Jeeves would be appalled by the lack of discretion.
Thursday was a pretty good day for Donald Trump—he swept into Washington for his meetings with Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders, and left town with a conciliatory statement from Ryan, a downright cordial one from Senator Lindsey Graham (who once compared nominating him to being shot), and warm statements from others.
Yet some of the attention for those meetings is being stolen by a series of appallingly racist comments made on Facebook by Trump’s longtime butler at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Anthony Senecal. Here’s a sample, caught by Mother Jones (and apparently since deleted):
To all my friends on FB, just a short note to you on our pus headed "president" !!!! This character who I refer to as zero (0) should have been taken out by our military and shot as an enemy agent in his first term !!!!! Instead he still remains in office doing every thing he can to gut the America we all know and love !!!!! Now comes Donald J Trump to put an end to the corruption in government !!!!
In addition to calling for the military to stage a coup and execute Obama, he also called for lynching the president:
I feel it is time for the SECOND AMERICAN REVOLUTION !!!!! The only way we will change this crooked government is to douche it !!!!! This might be the time with this kenyan fraud in power !!!!! ...[W]ith the last breath I draw I will help rid this America of the scum infested in its government--and if that means dragging that ball less dick head from the white mosque and hanging his scrawny ass from the portico--count me in !!!!!
David Corn has some more examples. Even if the posts have been deleted, Senecal didn’t deny them. In fact, he expanded on them to NBC’s Alex Jaffe:
In intvu w @ajjaffe, Trump's butler calls for Obama to be "hung from the portico of the White Mosque," calls Obama daughters "rent-a-kids"— Beth Fouhy (@bfouhy) May 12, 2016
(What does “rent-a-kids” even mean?)
Senecal’s statements should inspire, in addition to a million “Clue” jokes, a few questions about Trump. The two men are close—a New York Times profile in March missed the racism but did capture the tightness of Senecal’s relationship with the entertainer, for whom he’s worked since 1985. (Senecal say he’s been at Mar-a-Lago since about 1959.)
- Who’s lying about Anthony Senecal? Trump’s campaign, in response to the revelation of Senecal’s Facebook posts, disavowed them and said that he had not worked for Trump for years. But Senecal told both Mother Jones and the Times—whose reporter, Jason Horowitz, roamed the grounds at Mar-a-Lago with him—that he continued to work there. Senecal says Trump specifically asked him to stay on staff as a historian-in-residence, even as he retired from butler duties. Someone’s not telling the truth, and Trump’s campaign is the more obvious culprit. Which brings up the next point:
- What kind of populist has a butler? OK, this one actually isn’t that tough a question. FDR was wealthy, too! For Trump, his wealth and implausible Horatio Alger self-image make him an aspirational figure for many supporters, rather than a symbol of elitist entitlement. Still, there’s something rich (pardon the phrase) about the fact that, as Olivia Nuzzi put it, “Romney's car elevator made him unelectable in 2012 but Trump's psychotic racist butler is just another Thursday in 2016.”
- When exactly will Trump start hiring the best people? Trump’s answer to many staffing questions is that he’ll hire the best people. It’s his answer to why his administration will work so much better than previous ones, and it’s his answer to why voters needn’t worry about his lack of experience in government, defense, foreign policy, economic policy, etc. When, precisely, does he expect to start doing that? The fact that Senecal has been such a longtime, trusted employee ought not to fill anyone with confidence. And his comments follow, for example, the saga over campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbing and manhandling a reporter, then lying about it despite video evidence.
- Why did Trump manage to denounce Senecal so much faster than David Duke? Remember when former KKK leader David Duke voiced his support for Trump back in February, Trump initially played dumb. “Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke,” he told Jake Tapper. “OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know.” That was implausible—he’d criticized Duke as far back as the 1990s—and he of course reversed himself eventually, blaming (again, implausibly) an earpiece problem. Now comes the case of Senecal, when Trump’s campaign issued a statement quickly, saying, “Tony Senecal has not worked at Mar-a-Lago for years, but nevertheless we totally and completely disavow the horrible statements made by him.” Trump noted he had never met Duke; not so with Senecal. Perhaps the faster response is evidence that Trump really is changing his approach, and pivoting toward the general election. However ...
- What’s up with all the racists who support Trump’s campaign? One needn’t accuse Trump of bigotry—though there’s ample evidence to do so—to be perturbed by the number of people with repellent views who are ardent Trump backers. Meanwhile, minority voters hold overwhelmingly unfavorable views of Trump, for some reason. Does this perturb the Trump campaign?
Will any of this hurt Trump? Past experience says no—he seems to just keep rolling, though it’s true that open white supremacy and calls for the president’s death tend to turn off even the most forbearing ally. Trump has managed to shift expectations so far that the revelation of comments such as these seem like simply the latest in a parade of inanities (which they are), rather than a shocking shift away from normal (which they also are). All in all, it’s an embarrassing situation for the Trump campaign. Senecal told the Times that Trump’s mood could be reliably gauged by the color of his hat—red meaning ornery, white meaning pleasant. It’s a good bet that Trump will be donning the red cap this evening.