Omarosa is the hero America deserves

Here she is, the embodiment of American political life in 2018

Omarosa Manigault Newman in a red white and blue supersuit saving America from boredom
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock/g-stockstudio, Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for BET)

There is only one Omarosa.

It is fitting that even in her own lifetime, Omarosa Onee Manigault Newman has joined the ranks of the mononymous. History has had its Voltaires and its Rasputins. It has never yet seen an Omarosa. Many eminent figures in modern political life are bland technocrats who do not seem destined for historical representation. This is not true in the Trump administration, the most redeeming feature of which is that, like the decadent courts of the Severan emperors or the Manchus in the crepuscular atmosphere of China at the turn of the last century, it offers observers genuine palace intrigue set against a backdrop of inexorable decline. It is, if nothing else, full of characters, of which Omarosa is a wonderful representative example.

Omarosa's origins are obscure. Her father seems to have been murdered when she was very young, as her brother was in 2011. Little is known otherwise of her early life save that she earned degrees at institutions in Ohio and Washington, D.C., and intermittently pursued theological studies. (She currently has faculties for preaching granted by her former Baptist congregation in Los Angeles.) For a time she served on the staff of Vice President Al Gore. In 2004 she appeared in the first season of a reality television program hosted by our now-president. Here she distinguished herself with her cartoonishly fiendish antics; to this day she is ranked among the most ruthless villains in the history of television. Her popularity carried over into Celebrity Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice All-Star and similar programs. Meanwhile she feuded with former cast members, accusing one of employing racial epithets, though she refused at the time to take a polygraph test in support of this claim; in 2013 she was accused of being responsible for the death of her own fiancé, the actor Michael Clarke Duncan, by La Toya Jackson. (Omarosa denied the allegation and threatened to sue.)

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By July 2016, Omarosa had joined Trump's campaign as director of African-American outreach. "Every critic, every detractor," she told PBS, "will have to bow down to President Trump. It's everyone who's ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe." After his victory she quickly joined the president-elect's transition team; among her accomplishments was inviting the NFL luminaries Ray Lewis and Jim Brown to Trump Tower.

In January 2017 she formally joined the White House staff, where she quickly began styling herself "the Honorable Omarosa Manigault," an appellation to which members of the Congressional Black Caucus took exception when it appeared in a letter inviting them to meet the president. Within a year, during which it is unclear exactly what her work involved, she had resigned and been removed forcibly from the White House grounds. A few months later she had already returned to television, as a cast member of Celebrity Big Brother. Now she is the author of a memoir of her political career.

Why do I think that Omarosa will emerge from this bizarre career as a hero of our age? Simply put, because she is the embodiment of American political life in 2018. Her meteoric rise and fall show us the realities of what the governing process has become since it began to be subsumed into entertainment half a century ago. A president who came up in the consciousness-augmenting world of "reality" television and staked his claim to govern on his ability to behave vilely on cable programs hired one of his apprentices, both literal and figurative, in the hope that she would use her talents in his service. Not long after Trump's inauguration, The New York Times carped that Omarosa had only been given a job because of her "loyalty"; she was, the paper lamented, "one of the few with walk-in privileges for the Oval Office." How did she repay the man who so prized her faithfulness and ability? She made recordings of seemingly everyone around her, including the commander in chief, for revenge and profit alike, recordings so valuable that even an attempt to bribe her with a $15,000-a-month make-work job on the president's re-election campaign could be swiftly rejected in favor of her freedom to speak and publish.

It is far too early to say what, if any, truth there is in Omarosa's various claims. Except, that is, for those claims supported by her recordings — of which she insists there are many more awaiting release. By double-crossing the crass man who valued her because she seemed to exhibit many of his own base qualities she has revealed to us the horizons, such as they are, of meaningful political activity in our age.

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Matthew Walther

Matthew Walther is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has also appeared in First Things, The Spectator of London, The Catholic Herald, National Review, and other publications. He is currently writing a biography of the Rev. Montague Summers. He is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow.