Can we, after all these months, find it within ourselves to manage a teeny-tiny, eensie-weensie, little itty-bitty smidgen of sympathy for Donald Trump? It doesn’t have to be much. Something about the size of the period at the end of this sentence would do. I mean, all the man did was run for president and accidentally win, and now it’s all over Twitter and everywhere else that he could end up in jail!
C’mon folks, just look at the guy. It all started out so innocently back in the summer of 2015. He started out the only way he knew how: by running a reality TV show of a campaign. Remember that so-called “rally” in the lobby of Trump Tower when he announced? I mean, he and Melania coming down that escalator like a political Gloria Swanson descending the staircase of her mansion in “Sunset Boulevard.” He may as well have turned to the camera and said, “I’m ready for my close-up.” Even the crowd was mostly extras hired from an open casting call.
In the early days, his campaign amounted to Roger Stone and his pudgy sidekick Sam Nunberg operating with a couple of cell phones out of a spare office in the Trump Organization. Looking back, it appears that they had a list of Republican Party debates and a list of the primaries, and they spun things up from there, sending Trump out to rallies seemingly at random.
He announced on June 16, and June 17 found him in Manchester, New Hampshire. Okay, that made sense. New Hampshire is where every presidential wannabe starts out. But July found him in Phoenix, Arizona, and Sun City, South Carolina.
Somebody whispered in his ear in early August that he was spinning his wheels, so Trump got rid of Stone and Nunberg and moved Angry Young Man Corey Lewandowski in to run the campaign in a more professional manner.
It worked, kind of. Trump quickly held a bunch of rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire, but he threw Alabama, Texas, California, and Oklahoma in there, before returning to New Hampshire at the end of September. But October found him in tiny Franklin, Tennessee, and Norcross, Georgia, and Nevada and Virginia and Florida, with only a couple of stops in Iowa, where the first Republican primary would be held.
He appeared in the first Republican debates, in Cleveland, Ohio in August, and Simi Valley, California in September, and Boulder, Colorado in October. But his rallies were all over the map. November found him in Illinois (!), Texas, Alabama and Ohio.
By January of 2016, if you logged onto the Trump for President website, as I did, all you found was an announcement of the next couple of rallies and a button for each that would yield a “ticket” you could print out. That was it. No position papers. No lengthy schedule of appearances, because there was none. They appeared to be booking venues and scheduling rallies on the fly.
I wrote a story on Trump’s presidential effort in early January for the Village Voice. I called it a “toy campaign.” He was holding his rallies and screaming about Muslims and calling John McCain a loser because all he did in Vietnam was get captured. He was advocating bringing back waterboarding to go after ISIS and leading cheers when cops roughed up protesters as they dragged them out of his rallies. In the debates, all he did was assign nicknames to his opponents, like “Low Energy Jeb,” and “Lyin’ Ted,” and “Little Marco.” I described him talking about “toy solutions to toy problems,” and called him the Wonderbra of American politics. “He pushes everything Up and Out and In Your Face,” I wrote, poking fun at what seemed to me an exercise in self-adoration.
Political pundits were looking at him maybe a little less colorfully, but in much the same way. It wasn’t a real campaign run by a guy who really wanted to be president, they were saying. It looked more like a great big exercise in branding. He wouldn’t win, but he’d come out of the campaign in shape to take over another reality TV show, or maybe start his own network. Remember that?
The question always was, did Trump see his campaign in the same way? The answer seems to be yes, or else why would he have done stuff like throw in with the Russians, or have his people meet with Putin’s bankers and Gulf Arab potentates in the Seychelles? Or commit what we now know are felonies by paying off porn stars and playmates to keep silent? Those are the kind of things you do if you figure you’re not going to get caught. Which in the case of running for president, means you also figure you’re not going to win. All that shit you pulled on the campaign will go right down the memory hole when you lose, right?
Wrong. He won. And all the shit that was supposed to go down the memory hole almost immediately popped right up and started biting him in the ass. He was denying that his campaign had any contacts with Russians, and denying it outright, in January of 2017, only a week before he took office. He was thinking, I can treat this whole “Russia thing” the same way I treated everything else at my rallies during the campaign. I’ll just say some outrageous shit, and a couple of idiots in the “press” will yell about it, and it will go away.
