2020 Election coverage, after the wars. pic.twitter.com/uJIsPkvhSF
— Schooley (@Rschooley) March 18, 2017
It may be, as some Conway-skeptics have hinted, that she’s pushing her narrative hard because she’s feeling “shut out” in the latest battles among the Trump cabal’s inner circle. It may be that her husband has just been, per the NYTimes, chosen “to head the civil division of the Justice Department… placing him in charge of a crucial office charged with defending Mr. Trump’s contentious travel ban and lawsuits alleging that his business activities violate the Constitution.” (And the photo of the happy couple the Times picked for its header speaks volumes.) Or it may just be the exigences of long-form journalism, where multiple stories on the same subject emerge simultaneously because such reporting takes time.
In any case, here’s hoping (/snark) that her sudden celebrity doesn’t lead her boss and idol to feel overshadowed, because we know how he’s prone to lashing out under such circumstances .
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) March 18, 2017
Olivia Nuzzi, in NYMag, on “The Real First Lady of Trump’s America“:
On the third floor of the West Wing, one flight past the stairwell portrait of President Donald Trump talking on his Android phone, is an office once occupied by Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to Barack Obama; Karl Rove, senior adviser to George W. Bush; and First Lady Hillary Clinton. By cramped White House standards, it’s an expansive space, complete with a desk, a conference table, a couch, a bookshelf stocked with a single copy of The Art of the Deal, a duffel bag full of family photos and a couple of pairs of Spanx — and, through the blinds, a view of the Washington Monument. And on this February day, its current tenant, Kellyanne Conway, was explaining how her life had changed in the nine months since she joined the campaign of the man who would ultimately become the 45th president of the United States — for one thing, she now answers to “Blueberry.”
That’s because she’s one of the only officials in the White House, other than President Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence, to have Secret Service protection — which staffers receive at the special request of the president, who has famously referred to her as “my Kellyanne.” She got the protection, Conway said, after she was sent a suspicious white substance. And then there were the threats. “Most of them are online,” she remarked, “and most of them are very explicit and graphic, and they’re sometimes people who have a history of following through but for whatever reason weren’t prosecuted.”…
Conway laughed with her assistant, a 26-year-old College Republicans alum named Catharine Cypher, as she tried to explain the absurdity of hearing the stoic armed men who follow her around refer in all earnestness to the whereabouts of one Miss Blueberry… “Oh my God, there’s no privacy! It’s crazy, it really is crazy.” And it can get complicated. “I have two friends, who both — well, one is Ann Coulter. She started dating her security guard probably ten years ago because she couldn’t see anybody else,” Conway said. “And you know Rebekah Mercer?” she asked, referring to the Republican megadonor who, with her father, Robert, bankrolled Trump’s campaign and pushed to install Conway as its campaign manager. “Her younger sister, Heather Sue, married her security guard. She was like, ‘Well, I didn’t see anybody else, so one night, I, you know, I invited him in!’ ” Conway’s got a running joke about one of her own agents. “If Blueberry has an affair, it’s with Secret Service! It’s with Joe.” She deepened her voice to mimic his: “ ‘Ma’am? Blueberry, horsepower!’ ” (Coulter and the Mercer family did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
Blueberry knows that she has had a breakout year. As Trump’s highly visible and quotable campaign manager during the election’s final sprint, she became a constant presence on cable news and thus a subject of widespread fascination, armchair psychoanalysis, outrage, and exuberant ridicule. But rather than buckling, she absorbed all of it, coming out the other side so aware of how the world perceives her that she could probably write this article herself. Caricatures from that time, when hardly anyone believed Trump could defy the polls and win, depicted her wielding everything from a whip to a shock collar to tame her unruly candidate. But these days, serving as the senior counselor to the president, Conway is becoming less a supporting character than a bona fide celebrity in her own right. She is simply more famous — more beloved by Trump fans and more hated by Trump detractors — than anyone in any comparable role in any previous White House…
(Do not forget: Nuzzi made her journalistic bones outing Anthony Weiner. You don’t hire a professional sniper to write a fuzzy-bunny infotainment bonbon.)
— The Hill (@thehill) March 13, 2017
Through-line to the stories, and the stories about the stories, seems to be that Conway is a chippy little Jersey tough, daughter of a single-mom Atlantic City casino worker. Which makes her affinity for Donald, and his for her, perfectly logical — she grew up in the gambling world where Trump wanted so desperately to be a big shot. She knows how to appeal to his longing for credibility, but as a woman and the child of a lowly
serf service worker, Conway doesn’t challenge his touchy self-image. Give her due credit, she actually did claw her way up from the working class to the Oval Office, which is more than her male counterparts can claim, whatever one may think of how she chooses to use the power she’s accumulated.
