It’s never a good sign when someone gives a speech and people’s reaction is to talk about something other than the words.
And this is what happened Monday night to the president’s large adult son, who came to the speaker’s podium on Night 1 of the Republican National Convention with red, shrunken eyes that did not escape the internet’s notice. People wondered and wondered what was up with Junior’s eyes. After the speech, #Cocaine started trending on Twitter.
As for the words, Junior accused the left of “trying to “cancel” all of those Founders.” He also said that this election would be “church, work, and school” versus “rioting, looting, and vandalism.” And then Junior, who set up the Trump Tower meeting about “adoptions,” said that “the intelligence community recently assessed that the Chinese Communist Party favors Biden. They know he’ll weaken us both economically and on the world stage.” Wait until Junior finds out what the intelligence community did during the 2016 election. Oh wait, Junior was involved in it.
Junior is coming off a very bad week. Last Tuesday, we learned that the Senate Intelligence Committee had made a criminal referral for Junior. In the two-page letter, the committee raised concerns that testimony given to it by the president’s family and advisers contradicted what Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign chairman, told the special counsel about when people within the Trump campaign knew about the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer.
But that was not the end of Junior’s bad, bad week. Later on last week, there was the indictment of Steve “Bathtub Meth” Bannon for defrauding "hundreds of thousands of donors” with the We Build a Wall charity, which was theoretically created so that private donors could build a wall on the southern border. This in itself had nothing to do with the president’s large adult son—until a video of Junior surfaced saying: “This is private enterprise at its finest. Doing it better, faster, cheaper than anything else. What you guys are doing is amazing.” But that’s not where it ended: Both Junior and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, are quoted as giving testimonials for the alleged Ponzi scheme on the organization’s website.
Monday’s New York Times quoted a conservative activist saying, “An electoral defeat in November, Trump Jr. fears, could result in federal prosecutions of Trump, his family and his political allies.” And “that he expects that a Biden administration will not participate in a ‘peaceful transition’ and instead will ‘shoot the prisoners.’” (His spokesman said “this is 100 percent false.”)
Every speech that Junior gives feels like a meditation on plight of the child of a narcissist, of the state of begging for love from your powerful same-sex parent. I know Junior is a misogynistic monster like his father but even dumber. And yet watching him I always sort of feel like 80 percent of who he is could be cured if his parents had just hugged him more. There is something oddly Greek tragedy about a boy begging his father for the love that he is completely incapable of giving. Junior may be a disgusting racist, but he’s a disgusting racist trying desperately to get a narcissist to love him.
Junior did not scream like Guilfoyle, who delivered a sort of terrifying Eva Peron-but-without-the-talent. We probably won’t be talking about Junior’s speech in a month (the bloodshot eyes maybe). But the image of Guilfoyle with her arms outstretched screaming at us will be hard to shake. It was the kind of thing you might see in The Producers, large-lipped Kimberly screaming about how terrible California is, which is a bit ironic as she was once married to California’s current governor. Red-eyed Junior didn’t seem as agitated.
People sometimes say Junior is his father’s Id, the younger angry version of his dad. On Monday night we didn’t see that. Someone told Junior to let Kimberly be the angry one, but unfortunately for Junior, he was as he always is, all culture wars and no cattle.
The president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen once said, “Mr. Trump was very quick to tell everybody that he thinks Don Jr. has the worst judgment of anyone he’s ever met in the world.” And while this speech didn’t show bad judgment, it was just a hodgepodge of the same weird lies that Team Trump always spins—a sort of 2020 vision of Willie Horton, but this time the protesters are Willie and the victims are... a looted Best Buy, maybe?
Chris Christie said of Junior that he is “by no means a sophisticated political actor.” But there’s no place for a sophisticated political actor in the party of Trump. Trump has made the Republican Party just stupid enough to embrace his son.
According to The Atlantic, Trump said of his namesake, “He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” But Junior’s in luck because “not the sharpest knife in drawer” is exactly the temperature of the party of Trump. He ended his speech by saying that the only answer was for people to “embrace the man who represents a bright and beautiful future for all.” If only that man would embrace him.