Monday, September 9, 2019

The President’s Mission: Let Him Entertain You

Trump loves schlock, shock, and chaos, especially when the theater is on fire.

Image: Reuters
Remember that day in mid-June, 2015, when Donald Trump rode his golden escalator down into the depths, digging deep into a Chaplinesque version of Benito Mussolini as he announced he was going to run for president and not only save a dying America but build a great wall and make Mexico pay for it ? Remember how we laughed? 

I wasn’t the only one who saw his imperious ride down the escalator as tongue-in-cheek performance art, a bid to push that crazy idea he’d been tossing around for years — a run for the presidency — and,what the hell, give it another shot. He drew the cameras and the crowds, and his addiction for attention got the hit of all hits.

Remember his nonsensical attacks on President Obama, pretending he had proof Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii but in Africa, where Trump’s agents were already scouring the countryside, talking to people who, he said, swore they remembered his birth, swore they saw the future president in swaddling clothes? Remember when he promised to reveal all? Soon?

He knew he had nothing. WE knew he had nothing. But he got the attention he craved and he rewarded us by giving us something to talk about.

Getting attention is everything to Donald Trump. He craves attention and it’s an addiction that consumes him. He ran for president, not because he and he alone had to chops to get the job done, but because he craves attention. (It’s clear he never expected to win. It was never his intention.)

When he saw he would be just one of 12 other candidates on the debate stage, he knew he couldn’t compete politically so he chose to do the thing he does best: He went all entertainer. He built an act around teasing and tormenting his fellow candidates. He called them silly names. He made airy promises that nobody in their right mind believed. When he wasn’t painting the government as weak and inept, he was sloshing bright red MAGA paint all over a government he portrayed as dark and sinister.

People — even those who saw right through him — sat up and took notice. The press loved him. The deplorables loved him. And he loved that he finally found something that would make them love him.
Nothing excites Trump’s Vaudevillian brain more than a rapt audience. So to that eternal question, “Is he serious?” — no, he’s not serious. This is what he lives for.

When he uses the words “beautiful” and “fun” in totally inappropriate sentences, (“Kim Jong Un writes me the most beautiful letters”. “Are you having fun? This is fun. Right?”)he wants us to be entertained. It keeps us from looking beyond his carefully built caricature to see how ugly his ugly side really is.

But he’s a weak man, a pretender, and he can’t go on hiding his weaknesses behind a clown face forever. He is not a president. He’s not even a comic example of a president. He’s a menace because he isn’t serious, and he isn’t serious because that would require studying and contemplation — two things this president works overtime avoiding.

His only function is to keep the Trump legend alive. We knew before he was president that he’d go to any lengths to promote himself. We knew, for example, that he became “John Barron” and sometimes “David Dennison”, pretending to be his own press agent. We heard the tapes of his phone calls and recognized not just his voice but his distinctive speech patterns. We knew it was him. He denies it.

We knew he was dishonest and corrupt and given to fits of red hot revenge, but if we thought we could shame him by exposing him, we learned early on it was a lost cause. He feels no shame, no remorse, no regret, no guilt. Any human feelings were long ago replaced by his need to build the character he plays into someone the world would see as heroic.

We’ve suspected there’s something more — that he’s not all there —but we keep waiting for the constitutional checks and balances to kick in. It stops being funny when this president uses his formidable powers to attack and destroy at will, and counts on his popularity to keep the madness going.

Under his watch real people, including refugee families held at the border and often separated from their children, are suffering in ways so horrific we want not to believe it.
Under his watch the economic and military experts, the scientists, the teachers — the country’s caretakers — have been labeled inept and rendered useless.
Under his watch our infrastructure and our safety nets are disappearing.
Under his watch thousands of brown-skinned hurricane victims have been left to die.

We’re in deep trouble, but in order for Trump to keep it from seeming as impossibly awful as it is, he has learned to go for the giggle. How bad can he be if he can make people laugh?

So when he says he wants to buy Greenland, or be president forever, or maybe even be God’s chosen one, he anticipates the deliciously satisfying fuss and he can forget for that moment that he may someday be indicted for various criminal activities, that history will not be kind to him, that the stage lights will dim and the crowds will disappear and he’ll go back to being that Donald Trump that nobody liked, that Donald Trump that everyone saw as a joke.

It’s those last laughs that will finally get him.

. . . 

(Cross-posted at Indelible Ink

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