WASHINGTON — If the Trump White House had been around all those years ago, B. F. Skinner, the preeminent behaviorist of his day, might not have had to build his famous box. The White House is a psychologist’s treasure trove proving Skinner’s idea of operant theory — that reinforced action tends be repeated.
Thus, Donald Trump seems to be hiring the wrong persons for his staff, continues to come up with schemes like military parades and refuses to quit creating an atmosphere of chaos comparable to only that of the Tudors. When will it stop? It probably won’t until he is shoved out by impeachment or just announces he has had enough.
Now, of course, the administration’s top hit man for chief of staff John F. Kelly has been forced to resign after it was revealed he had shown a natural proclivity for the job. Staff secretary Robert Porter, whom Kelly asked to do the “you aren’t working out” tasks for him — and was almost a constant presence in the Oval Office — has been caught throwing a punch at one former wife, his first, and roughing up his second.
Caught in a Venus flytrap like so many men in important positions these days, Porter at least moved quickly to get out, following former defense councilor Michael Flynn and chief strategist Stephen Bannon, both of whom are currently causing the president heartburn over the investigation into the alleged Russian involvement in Trump’s presidential campaign last year.
But these situations in public life now have become so routine that people are less and less shocked by them. At the same time Porter was being accused by his former wives, Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas billionaire, was resigning as treasurer of the Republican National Committee because of accusations of long-term sexual harassment in the work place. The beat goes on.
Trump himself has felt the noose of sexual fondling by a number of women and has denied it all, although he has bragged openly about how easy it is if you are a celebrity to television star Billy Bush, who made the mistake of laughing and lost his job.
How do we lighten up around here? My father doesn’t have a barn, so there is no way I could call up Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney and ask them to put on a show even if I could reach them in the first place. We have this arrangement. I won’t call them unless they call me.
The last I checked, Barnum and Bailey had given up performing and no other circus of the old- fashioned variety is worth such a noble stop off as 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. There’s always the Soap Box Derby, but the Donald has gotten a bit wide of girth for their design.
So the Donald put on his thinking cap and came up with the idea to have a parade. But not a parade with old vets and politicians throwing out hard candy, flags and balloons to kids and that includes dogs and fire trucks and three bands. They already have that every Fourth of July in the Palisades.
No siree, Bob! There would be the biggest missiles, the biggest artillery pieces, tanks and most of the weapons of mass destruction anyone can imagine with marching men by the thousands and bands from every service with 7,500 trombones and Robert Preston leading them … or someone who looks like Robert Preston.
But guess what? Nobody believes the most well-armed nation in the world needs that kind sword-flashing to be credible — not the generals, admirals, congressmen or city council. Sure, we have had military parades — lots of them. But they had special meaning like the ones down Broadway with ticker tape at the end of the Great War and World War II. But they are also costly and tend to raise hackles elsewhere, not that our current military obligations and the bravery of our men don’t need to be recognized.
Then, Mr. Trump why not join the folks in the Palisades next year for a parade that may be the oldest peaceful demonstration of true Americana in the nation.
Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: [email protected] .