Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Old King Trump

Trump recalls an aged Henry VIII in my book

Perhaps because Hilary Clinton was very close in age to him, there has been precious little discussion of the fact that Donald Trump was the oldest president on the day of his inauguration in history. Considering that our last aged president, Ronald Reagan, seemed pretty senile in the last two years of presidency, you'd think we talk about this more. Trump's recent behavior signals to me that his age is having an impact on his performance, and it is something that his advisors and the Republican leadership are exploiting.

Now I want to be clear, I am not assuming that old age in itself makes someone unfit for high office. Konrad Adenauer became chancellor of West Germany at the age of 73 and served until he was 87, and today may well be the most admired political figure in that nation's history. I've known plenty of folks who were sharp as a tack into their 90s. But as we know from life, some people age faster than others. The mind is a muscle, and if you don't use it, it atrophies. In the case of Donald Trump, we are seeing the effects of neglect.

He has done quite a job in his recent political career of maintaining his old image as an energetic, virile man. Like everything else with him, it's a lie. His suits hide what his golf shirts can't: the man is very overweight. His lax working hours reveal something else: low energy. (Remember, his insults are usually projections.) At the end of last week it appeared that the rigors of the job were getting to him. On Friday he seemed to talk in a halting, feeble way. People have interpreted his unwillingness to shake hands with Merkel as petulance, but at that moment he looked a little lost to me.

Of course, he still has his moments of forcefulness, such as at his rally last night. But if you've ever actually watched one of his rallies he just kind of rants and rambles like a professor who should have retired five years ago. In his senile years Reagan could still get up and give a speech, that kind of thing was second nature to him. But away from his comfortable environments, he looked as lost as Trump did on Friday.

I think the Republicans have so far very deftly exploited this situation. Trump does not want to be a president, he wants to be king; he does not want to govern, he wants to rule. But like a king, he has no interest in the day to day grind of politics, that's for mere commoners. He said whatever bullshit he needed to say to working and middle class whites to get elected, but now that he's in office, he's outsourced the health care issue to the congressional Republicans, who have taken the opportunity to try to get their radical agenda pushed through. As old man Trump lounges in his throne, holds court at his winter palace, and thunders down his pronouncements on Twitter, the Republican party controls the actual legislative agenda. His feckless ministers and privy council are left to incompetently write the travel bans that the courts reject while the king, like all monarchs, is most concerned about his image. I would guarantee you that he has spent more time analyzing Sean Spicer's press briefings than he has reading intelligence reports.

Having old king Trump around is a godsend for the GOP. They signed a blood pact with him at the convention last year, but whenever anything goes bad, they can blame him, and not themselves. The myth that Trump is somehow apart from Republicans is an extremely useful one for the party, which must know that there's a good chance this thing will crash and burn. While he's still going, they get to exploit his populist aura and pretend they are not soulless servants of the wealthy. Old king Trump won't ever want to know the details, old king Trump won't ever get in the way of anything, since that would require effort. As long as Republicans remain loyal, old king Trump will be happy, even if he can't remember where is he is.

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