The weekend did not go well for Donald Trump, and he emerged into a sunny first day of June humiliated by his weakness, cowardice, and inability to face up to any crisis more complex than “Why is my Filet-O-Fish cold?”
The man sporting the world’s most delicate ego knows the worst thing for any wannabe Maximum Leader is mockery, and America’s derision was pouring down after a weekend taunt blew up into the hashtag #BunkerBitch and trended worldwide. Like many things that set off cascades of Trump’s bad decisions—porn starlets, breakfast buffets, shady real estate deals, and Steve Bannon—he reacted as badly as one might expect to the derision, with the tantrums we saw Monday.
Far from making Trump seem like the strong, commanding authoritarian he plays in his head, his every action and word exposed the opposite: He was weird and weak, then blustery and bizarre.
Nothing says powerful leadership like a call with America’s governors that goes so off the rails in its opening moments that reporters are given access as it’s happening, just to give them a contemporaneous listen to the bugfuck rantings of an imbalanced, angry president. “Most of you are weak,” grunted President Projection von Bunker.
Trump railed at Castroesque length about dominance, taking back the streets, getting tough, and using the National Guard. I’d pay good Bitcoin to have seen the expressions on the governors’ faces as a man as physically weak and personally cowardly as Trump berated them for failing to stop the national unrest. The thought of Trump directing governors like some kind of Rascal Scooter generalissimo was rich; these are men and women who’ve been fighting COVID-19 and civil unrest for months now, and their collective eye-rolling today must have altered the orbit of the planet in some measurable way.
But it was the hastily organized rant-and-stroll that made a mark on Trump’s Lil Dictator’s copybook today. What was supposed to look powerful, commanding, and terrifying to MAGA world’s latest constellation of imaginary enemies—Commie leftist agitators! Saboteurs! Professional anarchists! Antifaaaaaa!—looked like the angry rantings of a grandpa ready to head to the Old Strongman’s Home for rice pudding and a nice rest.
As always, his teleprompter performance was full of words Donald Trump hadn’t read beforehand, let alone contemplated before. Today was no exception. Trump angrily slogged through a speech clearly written by the White House Axis of Assholes, full of eager rhetoric about cracking heads and promises to deploy the U.S. military on to our streets—whether the governors want it or not—and put down “domestic terrorists.” He left out kulaks, wreckers, saboteurs, and class enemies, but today’s speech was the ‘roid rage equivalent of Nixon’s 1968 Law-and-Order stuff.
Driven by a fear of continued mockery more potent than his cowardice in the face of noisy protesters, Trump then gave a feat of masculine virtue by walking two entire blocks from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church.
By tomorrow, the MAGA version of this will be Trump single-handedly fighting off 500 Antifa ninja Soros supersoldiers, but the reality was more on-brand for 2020. The park Trump waddled through had been cleared moments before by police, Secret Service, and other law enforcement agencies under federal control. Non-violent protests were hit with rubber bullets, tear gas, police batons, and flashbangs. It was the kind of overkill Trump finds arousing, and Bill Barr’s minions were clearly out in heavy force.
Trump, brick-red and sweating like a hog caught in a gate, then stood before the beautiful “Church of the Presidents” for a photo-op moment intended strictly for his evangelical base that provided incontrovertible proof God is dead, or at least napping, as he held aloft the Bible and didn’t turn into a pillar of salt or leave a smoking hole where the lightning bolt struck.
Asked if it was his Bible, Trump’s wee brain gears ground for a moment until he replied, “It’s a Bible.” A Bible he doesn’t read, held up before a church he doesn’t attend, professing a faith he doesn’t possess. I mean, come on, God.
The awkward lineup of the Average White Administration in front of the boarded-up church was made all the more awkward by the distant sound of flashbangs exploding on unarmed and nonviolent protesters a few blocks away. Just after they departed, the bishop of the diocese said she was “outraged” the president had used the church as a prop.
From the start, Donald Trump has always been drawn to autocrats, strongmen, dictators and other bad actors on the authoritarian spectrum. You know the general lineup: special bestie Vladimir Putin, maybe-dead Kim Jong Un of North Korea, President Xi of China, Duterte of the Philippines, Orban of Hungary, Erdogan of Turkey, and Mohammed Butcher—pardon me, bin—Salman of Saudi Arabia.
Trump drips with contempt for Western leaders like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, but it wouldn't shock me if Trump has learned a little Russian to ask Putin if he wants a happy ending. He’s just not a man with the values of the West in his veins.
During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy stayed at the White House even as nuclear tensions grew closer to explosion than at any point in our history. Richard Nixon, during the most heated moments of the Vietnam War, spent a long evening on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, talking with anti-war protesters. On 9/11, George W. Bush insisted that the Secret Service allow him to return to Washington, D.C., even as the attack continued and American intelligence was running blind.
Now Trump has left his bunker to take a picture after a small army roughed up and drove off anyone with a voice to speak against him. Not exactly a profile in courage.