the worst President ever category, Donald J. Trump, despite
44 predecessors, has easily outstripped the competition. He
is the least organized, the least knowledgeable, the least honest,
the least gracious, least dignified, least democratic, the most
self-absorbed, most impeached. Though no longer in office, the
list continues to grow; both civil and criminal
charges are pending, including insurance and
tax fraud, and falsifying business records.
his unprecedentedly controversial presidency, what hasn't been
entered into the public domain, and as such is a curious oversight
by both devotees and detractors, is that Trump is the least
edited, or in philosophic terms, the most (by sheer inadvertence)
authentic President in history. One reason Trump is so loathed
-- he left office with the lowest
approval rating (29%) in the history of the presidency
-- is that he has revealed more of his true character, multiple
warts and all, than any other President. And since he paid dearly
for it, one must wonder why, over and against the counsel of
his closest advisors and confidants, he refused to make any
concession to being liked, to keeping his demons on tight leash?
all of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s remarkable novels -- The
Idiot, Crime and Punishment and Brothers Karamazov
-- we repeatedly encounter characters who suddenly, inexplicably,
do or say something that goes totally against their self-interest.
Whether during courtship, a business affair, a wedding party
or family reunion, for no apparent reason, a character will
reveal an outrageously negative aspect of himself regarding
manners, pride, vulgarity or envy, and in a single, uncalculated
stroke destroy an outcome he may have been patiently nurturing
over a considerable period of time. But counter intuitively,
the character doesn't suffer in the reader's estimation because
he has dared to reveal himself as he truly is, stripped of all
pretence and dissimulation.
profoundly believed that all of us, regardless of culture, and
prior to the imposition of the modern equivalent of The Ten
Commandments, are activated by the primordial urge to confess.
All the world’s major and minor religions weave into their
rites and operations the redemptive properties of confession.
If we’re to set store by Raskalnikov from Crime and
Punishment, and Dmitri Karamazov from The Brothers
Karamazov, the need to confess is as insistent as a biological
imperative, which means confession need not be restricted to
we like him or not, or voted for him or not, we all feel we
know who is 'the real' Donald J. Trump, especially compared
to all past presidents. Paraphrasing Montaigne, every time he
opens his mouth he is confessing who he is: the good, the considerable
bad and the ugly.
what we learned most from Trump's impromptu confessions during
his presidency was how raw and unabating is his craving for
absolute power, a craving that was consummated in the January
6th (2021) attempt to overturn a democratically vouchsafed election
result. But it would be a mistake to regard the mindset that
informed Trump's call to insurrection as unique or aberrant.
is no one, and that includes democratically elected leaders,
who, once in possession of power and influence, wants to relinquish
it. Competing for power, its privileges and exemptions, is a
primordial drive that governs the animal world which includes
the king of the beasts. There doesn't exist a leader in the
world who wouldn't rather rule by fiat than have to submit to
a protracted consultative process, the end result of which can
be produced by a simple authoritarian command.
every democratically elected leader suffers in secret from dictator
envy, no one has illuminated that condition more than Trump,
who, after 226 years of safekeeping, yanked it out of the closet
and shoved it into our faces for 1,460 days. Whether it can
be put back under lock and key where it belongs, whether democracy
in America will ever again be the same, remains to be seen.
is common to all dictators, despots and tyrants -- with the
blessings of human nature -- is their insistence on absolute
loyalty. Who among us doesn't want to be surrounded and protected
by a circle of loyal friends, advisors and confidants?
sets apart the family unit from all other forms of assembly
are its terms of unconditionality. To our own, we unconditionally
offer succour and support regardless of merit. What distinguished
Trump from all other presidents is that he made no secret that
he wanted to be surrounded by loyalists, a team of YesSirs,
beginning with family and friends who could be counted on to
toe the President's line regardless of what was in the best
interest of the nation. From the very outset of his rule, he
replaced competent office holders with mostly incompetent or
unqualified loyalists. According to the Brookings
Institution, the turnover rate during Trump's
four year term was an astounding 92%. That America suffered
nationally and internationally mattered not a whit to Trump
for whom loyalty trumped all other considerations. And he didn't
hide his priorities, that is he did not disingenuously pay lip
service to the oath of office (to serve the nation) and centuries-deep
principles of American democracy for which he had no practical
Making America great counted for nothing next to his obsession
with the greatness he wanted for himself. And yet his frankness,
his God-given artlessness was apparently so refreshing (inspiring)
that it resonated and still resonates with millions of Americans
who in 2016 and 2020 announced that they had had enough of 50
years of duplicitous Presidents who say one thing and do the
opposite, who vow to level the playing field but continue to
allow corporations to funnel billions of dollars into off-shore
tax havens, who unfailingly do the corporation’s bidding
before the nation’s.
the tonnage of bad press, Trump never tried to hide the fact
that he is a pathological prevaricator. Instead, through remarkable
sleight-of-mind -- at least in his own mind -- he quite brilliantly
recontextualized his mendacities into strategic adjuncts to
the maintenance and exercise of power. No matter how brazen
or outrageous the lie, on each and every occasion it served
one end: to maintain an iron grip on power in the context of
democracy where power lies with the voter and his consent. Among
the myriad aggregates of special interest groups and their agendas,
Trump told them what they wanted to hear, and it was immaterial
whether it was the truth or a lie. It was all about consent.
