The Trump administration puts to the test the “infinite monkey theorem,” since so many journalists are typing away chronicling the daily saga of the new president. Very little Shakespearean prose has yet resulted, but we have to consider the source. Trump’s address to the “joint session” of Congress produced amazement at the new Trumpian focus, his ability to read – and stick to – the Teleprompter for an hour or so. Two times, though, he did deviate, letting the inner Trump ooze out: claiming some sort of record for applause had been reached and the soul-churning idea that the deceased Seal, William “Ryan” Owens, was looking down at the assembly and smiling. Perhaps Trump was channeling the apostate Mike Pence sitting smiling behind him.
This brings me to the chief spectacle of that night, the sight of the Seal’s widow, sitting, standing, crying, mumbling, suffering. It is cheering that the earliest critics of that display were other military people calling this for what it was: exploitation. Trump, understanding television if nothing else, along with his obsession with ratings, knew he had a winner: Who can not be riveted by the sight of a good-looking woman in extremis?
I tried to imagine which American actress (or British, French, etc.) could have done what the widow was doing so convincingly. What the viewer got to witness was, seemingly, minutes of high-quality grief porn. Always a big draw, though only if the woman involved is attractive. In this case, a willowy blonde in a black dress.
Why did she consent to be used this way? Evidently, she has a military background herself and when the commander in chief asks, she responds. But, she was obviously still traumatized by the recent death of her husband, but Trump knew she would be a good show.
Trump’s treatment of women was already well broadcast during his campaign, but since he assumed the presidency he still is treating women badly. On his inauguration day, pictures showed him neglecting his wife repeatedly, and the largely absent first lady was hauled out finally in Florida on Feb. 18th , ten days post the news of her libel lawsuit against the British tabloid The Daily Mail broke, detailing how it would cut into her future income, to give her brief I-am-not-a-hooker speech. Her remarks began with a recitation of the Lord’s prayer (aka, the Our Father), the protestant version, which no one could accuse her of plagiarizing. Yet another weird spectacle.
(Though it needs to be said that Michelle Obama took a while to get her footing. Back during her first year as FLOTUS, she was stuck hoeing that godforsaken garden built at great cost on the White House lawn. Even I wrote a column back then claiming I would lose my mind if I saw another picture of her holding a yam in her fist.)
But the prize this past week goes to Trump’s tweets on Saturday morning, calling President Obama “sick”, a bad guy, for ”tapp”-ing his phone in Trump Tower. As they say, these tweets dominated the news over the weekend and into this week (below is the last):
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy! 7:02 AM - 4 Mar 2017.”
How low can he go? Good question. We’re now back to Trump the unhinged, rather than Trump the presidential, according to the rounded-up usual suspects among commentators. I did like the continuation of Trump’s new evangelical rhetorical streak, given his “very sacred election process” characterization. In the same vein as the dead Seal smiling down at us. See, Mike Pence is exerting influence.
Speaking, as did Trump, of the former president, contrary to the gushing coverage, Obama’s “last” speech as president in Chicago was completely delusional – it can be summed up in this paraphrase: We’re doing swell and the rest of you are screwed. And given his vacation photos and the family’s alleged $65 million book deal, it appears that he is. Obama, ironically, is enjoying the traditional honeymoon period, not Trump the nut.
One reason Trump was apparently comfortable during his speech to Congress was that he was speaking largely to an audience of millionaires. Consult the statistics of the average wealth of the typical Senator or Congress person. It’s somewhat like the crowd at Mar-a-Lago.
But as the news cycle speeds up, the attention span of the audience slows down. Trump monkeys have to keep feeding the beast and can barely stick to a story beyond twenty-four hours. (On to The American Health Care Act! – Trump, I expect, will want to tweet that Obamacare should be renamed The Kenyan Health Care Act.)
We have all lived with “false equivalency” for a few years now and Trump’s “Obama bad” tweets seem to have worked their dark magic and Republicans are already to drag Trump’s wiretapping accusations into their investigations into the Russian campaign hacks. False equivalency rises in committee hearings, costing money, time, and attention. The Swamp needs more muddy waters. It wasn’t enough for Trump’s drained swamp to end up in his cabinet.
The Huffington Post version appeared on March 8, 2017, and can be found here.