We do not have a word to describe the Trump White House - Macleans.ca

We do not have a word to describe the Trump White House

Scott Gilmore on the unprecedented combination of confusion, mayhem, incompetence and venality that can only be called Trumpian

U.S. President Donald Trump delivering remarks on agriculture at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S. June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Donald Trump delivering remarks on agriculture at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S. June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The English language is rich and beautiful and has a word for almost everything. That hole in the bottom of a hedge made by a small animal? We call that a smeuse. The sound made when we walk in wet shoes? That’s skorking. But even a language with over a quarter of a million words has its limits. For example, we do not have a word for what is occurring in the Trump White House.

Most journalists are saying it is chaos. This means “complete disorder and confusion”, and is derived from the Greek for “a gaping void”. The problem with using this word is that while it does capture the confusion, it belies the fact that there appears to be some sort of system behind it.

Take the firing of The Mooch today. Anthony Scaramucci was hand-picked by the president to “shake things up”. And this he did with impish zeal. The hapless press secretary Sean Spicer resigned immediately. Scaramucci badgered journalists, mocked colleagues, promised to “kill all the leakers”, and danced around the president like a hip-hop hype man.

This riot of posturing vulgarity was so effective it quickly sent White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus out the door right behind Spicer. The current Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, someone who the president was reportedly already lining up for the job a week earlier, instantly replaced Priebus. Perhaps not surprisingly, Kelly, being a former Marine general, decided the decks needed swabbing and had the Mooch escorted from the grounds on his first day.

Confusing? Absolutely. But not necessarily disordered. This is how Donald Trump manages people. There are many similar accounts from his time as the reality puppeteer on The Apprentice, and from his work inside the Trump business empire. The president is a man who likes to set one staff member against another, to create internal conflicts—a Darwinian approach to see who lasts longest. As Trump tweeted himself today, “No WH chaos!”, and for once I have to agree with him—this is not the right word.

What about “bedlam”? This is another fine term, meaning a scene of uproar and confusion. It is derived from the name of an old insane asylum in London, England. And it seems to fit. When you sit back and watch the president rant about Hillary Clinton at a Boy Scout jamboree, or go on an extended jag to a gathering of police officers about letting suspects bang their heads on the police car door, one can’t help but think there may be some mental health issues here. As my mother pointed out to me recently, if my father rambled on like the President of the United States, she would be very worried about the state of his faculties.

MORE: What Anthony Scaramucci’s rant says about the Trump White House

But these are not sudden bouts of madness. Trump is being Trump. Anyone who has paid any attention to him over the last decade knew where this was headed. Granted, the man is 71 years old. He is allowed a few absent-minded misunderstandings—misplacing his reading glasses, for example. But forgetting that private meeting with Putin at the G20? Or failing to remember the Republicans control both houses of Congress and it is therefore impossible to blame the Democrats for his legislative failures? This is not dementia, it’s a combination of simple ignorance and willful deceit.

The word “amok” could work. In the original Malay, it means “the act of going berserk in a homicidal frenzy”, and it described the oddly persistent cultural phenomena of people randomly snapping and racing through the streets swinging a machete at strangers. This is where the English phrase “running amok” originates.

But the Trump White House is not homicidal, and regardless of the left-wing caricatures of presidential advisor Steve Bannon, there is really none of that wide-eyed frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy you need for “amok” to truly apply. What’s more, the word implies a sudden outburst of violence and confusion, whereas what we are witnessing has been going on consistently for months.

The simple truth is we do not have an appropriate word to describe the unprecedented display of confusion, mayhem, incompetence, venality and ignorance that is the Trump presidency. Having never witnessed anything like this before, we are struggling to describe it; we literally lack the terminology. But, if at some point in the distant future a similar president is elected, we will at least know how to describe it. We will say he is Trumpian, and everyone will knowingly shudder in understanding.



We do not have a word to describe the Trump White House

  1. LOL How about FUBAR?

    • unfortunately that’s an acronym as is my choice SNAFU

      • I like another military term….Clusterf*ck. Somehow it just describes that first 6 months of Trump’s presidency so accurately.

  2. With Kelly now as Chief of Staff, The WH is going to run like a fine watch.
    I watched the CNN documentary “The Comeback Kid” about Bill Clinton’s reign. There was far more chaos in the WH his first year and he survived against a Republican House and Senate by adopting all the things the Republicans wanted to do-including a balanced budget.

    • Clinton’s early tenure was nowhere near this chaotic.

      There is no way Kelly will actually be able to make this White House run well, because the central problem is Trump himself. Trump is lazy, ignorant, and childlike in his whims and rages. No chief of staff can make him a competent president.