Chomsky, the author of Manufacturing Consent,
would agree that no one in the history of the presidency has
been able to manufacture consent like Donald J. Trump. It discombobulates
the mind that during the past decade Trump paid
more in taxes to Taiwan than Uncle Sam and yet
74.2 million people voted for him in a losing cause. It is no
less flummoxing that an arrogant, bloviating multi-billionaire
is now the champion of the working class, that a plutocrat is
the toast of the proletariat.
no other President, Trump didn't care what a particular voting
group represented in terms of its values and beliefs. During
Charlottesville, he quasi-legitimized the white supremacy movement.
More recently he has refused to criticize the loony QAnon faction
of the Republican party, and yet Trump is neither a racist nor
white supremacist. He is a master calculator and no one has
so blatantly whored for the vote than the 45th Commander-in-Chief.
any other President, Trump understood that the power of the
presidency resides more in its mythical underpinnings than the
powers invested in the office. That insight allowed him to singlehandedly
turn the office into a quasi cult. Trump didn't want to be merely
respected; he wanted to be adored, revered, worshipped. He wanted
us to believe what he privately believed: that his remarkable
ascent to becoming the most powerful being in the world was
of the same order as The Divine Right of Kings. When Trump spoke
his word became The Word, multiplied by millions of adorers.
Jan. 6th was Trump's greatest triumph as thousands of people,
flouting both the laws of the land and the principles of democracy,
stormed The US Capitol Building in an expression of unconditional
loyalty to their hero/saviour. Somewhere in the hell of his
own confection, David Koresh is smiling.
August 2020, Trump, for whom the humility card is a non-starter,
tweeted that he would like his portrait added to Mount Rushmore
next to Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. Implied
in his wish is that the condition of greatness need not be derived
from consensus or competence but from self-estimation. What
is of significance here is that he didn't try to veil his megalomania,
his off-the charts self-esteem, his unhinged self-adoration.
To make his Rushmore candidacy more palatable, he could have
cajoled one of his YesSirs to float the idea -- but that would
have been out of character.
Trump somehow manages to reinvent himself as a tragic figure,
it is surely due more to the circumstance of his birth than
the disputed election result. For when all is said and written,
it was Trump's awful luck to be born in the USA under democratic
rule. He inherited a political system least suited to his temperament.
Democracy was the ball-and-chain, the dead weight he had to
bear every day of his presidency. He should have been born in
Uganda, Zimbabwe, Liberia, countries where the incumbent wins
every election by a landslide. There, Trump would have ruled
for life, and as a fitting bookend to his reign, if there were
an African equivalent of Mount Rushmore (Mount Kilimanjaro),
Trump would have earned his rightful place in stone beside the
likes of Robert Mugawi, Charles Taylor, P.W. Botha, Yoweri Museveni
so much unprecedentedly known of an American President, is it
still possible to detest the man for his unseemly character
and the shameless manner in which he put his blind ambition
above the people he was elected to serve, and yet admire him
for his forthrightness, his frankness, his authenticity?
we dig deep into the substrata of human motivation, H. L.
Mencken reminds us that we are "still a mere organism
in the end, a brother to the wild things and the protozoa,
swayed by the same inscrutable fortunes, condemned by the
same inchoate errors and irresolutions, and surrounded by
the same terror and darkness . . . "
unwaveringly authentic (real) as Trump has been during his presidency,
we must disabuse ourselves of the notion that aspiring to authenticity
was one of his pet projects. In point of fact Trump would be
hard pressed to enjoin an intelligent conversation on the the
subject. That Trump is incapable of editing himself is a consequence
of his constitution, and we shouldn't admire him for it just
as we don't admire someone who has never smoked for not smoking.
it is quite proper to ask that as the most unedited, transparent
President ever, if Trump shouldn’t be granted special
status or a personal exemption at the seat of judgment? Both
the short and the long answer must be an emphatic NO, while
acknowledging that because of who he is, he made it spectacularly
easier to articulate all the reasons why we didn't vote for
him -- or shouldn't have.
there's a silver lining to the dysfunctional (chaotic) Trump
presidency, it is that 'We the People' now know that CEOs are
virtual dictators and are therefore not constitutionally fit
to operate within the constraints of democracy. And if 'We the
People' are unhappy with the way Presidents are chosen -- the
obscene sums of money that are required to run for the highest
office -- the rules of the game will have to be changed in favour
of competency and fitness for office.
it not the supreme challenge of not just the USA but every country
to identify that one person out of millions who is best qualified
to take his or her nation to a better place? Isn't that what
we want of our system of governance, no less than we want the
best trained and most competent pilots flying our planes, and
most skilled surgeons repairing our bodies?
is still not too late for America to rise to the occasion of
answering that summons, if only to ensure its continued high
ranking among the nations of the world.
Work (Gesture II) © Lydia