Oh, the games the Donfather is playing. He does know how to take his pound of flesh.
With Mitt Romney, for instance, he’s extracting a ton. Donny the Avenger, who seems to be motivated by grudges, has been able to humiliate Mitt by making him grovel for the secretary-of-state job. And that was after he sent out his stalking horse Kellyanne Conway to say that making Mitt Romney his chief steward of foreign policy would be a “betrayal.” Newt Gingrich, a stalking something else, ridiculed Romney for “sucking up.” Their assignments from the boss seem to be in the rubbing-salt-into-Romney’s-wounds category. Of course, the wounds are the self-inflicted kind.
Back when Mittens believed that Hillary Clinton had things sewn up, he seemed to calculate that he might satisfy his ambitions by currying favor with Hillary. So he showered Donald Trump with nasty insults, calling Trump “a phony and a fake” as well as “a con man and a fraud.” Legendary House Speaker Sam Rayburn used to say, “Don’t get mad, get even.” Don Trump feels a need to get mad AND get even. Lucky Mitt.
Actually, Trump has surrounded himself with people who believe in two eyes for an eye. Take Chris Christie: He was living large as an early Don Trump supporter. But that’s before Trump’s son-in-law and Donald-whisperer Jared Kushner chimed in. Kushner’s father was sent to prison. His prosecutor in New Jersey at the time was, you guessed it, U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. Exit Chris Christie.
Christie himself is no slouch when it comes to vendettas. Need I mention Bridgegate, where traffic was ground to a halt because the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee refused to endorse Christie’s re-election as governor? Gov. Christie did win, and his people retaliated against Fort Lee’s mayor by jamming the town’s commuter access to the George Washington Bridge. To this day, Chris Christie denies that he knew anything about the action of his aides, but there are strong indications that he’s lying.
In any case, he seems to be toast. And while we have all been focusing on the intrigue involving the secretary of state, the newly elected chief executive has been filling out the top levels of his presidency with some genuine hard-liners who make it clear they have every intention of blowing things up. There’s Betsy DeVos, who is nominated to be education secretary. The problem is that she’s a virulent opponent of the traditional public-school system. None of her children got anywhere near one, and she’s made it clear that nobody’s children will if she has her way.
Then there’s Tom Price, current congressman and soon-to-be health and human services secretary, assuming he survives Senate confirmation. Price is a third-generation doctor who has been one of his party’s most outspoken foes of Obamacare. Unfortunately, he also wants to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid. He’s a tea partyer through and through, which will put most of the constituencies that rely on HHS to administer their social programs into panic mode. Price and DeVos will be exacting their own revenge.
And speaking of Trump’s revenge (not to be confused with Montezuma’s) Don, through Conway, is suggesting that if Hillary Clinton’s campaign persists in supporting the Green Party recount, then maybe he’ll have to revisit his on-again, off-again threat to prosecute her, even though no specific crimes are mentioned and even though the Justice Department, which would lead the investigation, is supposed to be independent.
The Donfather also is getting revenge on all of us, using Sarah Palin as his weapon. His people have now floated her name to head the Veterans Affairs Department. It’s aimed at getting the hated media breathless over something absolutely ridiculous. And sure enough, we are.
His vengeance game is getting ridiculously obvious. Revenge is supposed to sweet, but if it’s the only motivation for those in government, it can cause a huge amount of bitterness.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.