TIN-POT AMERICA

In Trumpistan, Things Fall Apart

Even after winning the presidency, Trump can’t capture the love and adulation he craves above all else.

opinion

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Welcome to Trumpistan, a country two weeks into the tumultuous rule of a miserable, cruel and seemingly captive president. He spends his days glowering in his too small, too old, not gold enough, non-penthouse, columned prison in Washington, furiously flipping through cable news channels to see what the pundits are saying about him, watching his past interviews with the sound off and barking at his aides to “change that tie!” … “dress more feminine!” … “sound more confident when you defend the president!” … “and damnit, Make The People Love The Donald! Sell, sell, sell!!!”)

Outside the White House’s iron gates are the protests; ferocious ones, that spread from Washington to points literally around the country and the world, animated by the serial cruelties of the administration, and the threats to the rights of minorities, not to mention to the very image of a nation literally built as the refuge for the “wretched refuse from teeming shores.”Surely, this unsplendid isolation must be what it’s like to be a third-world potentate; cloaked in power and kleptocratic gain; wrapped in the false adulation of sycophants, Party Men, and those wily enough to use the ruler’s narcissism for their own ideological ends; burdened by the fanatical devotion of followers who await literal miracles, but denied the love he truly craves: from the elites and the masses he pretends, for the sake of his own sanity, to loathe.Well Mr. President, it all feels pretty tin-pot banana republic to the rest of us, too. After all, your daughter and your son-in-law literally rubbed their sparkly party clothes in our faces while your Muslim Ban wreaked havoc on families and sparked furious demonstrations nationwide.Trump’s government is running like a rickety jalopy jerry-rigged by an amateur mechanic who’s too full of himself to admit he doesn’t really know anything about cars. And so it’s no surprise that even after just two weeks, what defines Trumpistan most is chaos.There was the chaotic rollout of an ill-formed executive order barring entry to Muslims from seven nations, but which managed to snare the former prime minister of Norway, along with several grannies and little kids.There was the chaotic operation in Yemen, approved at dinner with the help of the president’s caretaker son-in-law (a 35-year-old real estate developer), a Muslim-hating, Putin-loving military intelligence washout now exacting his revenge on the military establishment that turfed him out, and a right wing demagogue bent on a global, white Christian anti-Islamic crusade. The operation was, of course, a tragic failure, resulting in the deaths of a Navy SEAL and an 8-year-old girl, plus countless other civilians. Trump, for his part, didn’t even watch his very first military operation as commander in chief from the situation room. Perhaps, as during the Vietnam war, he had better things to do.And there were the chaotic, bizarre phone feuds with the presidents of Mexico and Australia … Australia! … which Trump disdainfully compared to his warm, wonderful telephone chat with his bosom friend and campaign surrogate Vladimir Putin—whose enemies keep turning up dead in Moscow, or dragged off with their heads covered in burlap.

And how do we know the details of those phone calls? Because alarmed government aides are leaking like a shot-up bucket, perhaps out of sheer terror about what this inept yet ideological administration might do next, and perhaps … unbelievably … in hopes of communicating with the president through the TV.

Even Black History Month and Holocaust Remembrance Day — two “gimmes” for any president, went awry. The February 1st table in the Roosevelt Room was festooned with the small coterie of black Trumpkins who have become fixtures on cable TV shows – including one of Trump’s favorite “prosperity preachers,” Cleveland’s Darrell Scott and “The Apprentice” super-villain Omarosa Manigault. Trump proceeded to declare that Frederick Douglass “has done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more” as the group sat there with straight faces. Meanwhile, the vice president’s Black History Month tweet honored that great and totally not African-American Abraham Lincoln (though in fairness, upon emancipating the enslaved, President Lincoln was lampooned by his detractors as the dictator, Emperor Abraham Africanus) Also, the Holocaust WAS about massacring Jews, no matter what Team Trump, with it’s weird alt-right Rasputin corps says. Better luck next year, fellas. You get to do this three more times.

The president’s spokesman presides over a daily “chaos maintenance exercise” where he faces a press corps seeded with friendly Christian and conservative blogs, (and now, laudatory questions from Trump-supporting local newsies on Skype!) sprinkled among the skeptical D.C. reporters. So Sean Spicer explains the inexplicable in glowing, almost Baghdad Bobian terms, while doing his best to look less and less like an actual hostage. After all, Mr. Trump cares first and foremost about having his people look the part.

And of course, there’s the phenomenon that is the president’s senior advisor, Kellyanne Conway, whose job, apparently, is to make him look honest and serious by comparison.

Trump himself, by all accounts (and by “accounts” I mean “leaks…”), appears unhappy on the throne. I guess it’s turning out to be less awesome being the POTUS than he thought, though boy did that Barack Obama make it look cool. Maybe that’s why team Trump keeps trying to blame every one of their policies on the previous president (and Donald and Melania even copied Obama’s 2009 inaugural cake and nicked a photo of his massive crowds for their website, before they got caught and had to take the picture down.)

Trump has managed to find some fans. The religious right is giddy over the reality-show presidency, having been paid in full for its curious devotion to the man who says he has never asked God for forgiveness, and who chose an attack on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s version of “The Apprentice” as his opening at the National Prayer Breakfast rather than, I don’t know, a few words about Jesus. In the transaction, they get a Supreme Court nominee they hope will overturn Roe v. Wade, from a man who clearly hasn’t given the issue much thought, and was publicly pro-choice for decades.

And Wall Street? Well they've got to be positively gleeful that Trump and his Goldman Sachs cabinet are un-draining the swamp and re-opening the casino by gutting even the rule that investment managers should act in their clients' best interests, rather than their own. Take that, MAGA retirees.

Trump’s longtime friend, shock jock Howard Stern, with whom he shared years of raunchy on-air sex talk, including about Trump’s own daughter, Ivanka… spilled on his radio show this week that he thinks Trump made a big mistake by running for president. Stern said he fears the lack of love and adulation from the public, and especially from the Hollywood elite whose favor Trump covets most, may prove too much for the president’s mental health.

Well great. That means Trump could become even stranger, more erratic, and more obsessive and compulsive than he is now. That leaves little reason to hope he will spend less time forcing people to listen to his stories about how amazing his election victory was, and how large (sigh) his inaugural crowds really, really were, no matter what those non-alternative facts say.

With a claque of ideologues swirling around him, pushing him to be more outrageous; to alienate more non-white, non-Christian groups, and to light the fires of Leninist revolution and keep them burning; a Republican Party unwilling to summon the morality or the patriotism to stop him or even slow him down (even as their staffs leak like sieves to reporters); Democrats adrift in a sea of powerlessness and confusion, and a resistance that’s growing, not tiring, and as such is starting to spook even Trump-friendly corporate titans, from Uber to Tesla to Nordstrom, it seems this Trumpian nightmare is one we may not be able to wake ourselves up from.

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And by “we,” I mean the country, the world, and Donald Trump.