Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: Trump turns his lonely eyes to John Barron

There's a theory in the sports world that great players make bad managers and coaches. The reasons are two-fold:

1.) You can't teach genius. Hank Aaron can't teach someone how to hit 755 home runs; Michael Jordan can't teach a 48-inch vertical leap. God-given talents of that magnitude can't be passed onto mere mortals.

2.) Great athletes, especially those who rely more on talent than hard work, can't appreciate how tough the game can be for their less talented underlings. So as coaches, they get frustrated sitting on the sidelines, watching others fail at something that they themselves do so naturally.

That dynamic also plays out in fields that have little to do with sports, for example inside the Trump White House.  President Trump, celebrated around the world as the greatest, most naturally talented liar of his generation, has had to sit and watch as his communications team struggles to sell even the most basic of falsehoods and fictions, and the incompetence of his own people is clearly chafing at him.

In the immortal words of Casey Stengel, "Can't anybody here play this game?"

And it's unfair, really. Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, KellyAnne Conway, even Vice President Pence -- you can tell that they're trying really really hard. It's just that none of them, not even the gifted Conway, can match their boss for shamelessness or ingenuity.

While Trump has the ability to tell indefensible lies, mere mortals such as Spicer and Sanders can handle only the defensible variety. Trump is endlessly creative, making leaps of logic that others would never envision let alone dare to attempt. Others worry about keeping their stories straight; Trump knows that keeping your stories straight is for amateurs. He does not feel bound by what he said yesterday or last week or five minutes ago; in his hands, reality becomes whatever he needs it to be, right then, and that's a level of mastery that only the greatest of liars ever achieve.

How can the likes of Spicer compete with that? He can't, which is why rumors are rampant that he could get fired at any moment.  Last week, the White House also balked at allowing surrogates to appear on the Sunday news shows, apparently out of fear that they just aren't up for the scale of magical lying that the times demand.

Meanwhile, Trump himself has been everywhere. In an interview late last week with Jeanine Pirro of Fox, he even revealed that he might cancel daily press briefings in favor of a whole new format. As he explained the concept to Pirro, "We don't do press conferences. We just don't have them. Unless I have them every two weeks and I do it myself, we won't have them. I think it's a good idea."

A good idea, but not a new idea. You may remember that back in the '80s and '90s, when Trump needed someone to brag to the New York papers about his many playboy conquests, he handed the job to a pair of previously unknown publicists named John Miller and John Barron. Both men were so closely attuned to Trump's thinking that they sounded just like him. It was flat-out uncanny. They never had to worry that Trump would undercut them, and somehow they knew exactly what Trump would say in every situation. And since they worked exclusively by telephone, no one to this day knows what the two men look like or even what happened to them.

We do know that in Trump's eyes, they alone had talents comparable to his own; he never seemed to get mad at them or feel it necessary to question their loyalty. They were people whom he could trust, and he has never found anyone capable of replacing them.

Until they perfect human cloning, he never will.




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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.