President Trump: How America Got It So Wrong
Journalists and politicians blew off the warning signs of a Trump presidency – now, we all must pay the price
Tuesday, November 8th, early afternoon. Outside the Trump Tower in Manhattan, a man in the telltale red Make America Great Again hat taps me on the shoulder.
“You press?” he says, looking at a set of lanyards around my neck.
“Fuck yourself,” he says, thrusting a middle finger in my face. He then turns around and walks a boy of about five away from me down Fifth Avenue, a hand gently tousling his son’s hair.
This was before Donald Trump’s historic victory. The message afterward no doubt would have been the same. There’s no way to overstate the horror of what just went down. Sure, we’ve had some unstable characters enter the White House. JFK had health problems that led him to take amphetamine shots during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Reagan’s attention span was so short, the CIA had to make mini-movies to brief him on foreign leaders. George W. Bush not only didn’t read the news, he wasn’t interested in it (“What’s in the newspapers worth worrying about?” he once asked, without irony).
But all of these men were just fronts for one or the other half of the familiar alternating power structure, surrounded by predictable, relatively sober confederates who managed the day-to-day. Trump enters the White House as a lone wrecking ball of conspiratorial ideas, a one-man movement unto himself who owes almost nothing to traditional Republicans and can be expected to be anything but a figurehead. He takes office at a time when the chief executive is vastly more powerful than ever before, with nearly unlimited authority to investigate, surveil, torture and assassinate foreigners and even U.S. citizens – powers that didn’t seem to trouble people much when they were granted to Barack Obama.
Shunned during election season by many in his own party, President-elect Trump’s closest advisers are a collection of crackpots and dilettantes who will make Bush’s cabinet look like the Nobel committee. The head of his EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, is a noted climate-change denier. Pyramid enthusiast and stabbing expert Ben Carson is already being mentioned as a possible Health and Human Services chief. Rudy Giuliani, probably too unhinged by now for even a People’s Court reboot, might be attorney general. God only knows who might end up being Supreme Court nominees; we can only hope they turn out to be lawyers, or at least people who played lawyers onscreen. And sitting behind this fun-house nightmare of executive-branch worthies (which Politico speculates will be one of the more “eclectic” cabinets ever) will be a rubber-stamping all-Republican legislature that will attract the loving admiration of tinhorn despots from Minsk to Beijing.