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OPINION: Donald Trump: What have you got left?

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 January 2021, 8:30 by Denis Chabrol

By Paul Sanders, New York, January 2021

For one last time. Imagine Donald Trump. President Donald J. Trump. Mofo. Imagine. He stands often at the South Lawn. The reporters shout questions at him. It’s a ritual; it’s always the same. The questions change and the answers mostly don’t. Don’t call this a conversation. But it unfolds roughly along those lines. Of course, it’s worthless.

Reporters shout something at Trump about a thing he said or did. Or he responds to someone else’s response to something, and then he shouts that he did it because he felt like it or actually didn’t do it at all, or the criticism of what he did is offensive and illegitimate, or that the question itself is. If a woman probes his answers, he gets extra spicy. And you know when he’s wounded and inconvenienced. He looks around with lips pursed and his eyes cast up. Weird shit. It makes him look like someone searching for a bathroom in a crowded airport terminal.

The purpose here is pure theater. It’s a strange drama – Trump’s boorishness and the towering obvious lies he tells, and his accusations of “fake news.” All of this happens not to convince but more to signal his ongoing unwillingness to respect facts. A rarefied cavalier in his own class. But this is exactly what Trump thinks the news should be like: people clamoring with microphones for his opinion and asking him about himself. People should address him with such obsequious salutation as ” our dear, beloved leader.” Trump has always dreamed of this; he wants to deliver flirty winking responses like the “stable genius” he gloats that he is. He loves the attention.

But is that the way it goes now? The man is totally frustrated, desperate and deranged. He’s busy with conspiracy theories. Absent from his daily press meetings is his favorite retort to almost anything penetrating: “we are looking into that very strongly.” Of course, it’s transparent that he can’t answer and so he dispenses whatever thudding speculative idiocy he thinks that will get him to the next question. The important thing for him is that the microphones are still pointed in the right direction. His obsession with the spotlight is dazzling. His self-adulation gleams buoyantly. That has been the culture. And it has been inching further and further into Trump’s gilded funhouse, and you know it f^#%!>& sucks in there. But we are all in, by now. Trump is as ubiquitous in the culture as he has always believed he should be; the one deeply held belief in his whole faithless disgrace of a life is that people should be talking about Donald Trump …. more on Television.

Think about it, the narcissist has seen that through. Now he thinks that Jesus Christ is the only person more popular than him. Yes, all Trump wants is to be able to keep doing and taking and saying whatever he wants whenever he wants. He ran for president for this and this reason only. He tries to overturn the elections for this reason too. His politics have always been raw cunning, off-the-rack big city tabloid bullshit all bound up in the mythos of a mobster as portrayed in pop culture. His actions since becoming president have been those of a dim, cruel child playwriting at being a powerful man – giving orders without quite knowing what they mean or how they might be carried out, taunting enemies, beating up people he can afford to beat up without having to be called to account for it, lying profusely as needed or just for yuks. He hasn’t changed a thing since graduating from punchline to president. It’s been clear for decades that Trump was both an asshole and a dummy; this is now a problem not just for the odd, unlucky porn star but for literally every person on earth.

Presidents exert a kind of ambient influence on culture. Trump is different than his predecessors, and his influence feels different. Barack Obama wanted to be a cosmopolitan leader who brought people together and into a deeper empathy through the mastery of reason and rules. The country he governed didn’t really work like that; and the tension between that cool vision and this seething reality grew and grew. By the end of his presidency it was not really sure what it was about as it first appeared to be. Trump has no such pretense or noble aspiration. He has made the country more like himself- a world class shithole country overrun by neo-fascists and fanatical evangelical zealots apotheosizing his f^%##?y. Living here is like being trapped in a casino that is filling with seawater. Because that is why it is! For someone who likes to lie so frequently, Trump is not very talented at it. His dissimilations are too easy to see through; the things he heatedly accuses his enemies of doing are always the things he has done himself, is currently doing, or obviously aspires to do in the future. He is always desperate in the way that selfish and needy people are always desperate. His fears run the show. And for a man who is very vain and stupid and has always cared how Fox News and the GOP minions like Ted Cruz and Mitchell McConnell present him, the result is equilibrium. What’s most striking about Trump’s lies, beyond their overwhelming volume and bombast, the bellicosity of his rhetoric, the petty obsessions that colored it all, is how they reflect his own monomania. He always f^%<# up and lies constantly. Lies. Lies. Lies. Nothing is more important than the survival of his most obvious throwaway fantasy. Everything returns to him in good time. His obliterating vanity can sometimes give this a darkly comic aspect like the hilariously envy of the few days of bipartisan mourning that followed John McCain’s death. Trump’s engagement with the world is an envious one, and everything that is not him is just getting in his way. Isn’t that’s the reason for his blustering and uncomprehending impatience?

Trump and a lot of the people in his thrall are gone. They will continue to walk among us. Trump will be in a golf cart, but they will never come back. There is nothing they are not prepared to believe if the right people say it; they will chose the right lie over any truth, not just without regret, but with pride. Its the basis for Trumpism, anyway. America likes to tell stories about itself to itself. And if these are not all quite lies they are mostly much sweeter and safer than fact. The lies that Trump has told since his party lost at the midterm elections have been about denial. He will lie if the truth doesn’t fit and millions will hear that lie as a truth for that reason. Anything that needs be can be labeled a fraud or bought-and-paid for result of a conspiracy, and fact can be made into something afterwards. Trump won’t stop. Because he’s never told the truth in his life and because this is all he has and all he has ever had. He wakes up everyday to the mess he’s made and does whatever he must to get through the day. Like many in the GOP, Trump has mistaken the end of life for the end of the world. He can’t imagine what will be left after he’s gone. His politics boil down to this: he will spend the rest of his life trying not to be found out. In the most basic sense, just in terms of getting off his ass to do the basic boring things that presidents do, Trump can’t do the job. He can’t care and he won’t work and he never tells the truth because he doesn’t know it and is afraid to know it. There is no reason to ask him or anyone of his Republican enablers who work for him questions – a half truth isn’t true enough and even a half lie is still a lie, and they will never do better either. The work that needs doing, which Trump and his people cannot do or even see, is plain and urgent. It’s all much bigger than him. And that’s the truth Trump will lie about