Wrong. A few weeks later, his national security adviser was busted lying to the FBI and departing the White House. A few weeks after that, his FBI director was telling the world that his campaign had been under investigation for nine months. Nine months! A few weeks after that, he was firing his FBI director. And a few weeks after that, some patrician asshole who looked like John Kerry was opening every fucking drawer and examining every bank statement and subpoenaing every cell phone record and digging into every crummy little fucking deal with every shady character he’d ever made in his life.
All those condos he sold to Russians bearing funny money? All those illegals he hired when he built Trump Tower? All those contracts he’d welched on? Everything was fair game.
This preppie Mueller nailed Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates. He went digging around in the weeds and found some nobody named Papadopoulos and nailed him. He scrounged around on the internet and found some Russians and nailed them. He dug a little deeper and found the Russian intelligence outfit that stole Hillary’s emails and nailed 12 of their agents.
Then Mueller started sniffing around Don Junior and the Trump Tower meeting. When he turned over the Roger Stone, he found some right-wing loon named Corsi holding hands with Assange, and went after the lot of ‘em. He started looking into the Seychelles and found Betsy DeVos’ brother and some Putin buddy and a big-time Gulf Arab who had also visited Trump Tower, and god only knows what else.
This week, Trump learned that they’re looking into the hundred million or so he raised for his inauguration, which turned out to be not very big, and certainly not big enough to have justified spending north of a hundred million dollars. And the law took a guilty plea from this Russian babe who was running around NRA conventions with Don Junior and taking a gaggle of Russkis to the National Prayer Breakfast. Now it looks like they’re going to take her blabbing and look into whether the Russians slipped money to the NRA so they could donate $36 million to Republicans in 2016, according to NBC News, while donating only a fifth of that amount to Republicans in this year’s midterms.
They’re looking into him being in the room when the deal went down with the National Enquirer to deal to muzzle babes he was boffing while his wife Melania was Great With Child. And they’re looking into the big bucks raised for his campaign from Arab potentates from Qatar, and the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, including from the guy he’s been covering for in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
And they’re talking to his erstwhile national security adviser Michael Flynn about all of the calls he had with that tub of lard Russian ambassador about lifting sanctions so Putin’s buddies could start turning in their Rubles for bucks and buying Trump condos again.
This whole “governing” thing hasn’t been any fun at all. Just look at these guys Vice President Michael Pence, or Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, or somebody told him to appoint to his cabinet. Who the hell was this Tom Price idiot who ran Health and Human Services for him and rented planes and flew all over the place and owned stock in health care companies he was supposed to be dealing with? And how about that hayseed Scott Pruitt from Oklahoma? During his short time running the Environmental Protection Agency, Pruitt had everybody but the D.A. from Camden, New Jersey looking down his shorts. They told him he had to appoint a black guy, so he picked Ben Carson, who didn’t even know what “HUD” stood for when he moved in and started buying thirty thousand dollar tables for his office at Housing and Urban Development.
They’re always shoving something under his nose he’s supposed to read and buzzing him right in the middle of “Fox and Friends” to come downstairs for some goddamned meeting. Any time he gets to himself, he’s got to spend tweeting to deal with all the shit erupting around him. Something like seven tweets a day this week alone, including one on Thursday that just said:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2018
And launched another calling Morning Joe’s new wifey “crazed” Mika Brezinski.
By the end of the week, he was reduced to interviewing the likes of Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie for the Job Everyone Used to Kill For But Now No One Wants, chief of staff at the White House, and it Christie turned it down! His campaign was backfiring so badly, they stole the old Trump chant and changed it to “lock him up!”
Why didn’t somebody tell him that being president wasn’t like being king of Trump Tower? Why didn’t they tell him the whole buy-yourself-out-trouble thing wouldn’t work anymore? Why didn’t they tell him he couldn’t give orders and have them be immediately carried out? Just about the only time anyone jumps is when he orders a Diet Coke.
I’m serious, people! Can’t we gin up a little sympathy for this poor schlub? All he wanted to do was become president, and for crying out loud, he’s turning into a defendant!