Stop the average person on the street and ask them if they know the name “Mike Dubke” and you are almost certain to get a blank stare.
Given Dubke’s anonymity, it’s not terribly surprising that the reaction to his departure as White House communications director — which was announced Tuesday morning — was a universal “meh.”
No one — not even me — would make the case that Dubke was a hugely influential presence in the White House or that his resignation will fundamentally alter the way President Donald Trump operates.
But, isn’t that the point — and an important one at that?
When Dubke was hired — after an extended search — the spin from Trump allies was that Dubke being brought on was a sign of Trump’s willingness to step outside his small circle of loyal advisers to find talent.
These two paragraphs come from a Washington Post story on his hire back in February:
“With the appointment, which a White House official confirmed Friday, President Trump is reaching outside his circle of trusted campaign aides to try to bolster his messaging operation….
“As word of Dubke’s hiring trickled out, however, some Trump loyalists chafed at the idea of recruiting an establishment Republican operative with ties to strategist Karl Rove and other forces they see as having been hostile to Trump’s candidacy.”
This was an example of Trump bending a knee — or at least acknowledging — the GOP establishment that he had scorned for so long! He was finally normalizing!
Except not. Dubke never seemed able (or willing) to penetrate the hard shell of those advisers who had either a) been with Trump for long period of time or b) were related to the President. Dubke was touted when he was hired for his willingness to play a behind-the-scenes role. But Dubke, during his short stint in the White House was so behind-the-scenes as to seem totally nonexistent.
For all of the talk of Trump’s willingness to bring in an outsider — and an outsider with ties to Karl Rove, no less! — Trump never really accepted Dubke as one of his people. Which, rather than disproving the caricature of Trump as insular and partial to “yes” men, only served to reinforce it.
And, even as Dubke was on the way out, there was increasing chatter that two longtime Trump loyalists — Corey Lewandowski, who managed Trump’s campaign during its formative stages, and David Bossie, who served as deputy campaign manager in its later stages — were on their way back in. As Jim Acosta reported:
“The internal White House war room may be aided by an outside rapid response operation, staffed by Trump loyalists who have remained outside the administration. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and ex-top campaign official David Bossie have been mentioned repeatedly in those conversations.”
Take the potential additions of Bossie and Lewandowski with the Dubke departure and you are left with this: Trump is returning to what he knows, surrounding himself with people who will laud him and tell him what he wants to hear.
That’s why Dubke’s departure matters. It’s a sign that Trump is, has been and always will be someone only comfortable with an “amen” choir around him.
And that is a realization likely to make establishment Republicans looking to defend their House and Senate majorities next November very, very nervous.