Are you not entertained?
In two speeches today, the recently acquitted and utterly guilty president of the United States, King Donald the Malevolent, let his rage, manias, and petty vengeances out to play, bellowing like a third-world warlord in a display of political performance art that was almost unbearably grotesque in its affront to American values, the law, and our collective sanity.
Like me, your first thought was likely that after today, only Americans fed on a daily drip of IV agitporn from Fox and Facebook believe Trump is morally or mentally fit for the task at hand. Trump is, QED, a man more suited to a padded cell, and a place to write his manifesto.
As tempting as it is to ascribe today’s performances to Trump’s usual mental frailty, verbal dysentery, pathological mendacity, tertiary syphilis, amphetamine addiction, and brain worms, it wasn’t just that. Not this time.
Oh, sure, it had the usual slurry of lies, self-pity, ego masturbation, bluster, projection, and shit-talking, but it wasn’t just the mental illness talking. Today’s act was a reading from the Book of Tyranny in which anyone with a vague grasp of history will see and hear the tropes of authoritarians past in Trump’s remarks.
One of my rules about Trump is that the truth is always in the asides, the off-prompter remarks, the petty disparagement of his betters, the windows into his seething, hideous jealousy, the galaxy-sized chip on his shoulder. If the state of the union was focus group vomitus, base red meat, and anodyne policy proposals, today’s two bookend speeches were windows into the ravenous maw of Trump’s authoritarian fantasies, the bully set up for free hits while his minions hold the victim's arms back.
Like all authoritarians, Trump was sending a crisp signal that he is above the law. This was the core of it all, the triumph of corruption. The praise of his allies had a sting to it, though most were too dumb or too scared to understand it; “You are my servants. Today, you did a good job for me. But, really, what have you done for me lately?” Those Members of the House and Senate with a pulse know--and secretly admit, as Sherrod Brown wrote in the Times–that Trump was guilty, and from fear they let him off.
Like all strongmen, Trump won’t tolerate dissent. No differing views can be allowed. The king is always right. Anyone who speaks against him deserves what they get. A cynic might even conclude that the Trumpian jokes about sending people like me to GITMO are their attempt to push the Overton Window.
Trump intends to punish his enemies, real and perceived. That was abundantly clear today. His hit list of enemies was like nothing we’ve ever seen a president say in public. He attacked Senator Mitt Romney with particular venom. "And then you had some that used religion as a crutch. They never used it before," Trump said. "But you know it's a failed presidential candidate, so things can happen when you fail so badly running for president."
Four of his Deep State favorites came in for attack; James “Top Scum” Comey, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and of course, “lowlifes” Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
Trump is going to continue to use the arms of government and the powers of the federal law-enforcement to pursue political benefit for himself and political advantage against his opponents.
He knows his allies and the rest of the online thugocracy he’s empowered doesn’t need to be told, “Tell Congressman X that we’re going to kill his kids if he’s critical of me.” He knows damn well it’s going to happen. He knows the threats from his supporters to his opponents are constant, vile, and personal. Trust me, I live it every day.
He’s going to continue to act as the corrupt, lawless, warlord president that the Republicans unleashed on America this week. Sitting at his master’s feet was Attorney General and Trump lapdog Bill Barr, a man history will record as the architect of the coming festivities.
The triumph of coordination between Barr, the Trump defense team, and Senator Mitch McConnell was a poison bill for legislative power in this country, and even though he’s a moron when it comes to history, or the constitutional bounds of the balance of power, Trump knows he got away with everything short of murder this week. Of course, Trump was raging, threatening, and downright bragging about his power is a preview; soon, he’ll openly admit to all the crimes he’s committed, leaving his GOP allies holding the fecal end of the stick.
Something big and dark was moving under the surface of events today. Donald Trump may be utterly ignorant of history, but he has the unerring instincts of a sociopathic authoritarian for the seizure of power, the destruction of institutions around him, and complete confidence that the weak men around him will cheer every outrage and excess. Trump is a man who will revel in the shock and terror of his allies when he turns on them, feeding on their misery.
They sat mute as Donald Trump attacked the religious faith one of their own. They sat staring down at their feet. Why not? So much for his devotion to religious liberty, as he claimed earlier in the day. Trump knows that the evangelical movement is as much a whore to him as any of his previous purchased dalliances. When you’re delivering judges, you can grab them by the pussy, clearly.
Remember all the Republican senators this week who were saying they were not going to vote to convict because they thought Trump had learned his lesson? That he would move forward a chastened man?
Yes, Susan Collins, I’m looking straight at you. Many of the senators who said Trump had done something wrong but not something impeachable sat in a room today and clapped like trained seals being tossed chum at the Douchebag Seaquarium. Trump rubbed his guilt in their faces, having learned exactly the opposite lesson that they imagine.
Trump knows he can break the law, lie with vigor, obstruct justice, threaten Americans with political and personal retribution, shame the presidency, endanger the country, enrich himself and his goon spawn, and nothing can be done to stop him.
The monster is out of the cage. The Republicans set him free.