The Worst Is Yet to Come
For the last half of 2016, I encouraged friends and readers to get used to saying “President Trump.” Given the odds favoring Hillary Clinton right up to Election Day, I got lots of puzzled looks. Still, I hitched my wagon to Allan Lichtman, who has correctly named the winners since Reagan’s re-election in 1984. He and I both got it right on November 8th.
Predicting an upset normally leads to gloating, but in this case it amounts to wearing a boutonnière smelling of cat pee—smart, but nobody wants to dance.
I bring up my pre-election warnings just days before Trump’s inauguration only because I feel entitled to cut in. The media are dancing around obvious truths Americans need to hear. Tap tap tap. May I take the lead for a moment?
President Trump’s behavior will only get worse.
Reckoning the weight of his office, will Trump experience an epiphany and honor the grand tradition he has inherited?
Are you kidding? Not only will the Donald, as his The Art of the Deal ghostwriter Tony Schwartz puts it, “stomp, stomp, stomp” to his own drummer, but he will do so more lustily than ever before. He is a chronic exhibitionist who won the White House. Why would he conceal his tremendous endowment now?
Jane Mayer’s profile of Schwartz in The New Yorker pounds a stake through the heart of any hope that Trump will connect with his inner POTUS: “Schwartz has heard some argue that there must be a more thoughtful and nuanced version of Donald Trump that he is keeping in reserve for after the campaign. ‘There isn’t,’ Schwartz insists. ‘There is no private Trump.’”
There may be no private Trump, but there will be an emboldened one. Come January 20th, behold.
Checks and balances will prove impotent.
Millions either didn’t care about or believe allegations of Trump’s reprehensible behavior. Republican leaders were saturated with credible information and supported their candidate anyway. And voters rewarded the party of obstruction by handing it the House and Senate.
How can anybody expect Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to launch investigations into Trump’s crooked conduct or prevent him from gutting the Constitution? Our next President will do what he damn well pleases, and his party’s leaders won’t so much as bear their soggy gums.
Social discourse will continue to deteriorate.
Fake news is already old news. It flows on social media like Pabst Blue Ribbon at a college keger and serves as a convenient alibi. Serious allegations no longer exist, only fake news.
“’It’s really easy to just make something up’ online, said [BuzzFeed’s Craig] Silverman to ABC News. ‘So the amount of effort actually to create something that gets a huge amount of attention on Facebook and can earn thousands and thousands of dollars is minimal.’”
A trinity of realities, then, forms a stool of ignorance: 1.) Baloney travels at light speed. 2.) Consumers wolf down what they like and call what they don’t like fake. And 3.) Republican leaders are pleased with this arrangement.
Trump himself is by constitution a latrine of bull. “He lied strategically,” Schwartz said of his months of authorized shadowing. “He had a complete lack of conscience about it.”
So the stage is set for some breathtaking spin in the years ahead. Republicans will control all three branches of government, but as Nobel laureate Paul Krugman writes, “The political thinking seems to be that they can find a way to blame Democrats for the debacle.”
With a pathological liar and his party mocking the disabled, the United States Intelligence Community and the popular vote, language is now a Machiavellian tool. Words and facts are nothing more than slaves.
Absurd and brutish conduct will be the norm.
On November 8, 2016, Americans voted not only for Donald Trump, but also for a set of scurvy values.
For the last eight years, Republicans’ central mission has been to prevent Obama from accomplishing anything. Now they wear a brand that wins at all costs. No lie is outlandish, no violation unconscionable, no thievery brazen, no crime impeachable.
In addition to praying for a kinder, gentler President Trump, pundits also bandy about legal measures that could prevent the unethical orgy sure to writhe at the top of Trump Tower.
Please! According to Politico, “Federal conflict-of-interest laws exempt the President, and he’ll have the power to change White House ethics rules.” But no worries. Where facts don’t exist, neither can law.
The news media isn’t designed to cover Donald Trump.
Ironically, our next Commander-in-Chief isn’t a racist or sexist or any “ist” other than narcissist. He is only about glutting the maw of his ego and libido.
Tony Schwartz once went home after a day with Donald and told his wife, “He’s a living black hole.”
Roy Cohn, Trump’s lawyer who taught him never to apologize, was dying of AIDS and felt abandoned by his former disciple when he said, “Donald pisses ice water.” This from Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s wingman during the 1950s Red Scare!
But surely such descriptions are exaggerated. A billionaire of the Donald’s magnanimity would at least be a generous philanthropist.
Think again. “After calling 420-plus charities with some connection to Trump, The [Washington] Post found only one personal gift from Trump between 2008 and the spring of this year . That was a gift to the Police Athletic League of New York City in 2009. It was worth less than $10,000.”
We might dream that the news media will report such facts, but in the next President of the United States, journalists will face a confounding subject. They can verify Trump’s lies. They can tell when he is being an odious bully. But what are they to do with thousands of utterances that could possibly, maybe, conceivably be true—or not?
Take, for example, The New York Times report that Donald Trump “said he would not divest from his vast business holdings as he takes office. Instead, the president-elect will turn over operations and control of those holdings to a trust controlled by his eldest sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.” Whew! Now I feel better.
Here’s the problem: Every quote or piece of information simply can’t be flagged as a potential falsehood. Imagine a newspaper article on Donald Trump published this way. The newsprint would look like it had been riddled with asterisk-shaped bullets.
Journalists of good conscience must want to hold our next President accountable, but to what? The truth? The Constitution? Honor? Good morals? Best of luck.
The Grievous Conclusion: No More Surprises
Also in the news thanks to BuzzFeed are thirty-five pages of unverified intelligence documenting ties between Trump, his presidential campaign and Russia, all the way up to Putin.
Bottom line: Russia, micromanaged by Putin, has the goods on Donald Trump. The charges range from Trump’s campaign helping fund those Wikileaks hackers to a purported video best described by these search terms: Donald Trump, Moscow, Ritz Carlton, prostitutes and . . . wait for it . . . pee.
Again, this tawdry vignette may not be true, which is precisely why I close with it. There will never be a way to prove that a single stroke of those thirty-five pages is factual. But what if a video materializes? Easy. It’s a fake.
The Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 word of the year, post-truth, is going to be indispensible from now on. Where there is no truth, after all, there are no surprises. Nothing whatsoever need be real. Godspeed to dismay and disbelief.
And those partaking in President Trump’s inauguration need not entertain unsavory images of the man with his hand on the Bible. All the nasty stories about him are probably made up or overblown at least.
According to the book to be touched by short fingers in a few days, a politician named Pilate once scoffed, “What is truth?”
Or, as a politician named Trump is fond of saying, “Believe me.”
His oath will close with words that he will utter as both promise and threat: “So help me God.”
Forgive me. I can’t bear to watch.