politics. And the politics out of politics, for that matter. Showing what happens when a real, genuine, down-to-earth billionaire is in charge of whatever branch of government it is we’re in.

Q.

You’re really dense, aren’t you? Here’s the simple way to look at it. Politicians are always focusing on political things. Policy. Law. Keeping good international relationships going. That stuff’s all boring, though. There’s no excitement to it. The people in middle America — Mr. Trump’s supporters — they want more excitement in their politics. Mr. Trump brings that. He ignores the boring policy and focuses on more exciting things, like whether Nordstrom is being mean to his daughter, or whether Mark Cuban is intelligent. The answers to those questions are yes and no, respectively, by the way.

Q.

I can see how you’d think that, with how I was the R.N.C. chair and all that, but I say this in all seriousness, I’ve always been looking to upset the establishment. I’m an outsider to my core, just like Mr. Trump. I merely posed as a weak insider so I could get on the inside and then upset the system as a dominant and territorial outsider.

Q.

I said before that I resent the tail-between-the-legs image and I won’t comment further on it.

Q.

Um. Well. I don’t pretend to know exactly what’s going through Mr. Trump’s mind when he says these things. About judges not being judges and the like. So I won’t speak for him, regarding that.

Q.

Please, reference the answer I just gave you, regarding that.

Q.

Sure. Of course I see him. All the time. And we talk about these things like, all day long. For so many hours. In fact, I could totally give you incredibly intelligent and insightful answers to your questions, but I’m choosing not to. Because you’re being really, really mean.

Q.

Just. Don’t pay attention to the nervous sounds I’m making. I make them all the time, even though I’m also very cool and chic. Which you can tell because of my hair.

Q.

I’m qualified for this job because I was involved in politics as R.N.C. chair and I’m still involved in politics now. It’s that simple. No other qualifications are necessary. I’m not in over my head. I’m certainly not “drowning in an incredibly violent and sad and public way.”

Q.

No, I’m not jealous of Steve. I mean, yeah, I’m concerned he’s in the president’s ear a whole lot more than I am, but that’s just because I’m so busy with stuff that generally occurs in rooms the president isn’t in.

Q.

No. Absolutely not. That’s just a rumor. I did not just confirm that I get locked in a dark room when Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon are in a meeting, and that those meetings are actually them just laughing at me and making fun of me through the door, and that when I finally come out of the dark room all shaken and bewildered they shoot me with silly string or poor buckets of ice-cold water on me and then retreat back into the Oval Office laughing hysterically. None of that happens.

Q.

I’m not crying.

Q.

No, I have my own tissues, thanks. These have aloe in them, so they’re especially good for clearing puffy red eyes, which I definitely do not have right now. Nor do I ever have them.

Q.

Sure, maybe the power structure in the White House is a little unorthodox. But that’s the way Mr. Trump likes it. It’s not chaotic, even if it seems chaotic, or even if people with high-level White House access are using the word chaotic.

Q.

I don’t think you should be talking to someone more qualified instead. And I’d prefer you didn’t say that in the middle of what’s turning out to be a not-so-very-fun interview.

Q.

What do you mean you’ve had enough of this shit?

Q.

Oh, it’s over? Huh. That was easy. A total breeze. Think I’ve shown I’m pretty darn qualified for this job, don’t you think? Where are you running off to so fast? Hey! Wait!

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