Breaking: A report from inside the White House reveals infighting among advisers, consternation over Norwegian socialism, and the importance of chocolate milkshakes. By Calvin Trillin
Scene: The White House
Time: The present
In Attendance: Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Acting Son Eric Trump, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, Senior Adviser to the President Jared Kushner, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Mick Mulvaney: We got a problem here, people. When it got out that the president had asked why we can’t have immigrants from Norway instead of what he called “shithole countries,” everybody understood that he meant white immigrants instead of dark immigrants—even though that nitwit Kirstjen Nielsen, in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, sounded like, for all she knew, Norway has the same demographics as Burkina Faso.
Jared Kushner: So what’s the problem?
Mick Mulvaney: The problem is that the president’s strategy for 2020 is to accuse the Democrats of trying to turn this country socialist. And Norway is, certainly by the president’s standards, a socialist country—universal health care, free education, welfare state, and all that. So if the president starts talking about encouraging immigration from Norway, he could be accused of thinking that we should flood the country with socialists at the same time he’s warning that the Democrats could bring socialism.
Kellyanne Conway: But wouldn’t he know that Norway is socialist?
(There is a long silence.)
Mick Mulvaney: So who’s going to tell him?
(There is a longer silence.)
Patrick Shanahan: Don’t look at me. When I told him that the commanders on the ground believe there’s another way to look at how the fight against ISIS is going in Syria, he took out his yearbook from that military high school for slow learners that he went to and lectured me about how he had a lot more military experience than his generals and that his platoon was almost named platoon of the month when they were only 10th-graders, even though the bone spurs made standing at attention during inspection an act much more heroic than McCain’s time in the Hanoi Hilton.
(There is another long silence.)
Mick Mulvaney: Eric, you might be wondering why we asked you here today.
Eric Trump: You said you wanted to show me where my daddy lives.
Mick Mulvaney: Well, yes, but also we wonder if you and your daddy ever talk about various forms of government.
Eric Trump: No, we talk mainly about the various forms of women. (Starts to giggle)
(There is another long silence.)
Mick Mulvaney: Sarah—
Sarah Sanders: Not a chance. I was there when John Kelly told him that Oz, where Dorothy went in the movie, wasn’t a real country, so it couldn’t be behind in NATO dues. He ranted for 20 minutes about how he was particularly good at geography—the best geography student the Wharton School of Finance ever had—and how he almost won the High School Geography Bowl in 1964 even though the bone spurs were already agonizing. He was still naming state capitals when we managed to ease our way out of the office.
Mick Mulvaney: Jared, I know you have a lot on your plate already.
Jared Kushner: Yes, bringing peace in the Middle East, reorganizing the government, ending the opioid crisis, stabilizing our relations with Saudi Arabia and any country in a position to make real-estate investments, checking the worst instincts of the president, and revamping the menu at the Navy Mess.
Eric Trump: Do they have chocolate milkshakes at the Navy Mess? I love chocolate milkshakes.
Mick Mulvaney: Bernhardt, take Eric to the Navy Mess, get him a milkshake—
Eric Trump: Chocolate milkshake!
Mick Mulvaney: Chocolate milkshake, and leave him there.
(Before David Bernhardt and Eric Trump can leave, Sean Hannity enters the room.)
Sean Hannity: I heard about the problem, and I’m here to fix it. We’ll just have a special report on Fox about how socialism has nearly destroyed Norway—riots in the streets, water shortages, no air traffic, hamburgers confiscated by roving bands of mad-dog vegans. We’ll call it “Venezuela With Frostbite.” The president will watch it, and I guarantee you that he’ll be tearing into Norway the next day.
(There is a murmur of approval in the room.)
Eric Trump: But I was just in Norway talking to the prime minister about getting a zoning variance for a Trump Tower Oslo, and everything seemed fine.
(There is the longest silence so far.)
Mick Mulvaney: Bernhardt, I thought I told you to take Eric to the Navy Mess for a milkshake.
Eric Trump: (As he’s leaving) Chocolate milkshake.