Leaning over a table in what looked like the basement of a YMCA, Donald Trump signed copies of his latest contribution to the human race, Crippled America, for 90 monotonous minutes.
The event began at 7:30pm, exclusively hosted at LiveSigning.com, where the entry price was a $25 signed copy of the book. Throughout the hellish broadcast, riddled with the sounds of Trump’s sharpie pressed against glossy paper and the low hum of an air conditioner, San Diego radio host Mike Slater giddily asked the mogul a round of admiring questions.
“We’re going to spend 90 minutes with the greatest businessman of our era,” the host of the evening announced, nearly wetting himself. As Slater resisted the urge to lean over and kiss the often-pursed lips of his guest, Trump remained stoic, signing away into the night.
He sat wedged between two American flags to signify that he is an American and is ready to make it great again. In front of Trump sat a pile of Christmas-wrapped copies of his newest gospel, behind which was a neatly arranged pile showcasing the cover to the viewers at home.
“How many viewers?” Trump would intermittently ask.
“10,000,” a voice said from off-screen.
There was no number counter on the website or any available information anywhere else. But it doesn’t matter. The truth has never been of primary importance to Trump and his followers.
In the back of the frame, a man in a suit stood silently, perhaps contemplating death, as he marched back and forth bringing additional books for Trump to sign.
“How many books have been sold?” Trump asked.
“Around 5,000,” the anonymous voice responded.
At some point, this individual, who remained unnamed and as stealthy as a sniper, disappeared and was replaced by another silent witness—this time a woman—to Trump’s effervescent glory.
She remained in place until the evening’s proceedings drew to a close at 9pm.
Trump sounded stuffy, as if the constant drive of the campaign had finally cracked his much-touted health. But it didn’t seem to bother him. He took phone calls from Janice in Florida, Tyler from Tennessee and Todd (also in Florida). He drifted between talking points, shifting on autopilot between “the VA needs reform” and “Hillary should be in jail,” and even suggested that the FBI was being informed to stop investigating her email scandal.
This is what every supporter and every person with a television has come to expect of The Donald. Superlative platitudes and self-gratifying praise. It’s heaped on with sugary smiles and pouty lips and the most fantastic adjectives.
The leading Republican candidate for president exists at two extremes now, both of which make him virtually inaccessible to direct voter contact. The first is the macro-WWE like events where he preaches from on high at the supporters struggling—sometimes literally fighting—to see. The second is what happened tonight; a monotonous proceeding promoted like a world premiere, with two cameras positioned on the bronzed baron so as not to miss a single word.
“I know we’re going to win and I know we’re going to make America great again,” Tyler from Tennessee told his beloved leader over the phone.
He was one of the lucky ones who received a phone call during the 90-minute free promotional ad.
“Tyler you are a great man and a great American,” Trump said, staring into a phone held up by Slater as if he were considering the beauty of a distant horizon. Slater was recording a video, which will probably end up on Trump’s Instagram at some point.
Anyone who bought the book, which was the price of entry, got the opportunity to submit a question. Only 13 were answered with various iterations of “I’ll fix that. That’ll stop. I’ll make it good.” None of my questions, including a request asking why Trump had changed his position on gun control over the years, were answered. But again, who needs facts in this campaign cycle.
“We sell the hats on DonaldJTrump.com,” Trump said at one point.
By the end of the feature-film length session of despair, Trump did address the San Bernardino shooting, saying definitely “That looks like another Islamic disaster.”
Earlier in the day, Trump had said he thought the shooting was terrorism—but as conflicting details emerged on Thursday, he evolved his message, as is commonplace with Trump talk.
“No matter where you look, it’s the same thing. Here’s another case where it’s Islamic terrorism,” Trump concluded.
By the time the event ended, the poor woman was still clutching books silently in her hands in the background. There were still thousands to sign, according to Trump and his host.
At 9pm, the website switched back to its default promotional image featuring the cover of Trump’s book, on which it looks like he’s passing kidney stones.
Maybe he kept signing for hours. Maybe he’s still there. Maybe he left as soon as the broadcast stopped.
As we’ve come to understand, the truth of it simply doesn’t matter.