Goldberg: Rob Porter is Donald Trump's kind of guy

Goldberg: Rob Porter is Donald Trump's kind of guy

February 12th, 2018 by Michelle Goldberg/New York Times News Service in Opinion Times Commentary

In this Jan. 20, 2017, file photo, White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, center, hands President Donald Trump a confirmation order for James Mattis as defense secretary, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, as White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, right, watches. Porter is stepping down following allegations of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Last Wednesday, we learned that during a 2017 background check for the former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, his two ex-wives both told the FBI that he had abused them.

The White House chief of staff John Kelly reportedly knew about those allegations, which are said to be the reason the FBI never gave Porter a full security clearance, ordinarily a prerequisite for his job. Nevertheless, Porter's past was apparently not considered a problem inside the White House until it became public. This tells us quite a bit about how seriously this administration takes violence against women.

Even after The Daily Mail broke the story, Kelly reportedly urged Porter not to resign, though he did anyway. In the White House briefing room Wednesday, President Donald Trump's press secretary, Sarah Sanders, read a statement from Porter calling his ex-wives' accounts "simply false" and part of a "coordinated smear campaign."

The staff secretary reads everything that goes to the president's desk; it's one of the most sensitive jobs in government.

It's hard to see why Kelly, who was supposed to be the disciplined adult in this administration, would cover for Porter. Unless, that is, he genuinely couldn't grasp that domestic violence is a big deal.

To be fair to Kelly, this administration has made it clear that it's not. Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness after a 1996 altercation with his second wife; the case was dismissed when she didn't show up to testify against him.

Then there's Andy Puzder, the former head of Carl's Jr. and Trump's first nominee for labor secretary. He withdrew after a tape emerged of his ex-wife, in disguise and using a pseudonym, speaking about being abused on a 1990 episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" titled "High Class Battered Women." (She later retracted the claims.)

Trump himself was accused of domestic assault by his first wife, Ivana Trump, in their 1990 divorce deposition, obtained by one of Donald Trump's biographers, Harry Hurt III. In "Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump," Hurt wrote that Donald Trump became enraged after scalp reduction surgery left him in pain, and blamed his then-wife, who had recommended the doctor. Hurt describes Trump pinning back Ivana's arms and ripping out her hair by the handful "as if he is trying to make her feel the same kind of pain that he is feeling." Then, she told friends, Trump raped her. (Ivana Trump later issued a statement saying she hadn't meant rape in a "literal or criminal sense.")

It's fair to think that Trump sets the bar for what's considered acceptable in this White House. Porter's father, Roger Porter, a Harvard professor who worked for presidents including Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, once wrote of how presidents create administrative cultures: "Scholars of management today write much about the 'tone at the top.' Like all presidents, Gerald Ford established a tone that permeated the executive branch." Trump, evidently, established one as well.

Porter once worked for Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and in The Daily Mail, the senator categorically dismissed the accusations and, whether he meant to or not, the women making them. "Shame on any publication that would print this — and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man's good name," he said.

Later, after a photo of one of Porter's ex-wives was made public, Hatch issued a statement saying that domestic violence is "abhorrent." But after that, he gave an interview in which he said he hoped Porter would "keep a stiff upper lip" and not resign.

It's not really a surprise that Hatch, who once said that Trump's presidency could become the greatest ever, would treat serious allegations of abusing women as a personal foible unrelated to one's professional capabilities. You basically have to see things that way to support Trump in the first place. The reasons that Porter didn't belong in any White House are the reasons he fit in in this one.

The New York Times

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315