      • How can you possibly say someone who works 16 hours/day is lazy!! Having the 11 previous people who had direct access to Trump report now through Kelly will be a huge change and improvement. The former Chief of Staff had no idea what thoughts had been passed on to Trump. Trump will continue to Tweet since that has been key to communicating directly with those who elected him. The lefty media sure won’t do it-they’re still sucking their thumbs since he won. In spite of all the warts he clearly demonstrated during the campaign, he had a campaign message that got him elected. Clinton was viewed as just more of Obama without the charisma.
        Harvard completed a study on results achieved by Obama. The only notable one was a huge debt. Obama was charismatic and a good speaker but tied with Cater for last place in terms of accomplishments.

        • Where did you get your claim that Trump works 16 hours per day? He is often tweeting at 3 or 4 in the morning. He is out at rallies speaking during the day. He watches a lot of television as he tweets often about what he has seen and he is on evening news shows. When is this man sleeping? The brain can’t function well without adequate sleep….Sleep deprivation leads to poor decision making and impulsivity.

          • So you think communicating through tweets, rallies and being on news shows is not work!! By that measure, Obama did no work at all. He was on talk shows almost every day.

  3. Clinton survived by enacting criminal justice reforms that ending up sending several million young black men to jail in private for-profit prisons. Hillary was running around calling young black men super-predators. Clinton also also gutted welfare. He also bullied Brooksley Born out of the administration when she opposed the deregulation of derivatives and the repeal of Glass-Steagal, the Clinton banking reforms that pretty much caused and led to the global economic crisis. And no female intern in the White House was safe, and one was sexually assaulted (“Consent is impossible between in a workplace between a superior and their subordinate”).

    • The topic here is Donald Trump, not your endless wild attacks on Dems.

      • But they are so easy to attack!!

        • Gee Jerome, how many times have to mentioned that if Trump goes, Pence steps in? You’re subconsciously preparing yourself for the POTUS’ demise. If Trump does go under, it won’t be due to the behavior of anyone but Trump himself.

          • I’d be DELIGHTED to have Pence as President rather than Trump. The outstanding policy agenda would then get implemented much faster and without all the drama. The left wing MSM would wither and die. The sooner the better.

    • Funny you should bring up criminal justice. Did you happen to catch the speech made by the current POTUS wherein he basically encouraged law enforcement to physically abuse suspected criminals during arrest procedures. Does this POTUS not realize that under the constitution, in the country he is leading, a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law? What was really disturbing is that he provided directions on how they could carry out the abuse….by failing to protect the suspects’ heads while putting them into police cruisers. Bill Clinton hasn’t been the president for decades. Perhaps it is time to look at the present White House and try to put aside partisan loyalties. It should really worry anyone concerned with law and order that the current POTUS is blatantly unaware of the number of people who are wrongly sent to prison. He obviously doesn’t follow the successes of the Innocence Project in obtaining release for people who were wrongly arrested and convicted. If Trump did realize that not everyone who is arrested is guilty, he might not make glib suggestions on how police can increase the chances that those they take into custody will end up with brain damage. Of course, when the POTUS was called on his recommendations, by police, he suggested he was joking…..but of course it is the democrats that are causing problems for this POTUS.

      • The vast majority of those in prison happened during the Obama tyranny. They sure didn’t all get there in the last six months.
        “Perhaps it is time to look at the present White House and try to put aside partisan loyalties.”
        Before that could ever happen you’d have to convince the MSM to strike a more balanced less partisan dialog. CNN reporting on the WH has been 93% negative and almost totally focused on the Russian investigation or the failed attempts at trying to get a new health program passed. You hear them say NOTHING about how job creation is at an all time high and unemployment at an all time low because of dramatically improved business confidence. The DOW has added $4 trillion of wealth to US companies because of that confidence. Illegal immigrants entering the U.S. are down 56% and he’s just implemented the same merit based immigration policy that we’ve had in Canada since the late 60’s. The only station that reveals those positives is FOX.

  4. How about ‘omnishambles’??

  5. jungle … hilarious … pathetic … problematic … zoo … unruly … entertaining … crazy …
    So … there are lots of words to describe the Trump White House

    • Oh come on, it’s obvious isn’t it?!!! The ONE word?
      Covfefe !!!!

  6. My word is “chaos” brought in by greed, ego and ignorance.

  7. There is a word for it:

    ‘ Fremdscham ‘ (German)

    Embarrassment felt on behalf of someone else (often someone so ignorant to what they have done that they don’t know that they should be embarrassed for themselves); vicarious embarrassment.

  8. The hell we don’t! It’s “COVFEFE”