Two Communications Directors?

When State Senator Doug Ericksen of Ferndale didn’t last four weeks as communications director for the Environmental Protection Agency, I thought it would long endure as the record for Trump partisans in the corridors of federal power. But little more than five months later, I’ve been proved wrong!

The acid-tongued Anthony Scaramucci survived only ten days in a similar role at the White House. His vulgar telephone rant with New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza, calling Chief of Staff Reince Preibus a “f**king paranoid schizophrenic,” accusing Steven Bannon of fellating himself, and threatening to kill leakers, must have been the last straw for the new chief of staff, Marine Corp General John Kelly.

Even the tweeter-in-chief himself may have blanched at this crude attack. But indicative of his divorce from reality, he tweeted “No WH Chaos!” on the Monday morning Kelly’s promotion was announced. One does not have to know much about politics to tweet “Not Credible!” in reply. This dysfunctional gang is not an “administration” in the normal sense of that term; it’s operating more like an autocratic third-world regime.

Where do the Trump recruiters find these sharp-edged, unqualified characters? One would normally think that a communications director should have at least some kind of ability to communicate with the national press corps. Like by going off the record when about to accuse one’s colleagues in scatological terms. And by having sufficient probity and the sense of nuance needed to navigate the turbulent political waters of the nation’s capital. It’s not a job for amateurs.

Communications directors should also bring to the job a deep, trusted network of writers, editors and producers with whom they have worked, understanding their individual likes and dislikes. A good friend of mine served as a science writer and editor for over a decade at the Washington Post, for example, winning national awards for his writing, before stepping in as communications director at another federal agency about the size of the EPA. He was well liked, respected, highly qualified, and thus very effective in this role.

Ericksen and Scaramucchi brought no such experience with them to DC. They were named to their posts because of blind, gelatinous loyalty to the man in charge of the White House menagerie, not because of any skill with words or reporters. And both suffered disastrous first weeks on the job. At least Doug did not come across as craven as “the Mooch,” whose surname can be translated from Italian theater as a “braggart and poltroon,” according to New York Times columnist Roger Cohen.

The Mooch now faces life without his wife, who filed for divorce while he headed for DC, having just given birth to their second child. And because he had to sell off his hedge fund SkyBridge Capital, he cannot go back to that either. Like Cain after slaying Abel (aka Reince Preibus), he now gets to wander alone in the Land of Nod. A fitting reward for this brazen, unprincipled Trump Enabler.

By contrast, Ericksen was able to disappear into the folds of the EPA bureaucracy after getting dumped as communications director. He somehow managed to work 516 hours and earn more than $40,000 from feeding at the federal trough, according to a final pay stub unearthed by citizen journalist Sandy Robson in yet another FOIA request. That’s an average 4.3 hours for each day of his 120-day EPA sojourn—hard to justify when you consider all the pressures and responsibilities of the 2017 Washington legislative session. When his Senate colleagues were working well into the evenings almost daily, he was missing one legislative hearing after another.

We obviously have our own Trump Enablers here in Whatcom County, led first and foremost by Ericksen, who was deputy director of the mogul’s campaign in the state. Let’s hope he can find a suitably stable, well-paid job in the new federal hierarchy, so that he can keep the $161,900 annual salary he’s apparently become accustomed to and not have to run for office again in the county.

About Michael Riordan

Writer • Eastsound, WA • Member since Nov 25, 2016

Michael Riordan writes about science, technology and public policy from Orcas Island, where he lives and kayaks. He holds a PhD degree in physics from MIT, having worked on the [...]