As my wife and children can readily attest to, my all-time favorite episode of NBC’s The Office is “Dinner Party.” That’s the one where office manager Michael Scott invites some of his employees over to his condo, where he and his unstable girlfriend Jan are hosting a couples-night.
The episode brilliantly depicts one of the most awkward situations imaginable: being stuck at your boss’s house while he and his girlfriend angrily (and loudly) air every unhealthy, highly personal aspect of their relationship… and then call on you to take sides.
We’ve probably all found ourselves in somewhat similar situations from time to time. I know I have, and it’s always an unpleasant, stomach-churning experience. My wife and I even stopped inviting one couple we used to be quite close with over to our house, because they had a tendency to engage in this very type of back and forth.
Perhaps that’s why I like “Dinner Party” so much. It’s a comical, harmlessly fictionalized take on something that hits close to home.
What’s not fictionalized, however (at least I don’t think it is), is the ongoing public soap opera between President Trump, his advisor Kellyanne Conway, and her husband George.
If you follow politics closely, you probably already know that George Conway is a frequent and vocal critic of our president (his wife’s boss). In fact, George routinely takes to Twitter to question the president’s mental health:
This was the article that first got me to really understand you, @realDonaldTrump. Once someone understands narcissistic personality disorder, they understand you—and why you’re unfit and incompetent for the esteemed office you temporarily hold.https://t.co/5RPQL9xntA
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) March 19, 2019
Again, he has been doing this while his wife has been working for the president.
I can’t imagine this hasn’t led to its own set of awkward dinner conversations.
When asked about the feud, Kellyanne has typically downplayed or shrugged off the friction, but that tactic will assuredly become much more difficult following her boss’s delivery of this Wednesday morning tweet:
George Conway, often referred to as Mr. Kellyanne Conway by those who know him, is VERY jealous of his wife’s success & angry that I, with her help, didn’t give him the job he so desperately wanted. I barely know him but just take a look, a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2019
A “stone cold loser” and a “husband from hell.” Well, that was sure to get people talking.
For the record, as the Washington Post pointed out this morning, George Conway actually was offered a federal job by Trump, back in May of 2017, as an Assistant Attorney General. Conway politely declined the offer in a letter to the president, adding that he and his wife would “continue to support” Trump and his administration, and that he looked forward to doing so from “outside the government.”
Times have certainly changed.
Unsurprisingly, Trump fans echoed the president’s “counter-punch” tweet:
As I said some time ago, George Conway, now a lib-media favorite, is a poor excuse for a husband and a man. https://t.co/2bKtvNIBkl
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) March 20, 2019
And Trump’s critics defended George by pointing out some rather glaring hypocrisy:
Has he been married three times and had an affair with a porn star? https://t.co/XWZCPMM71L
— Michael Freeman (@michaelpfreeman) March 20, 2019
I’m honestly not sure what to make of this crazy situation (and how it has managed to escalate to this point), even in an era in which crazy situations have become the norm. Heck, I’m not even convinced that some of the wild theories about Kellyanne secretly endorsing or even feeding her husband these criticisms are wrong. Who knows what to believe these days?
What I do know is that I don’t like the spectacle.
While everyone involved has a Constitutional right to say whatever they want, I don’t like seeing someone publicly and personally attack their spouse’s publicly elected boss.
I don’t like seeing an elected leader publicly and personally attack his employee’s spouse.
I don’t like thinking about what this is doing to the Conway family, and I really don’t like that this intensely awkward squabble has become an object of entertainment in our increasingly nasty political culture.
Some have pointed out that this is exactly the type of thing we should have expected with the election of a reality-TV star (especially a famously combative one), and they certainly have a point. And in relative terms, the Trump/Conways triangle wouldn’t even make the top-10 list of Trump-era outlandishness. But this feels different in the sense that it obliterates a crucially important boundary between personal and public/professional life.
If this were a sitcom, it would be funny. But I’m pretty sure this is reality — and some very ugly reality at that.