Molly Ball, in the Atlantic, on “Kellyanne’s Alternative Universe: Will the truth ever catch up with Trump’s most skilled spin artist?”:
Even in triumph, Kellyanne Conway nursed a grudge. As she reflected on Donald Trump’s November victory, she made clear that she hadn’t forgotten how people treated her back when they thought she was a sure loser. Their attitude wasn’t one of outright rudeness or contempt; it was so much worse than that. It was syrupy condescension—the smarmy, indulgent niceness of people who think they’re better than you.
“ ‘Kellyanne works hard,’ ” Conway said, assuming the voice of her erstwhile sympathizers. “ ‘We all love Kellyanne, but this is a fool’s errand.’ Or ‘She’s done a really nice job, she should hold her head high, but this is just happy talk’ … You know, it was some combination of that. It was ‘We love her, but she’s full of shit.’ ”…
Winning, Conway contended, was exactly what Trump was doing as president—just look at the number of executive actions he’d already signed. He was outpacing Obama, she said. “Not that it’s a contest.” When I told her I recalled Republicans depicting Obama’s executive orders as Constitution-defying, dictatorial abuses of power, she replied, “Well, I don’t know that I would have said that.” And then came a blast of her signature verbal fog: “But the difference is that—it depends on the issue. Is it something that should be legislatively fought? And now that we have a government that functions that way, this president is taking the reins and doing that—operating, in part, that way.”
Since taking over Trump’s flailing campaign in August, Conway has become famous for her insistence on Trump’s looking-glass version of reality—in which conspiracy theories merit consideration but reported facts are suspect. She claimed, during the campaign, that Trump “doesn’t hurl personal insults,” and that when it came to Barack Obama’s birth certificate, “it was Donald Trump who put the issue to rest.” She once insisted, on CNN, that Trump should be judged by “what’s in his heart” rather than “what’s come out of his mouth.” She has reframed falsehoods as “alternative facts,” invented a terrorist attack (the “Bowling Green massacre”), and flacked for Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, in possible violation of federal ethics rules.
When Conway’s critics pile on, she just keeps spinning. “She can stand in the breach and take incoming all day long,” Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, told me. “That’s something you can’t coach.” She’s figured out that she doesn’t need to win the argument. All she has to do is craft a semi-plausible (if not entirely coherent) counternarrative, so that those who don’t want to look past the facade of Trump’s Potemkin village don’t have to…
Anne Helen Petersen, at Buzzfeed, got in early with a smart piece on the very deliberate hype behind “The Softening Of Kellyanne Conway“:
…Conway has been chastened, in part, for acting, spinning, and possessing confidence like a man — and doing so very publicly. And because Conway, a self-proclaimed Gen-Xer, shies from Ivanka-style Instagram posts, she used the Sunday Morning interview to both re-feminize and re-domesticate herself in the public’s view.
In the show’s opener, interviewer Norah O’Donnell proclaims that usually, on a Sunday, Conway would be making the rounds on the political talk shows. Instead, she is going to mass with her husband and four children, then going to lunch at a local diner, then home for a casual hang with her family…
O’Donnell calls attention to the fact that Conway and her family have Secret Service protection — a rarity for a staff member at her level. Conway responds that she’s been subject to threats and extreme vitriol; she’s been particularly abused on the internet, which she calls “a cesspool.” Interspersed with shots of her children playing at her feet, Conway says that the abuse “hurts my kids more than anything.” “They’re all, ‘Mom, why would people say X about you or Y about you or Z about you?’” In this way, Conway elicits sympathy — while also suggesting that the real victims are her children.
Conway underlines that her private life is now virtually nonexistent: “If I want to go out with a friend for dinner,” she explains, “it’s photographed, and it’s talked about.” She’s endlessly scrutinized — as she was for the military-style ensemble she wore to Trump’s inauguration, which now hangs proudly in her White House office — and says she’s subject to the “triple standard” of being a woman in the Trump administration. “People talk about the double standard, about what a woman wears, not what she said,” Conway says, explaining that “the triple standard is that conservative women are just cast aside.”…
Trump has already evidenced his willingness to jettison any non–family member who no longer serves his particular needs — especially one who could seem like an unruly embarrassment. And leaving her job for the sake of the kids — to return to her self-professed “favorite label” as “Mommy” — would be the perfect spin for Trump if he decides to slough off the unruly woman who also happened to be central to him winning the election.
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) March 18, 2017
(The SPLC study referenced in the above tweet.)