Jim Jenkins

A saving grace for Trump: ‘Barney’

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon listens at right as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on cyber security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.
White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon listens at right as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on cyber security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. AP

It’s been there all along, staring us in the face. Donald Trump doesn’t need more generals. He doesn’t need a Steve Bannon type whispering sour somethings in his ear about Democrats and liberals. He doesn’t need a wall, or a tax-reform plan, or advice from ideologues such as House Speaker Paul Ryan.

He needs, rather, to go to the nearest animal shelter in Washington and find himself a Lab mix of some kind, a mutt we used to call them, that will be his good and faithful sidekick for the remainder of his presidency.

I’d recommend naming him “Barney.” It’s a good all-American name and even conjures memories of the most faithful companion of them all, Deputy Barney Fife.

The presence of Barney will give Trump, who seems given to fits of temper, a chance to reach over and pet his puppy and take him for a walk in the early morning. Instead of tweeting.

Doesn’t sound so stupid now, does it?

With the publication of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” about, improbably, the dysfunction in Trump’s White House, Trump’s critics have been circling and diving. “Morning Joe,” an MSNBC show where the hosts (“Joe and Mika”) once welcomed candidate Trump with open mics, are all over him now, interviewing every critic they can find, playing “Ah ha!” and forecasting doomsday for the president’s first term.

Critics say Wolff, now ordained by the networks as the authority of the moment on Trump, doesn’t always get the facts in order and has skewed his book to cast Trump in a negative light. But the fellow, who’s number one on the bestseller lists and set to make a bundle, seems to know his business, and let’s face it, the president didn’t need help aiming that negative light.

Trump also has had an extraordinary run of what a stern grandmother would call “hanging out with the wrong people.” When Bad Boy Steve Bannon, who apparently was the star interviewee for Wolff, is one of your best friends, you have a serious shortage in the buddy department. Trump’s now turned on Bannon, and you can’t blame him, with ol’ Steve-o now having been redefined by Trump as not a Svengali in terms of influence but about as important as Sven the masseur.

Why, the president’s even felt obliged to speak against the book’s reporting – apparently based on several sources – that’s he’s not all that bright. Trump’s rebuttal: I’m a “very stable genius,” which made him look desperate and insecure.

Trump’s not the first leader to have a problem with maintaining loyalty – and yes, in his case it’s true much of his difficulty is self-inflicted. He’s also in a different position now than he was running his own company, in that the people who take Cabinet jobs are typically successful on their own and the leaders in Congress who are thought to be built-in allies are independently elected and not inclined to hang around once a president’s unpopularity starts bleeding on to them like red socks in a load of whites.

It may be that Trump will muddle on through with a lot of stops and starts and stumbles and weather his embarrassments, but it seems to be getting more and more lonely in his world.

He should take a cue from his predecessors, almost all of whom had some devoted companions hanging around on a leash. And that’s nonpartisan – Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Obama.

Richard Nixon saved his political career with a speech mentioning his “Checkers.” Franklin Roosevelt ridiculed Republicans for claiming his dog, Fala, cost taxpayers a bundle in transport after Roosevelt left him behind on a trip.

Really. A mutt, though, not some French poodle that traces his lineage to Napoleon or a breed no one can pronounce. A good, homely, licking and yapping dog that would get thrown out of the Westminster dog show but would be welcome in front of most American fireplaces.

Barney. Walk him every morning. And unlike most of the people around you, if you give him a little something from the table, he won’t bite you.

Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at jjenkins@newsobserver.com

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