Thursday, February 2, 2017
Trump’s executive orders are most assuredly public relations stunts first and foremost. Secondarily, they echo his campaign promises and that is the point, wanting to claim at a later date he fulfilled all his promises pronto. How else to explain the haste, shoddiness, and their language, a mixture of simplemindedness and obscurity?
I can’t recall previous presidents holding up such signed documents to the assembled cameras, as if they were large glossies of Miss Universe candidates. All that was visible was Trump’s EKG-inspired signature, an alarming sight. The executive orders haven’t been coordinated with the applicable agencies and one reason floated for that is Trump’s fear that bad guys in the bureaucracy would bollix up his good intentions. The travel ban has become the most notorious, but the others are future poison pills.
It’s government by spectacle, not a surprise, given the previous campaign. Trump continues to tweet his semi-literate bon mots, contradicting himself anytime he feels like it, subletting his responsibilities as quickly as possible to his underlings, such as giving over the decision on “torture” to his Defense Secretary.
Trump continues to say he believes in the efficacy of torture and that doubtless comes from his self-knowledge that if he was pinched on the arm he would give up all his secrets. It’s been clear for decades that those who are deterred from wrongdoing by the thought of going to prison are only those who never imagined themselves in one.
It appears Trump himself finds it hard to believe he’s actually president. Why else go on so long about the size of the crowd at his inauguration? And claiming he would have won the popular vote except for the 3 - 5 million illegals who voted, thereby showing more civic engagement than regular Americans who couldn’t be bothered. Unfortunately, such complaints are catnip to television news, which loves to compare pictures. No visuals, no story, in our age of looking, caught in a culture of seeing. This was especially true during the campaign, so many fixated on the size of his fingers, the size of his whatever.
Worse, of course, is to come. The Gorsuch selection for the high court is a Trojan horse for the second pick Trump expects to get. The Republican-controlled Congress won’t be a rubber stamp for Trump, Trump will be a rubber stamp for Congress. Former Indiana governor Mike Pence, who thought he would lose his reelection and hitched his wagon to the Trump campaign, is all over the early policy changes, and the Breitbart creature, Steve Bannon, who seems as aggrieved by the so-called elites – actually people who are culture celebrities – as his master Trump. Regardless of both Bannon’s and Trump’s own Ivy League credentials, they look at the world as an internal, eternal, high school Darwinian experiment, jousting with the in-crowd and the out.
They want to beat what they can’t join and they have. Thanks to the disgruntled blue-state voters who put Trump over the top, individuals Trump and Bannon would be appalled to spend any real time with, they now have the power to beat and pulverize all the adherents of the former in-crowd, especially the arugula-loving Obama followers.
Where will it end? I have no faith Democrats will rise up in less than two years and capture either the Senate or the House. The Republicans have gerrymandered their way to semi-permanence in state-houses and in Congress. Trump’s America will be gaudy and crazy on the outside, but mean and punishing on the inside, thanks to the Pence/Bannon/McConnell/McCarthy/Ryan view of America.
The Huffington Post version appeared on Feb. 1, 2017. It can be found here.