As an unpopular charlatan prepares to place his hand on a Bible (of all things) with the lowest-ever approval rating for an incoming president, and as we gird ourselves for what is likely to be the darkest era since Vietnam, we in the voting majority are grateful for whatever small victories cross our radar.
So thank you, Monica Crowley.
At least somebody is deemed too sleazy to splash in Trump’s swamp. His motley nominees are already infamous for their flagrant abuse of ethical norms, so it’s nice to know that at least some kind of aberrant behavior — in Crowley’s case, shameless plagiarizing of other people’s work — is considered beyond the pale. It’s even unacceptable to our new leader, who set a low standard in his business life by refusing to pay people for their work.
Granted, the announcement this week that Crowley, a Fox News talking head, will not be appointed to the job for which she was manifestly unqualified — senior director of strategic communications on the National Security Council — still leaves the Trump swamp replete with creatures.
– Congressman Tom Price, the Health nominee, bought stock in at least two companies that stood to gain financially from legislation he subsequently sponsored or voted for.
– Rex Tillerson, the State nominee, is an Exxon lifer whose friendly ‘tude toward Vladimir Putin has been good for Exxon.
– Betsy DeVos, the billionaire Education nominee, has major investments in companies that stand to gain financially from her education policies, and she had a Senate hearing last night without first completing an ethics report on how she plans to avoid conflicts of interest.
– Andy Pudzer, the Labor nominee, whose ex-wife accused him of domestic violence acts during their marriage.
– Reed Cordish, a new White House adviser who doesn’t need a Senate OK, is being sued in a class action racial discrimination case.
Jeff Sessions… Steve Bannon.. You get the picture.
But hey, we’ll always have Monica Crowley — who, by the way, was brought down by a free and independent press. This narrative has been nearly lost in the cacophony of the past few weeks, but it deserves its noble moment because it shows that the Trump regime is not totally immune to the forces of accountability.
It all began earlier this month, when she was thoroughly busted by CNN for stealing other people’s work — word for word, phrase for phrase — while writing a 2012 book titled “What the (Bleep) Just Happened.” Politico and CNN Money found more examples of her stealing other people’s work while writing her 2000 Ph.D. dissertation.
Naturally, the Trump camp’s first impulse was to lash out at the press: “Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country.”
For a few days, Trump clung to the fig leaf of HarperCollins, the publisher of Crowley’s book. The HarperCollins folks initially stood by Crowley, and Trump’s flacks duly hailed them as “the largest and most respected publishers in the world.” But that all changed when HarperCollins assessed the press’ revelations and announced, effective immediately, that Crowley’s book “will no longer be offered for purchase until such time as the author has the opportunity to source and revise the material.”
This was too much even for Trump. Without nary a single rant or tweet — about “fake news” or the “dishonest media” or whatever — Crowley was ejected from the swamp. Earlier this week, she declared her sudden disinterest in joining the National Security Council, “after much reflection.”
So put your hands together for a vigilant press. Savor this small victory, which at least shows us that not all ethical norms are dead. Problem is, it still leaves us with a swamp that will not be drained. And to best describe that swamp, I will update the infamous phrasings of our Leader:
Republicans are not sending us their best. Some are Russian doormats. Some are sleazebags. Some are racists. And some, I assume, are good people.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.