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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump emerging this season as a political boss in the old mold

Brooklyn Democratic leader Meade Esposito in the 1980s.

Brooklyn Democratic leader Meade Esposito in the 1980s. Credit: Newsday/Dick Yarwood

Nobody had reason to erroneously believe that President Donald Trump would turn reformer once elected.

Recall his paean to Meade Esposito, the powerful Democratic boss of Brooklyn convicted late in his life in a federal case involving an illegal gratuity.

“He was great,” Trump said in a televised interview in 2016. “Meade Esposito in his own way was a very, very honest guy. When he gave you his word on something, it was done.”

"Great," no doubt, for folks like patriarch developer Fred Trump in dealings with the city.

Now Boss Trump is top banana of the Grand Old Party, and he's hearing protests in Congress over what those goo-goos and boy scouts in the State Department are saying.

Reputable veterans of the military and the foreign service have testified in the House.They've consistently told of how the president endeavored to get foreign officials to help throw stink bombs at Democrats back home.

These civil servants may have learned for the first time that "foreign policy" is whatever the ruling party says it is.

Boss Trump wanted a "favor" done by a powerful faction in Kyiv that could help him. If Ukrainians now in power wanted meetings, if they wanted our shiny beautiful missiles, they should cooperate, the boss suggested.

So Team Trump installed Gordon Sondland, an envoy who gave $1 million to the inaugural committee. And Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his clients, who delivered $350,000 to a Trump super PAC, gave at least the appearance of being useful to the leader's campaign narrative.

Only a slice of Boss Trump's transactionality involves Eastern Europe.

As Virginians headed to the polls on Tuesday, Trump set out to remind them who was coming through with the old pork barrel.

“Virginia, with all of the massive amount of defense and other work I brought to you, and with everything planned, go out and vote Republican today,” he tweeted.

“I know the Dems are saying that they have your vote locked up, but that would mean a long slide down," he added, in the style of a 1930s movie politician handing out cigars.

In party-boss politics, there's always a huge public-works project running way behind schedule, in danger of never being completed. The southern border wall fits the bill.

Last week, it came out that an upcoming book on James Mattis’ tenure as secretary of defense says Trump told Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of a $10 billion Pentagon contract.

That makes political sense, considering Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, irritates Trump.

But according to author Guy SnoSnodgrass's account, Mattis said, "‘We’re not going to do that. This will be done by the book, both legally and ethically. ” 

Sounds like Mattis considered government a priority even if the boss was pushing a private agenda. No wonder they fell out.

As it happened, Microsoft was awarded the contract, which must have made the boss happy, which in this White House, like a party clubhouse, appears to be the one true priority.

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