In 2010, Donald Trump called President Obama’s chief political adviser, offering his services on the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, then befouling the Gulf of Mexico and depressing White House poll ratings.
“Listen,” Trump told Obama strategist David Axelrod, “that admiral you have down there running this leak operation seems like a nice guy, but he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
“I know how to run big projects,” the Donald added to the David. “Put me in charge of this thing, and I’ll get that leak shut down and the damage repaired.”
Alas, the strategist passed on the offer with a thanks-but-no-thanks, losing an historic opportunity to scuttle the Obama presidency in one swell foop.
As recounted in “Believer,” Axelrod’s excellent recent memoir, the episode nonetheless provides a splendid, behind-the-scenes exemplar of the singularly surreal mindset and boundless self-regard that have plunked Trump atop the Republican presidential field — and center stage for Thursday’s GOP wannabe debate, the first exhibition game of the political preseason.
Not since 1992, when Ross Perot’s wingman, Admiral James Stockdale, unforgettably raised the eternal questions – “Who am I, why am I here?” – have Beltway blatherers and conventional wisdom peddlers expended more words and energy expressing less certainty and more uninformed speculation about a prime-time debate performance.
As the estimable Ana Marie Cox put it, in a must-read, yeowoman piece that rounds up dozens of worthy examples, “acres of pixels have been burned out by people writing about Trump, but what’s remarkable is how relatively little we have to say about him. “
A surfeit of excess. From Cox’s compendium: “There’s no doubt his persona inspires descriptions as florid and memorable as the man himself. He’s ‘a barking carnival act’ and ‘bloviating Godzilla,’ He’s ‘a Mobius strip seamlessly moving from perception to reality,’ ‘the world’s greatest troll’ and a ‘superhero—but not in a good way.’
“He is a ‘loose-haired agent of chaos,’ with ‘the complexion of a Creamsicle,’ whose ‘hair swirls atop his head with disconcerting translucence—a cotton candy sculpture in the shape of a vending machine honey bun.’ Trump’s ‘suits have a cut and sheen as if they came from the trunk sale of a visiting Bombay tailor staying in a cheap hotel in Trump’s native Queens and taking a nip between fittings.’
“His stage presence is the result of ‘method acting that eventually supplanted whatever human-like personality he once possessed.’ He is a ‘fat-haired yapping caricature of capitalism’ currently ‘yelling crazy shit on his way through a Republican presidential primary while sporting a sad trombone haircut’ as he serves up ‘a smelly soup of billionaire populism and yahoo nationalism, flavored with a tangy dollop of old-timey racism.’”
So we’ll simply say, in the subtlest, most nuanced and understated way possible, that Trump looks to us like nothing less than the Republican reincarnation of – MOLOCH!!! – the mighty karmic angel of political retribution come to avenge decades of right-wing civic sins and campaign immoralities.
From the Old Testament to Milton and Ginsburg, Moloch!!! has been the lieutenant of Satan to whom the most shameful child sacrifice rituals have been offered, in exhortation of prosperity and power.
And from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove and Sean Hannity, Republican political pagans have sacrificed children, minorities, immigrants, the old, the sick and the environment on the altar of greed, plutocracy and ruthless capitalism.
(Well modulated male NPR voice: “And now a brief poetic interlude.”
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius!
Most treacherously and most harmfully of all, the forces of Tea Party and reactionary Republicanism have sacrificed the value and integrity of truth itself, in order to win elections by appealing to the most base political instincts among us, as we presciently and frequently have argued here, here, here, here and here.
Cynicism, of course, breeds further alienation and disgust, causing a downward spiral of disengagement from the process, leaving voting (and caring) to the true-believing wing-nuts who are certain they know the truth because they read or watch it at one of the ideologically-determined web sites or stations that conclusively confirms their prior held beliefs…
It’s now clear that a candidate with unlimited resources can and will blow off complaints, critiques and factual analyses of those who dare to speak up and will instead declare that the truth is whatever he or she says it is — in their paid advertising and the assertions of their mercenary prevaricators.
And, in Trump’s case, from his own, massive pie hole.
How Jeb should handle The Donald. It seems the non-Trump wannabes are spending many hours preparing, war gaming and wool gathering about how to handle him in the debate.
Most of the Republicans are wary of taking on Mr. Trump because he seems impenetrable, yet they also do not want to look weak in the face of his attacks. The best they can hope for is that Mr. Trump will attack their biggest perceived opponent…
Stagecraft is critical, especially for Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker, since they are expected to be standing on either side of Mr. Trump and often in the same camera shot. Advisers say they are confident that Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker will not scowl or stiffen in reaction to anything Mr. Trump says, but rather will seek opportunities to look and sound more presidential than he does…
For our two cents, the best thing the others can do is not overthink this thing. The first time
MOLOCH!!! Trump breathes fire, Jeb or John or Scott should turn to him and very calmly say:
“While I admire Mr. Trump’s skill as a businessman, I simply disagree with him on some fundamental issues: he’s supported a woman’s right to an abortion, he’s given campaign funds to Hillary Clinton in the past, he’s spoken out for single-payer universal health care. That’s fine. He’s entitled to those views. But as a conservative Republican, I have different views.”
Don’t forget to smile.
P.S. A few weeks after Trump’s oil spill offer to the White House, Axelrod reports in his book, the two of them spoke again, and Donald had a second proposition:
“I’ve got another thing for you. I build ballrooms. Beautiful ballrooms. You can go to Tampa and check one of them out for yourself.”
Not being much of a dancer, I didn’t quite know where this was heading. “I see you have these state dinners on the lawn there in these shitty little tents. Let me build you a ballroom you can assemble and take apart. Trust me. It’ll look great.”
So there’s that.