Vox Populi

Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry

Tom Engelhardt: Hail to the Duffer in Chief

Think of Donald Trump as the plutocratic id loosed in the White House.  And who hasn’t noticed the results?  Civil war and uproar in Washington with bodies regularly carried out of the Oval Office.  There are the constant tweet assaults on his attorney general, Jeff Sessions.  There’s his disgruntled secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, taking some “personal time” six months into office. (Think of it as his own private Rexit.)  There was (with an emphasis on “was”) Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, under siege for months, only to be frontally assaulted last week by Anthony Scaramucci, the president’s new communications director — sayonara Sean Spicer — who accused him of being a leaker, smeared him as a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic,” and compared their relationship to that of Cain and Abel. (And you know how that brotherly duo ended up).  Priebus was soon a goner, replaced by one of “my generals,” retired four-star John Kelly, until recently head of the Department of Homeland Security. And no slouch, Scaramucci also clobbered the president’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, accusing him of trying to “suck his own cock.”  Oh, and then he threatened to fire his whole staff to take care of the problem of White House leaks before, of course, getting axed himself on a day on which the president tweeted “No WH chaos!”

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster, the other general in the White House, seems to be on the outs (with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders ominously saying there’s “no reason” to think Trump lacks confidence in him).  Secretary of Defense James Mattis was reportedly caught totally off guard when the president tweeted his decision to ban transgender troops from the armed forces.  Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a key figure in what passes for foreign policy, has at times been at loggerheads with Bannon and, threatened with charges of political collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign, has fallen back on a plea of total, utter, and abysmal ignorance of more or less everything foreign or Russian (even the name of the Russian ambassador to the U.S.).  This bizarre list only grows by the day and by the tweet as the bodies begin to pile up.

All that’s left, in true mafia style, is “the family” and “the business,” hardly the usual definition of the imperial presidency.  And yes, it couldn’t be more poisonous, but keep in mind why Donald Trump won the presidency in the first place.  As I wrote during the election campaign last year, parts of the white working class were “ready to send a literal loose cannon into the White House… willing, that is, to take a chance on the roof collapsing, even if it collapses on them.”  He was, in this sense, their own suicide bomber in Washington, how they planned on giving the finger to the political system they felt had pushed them to the edge of some cliff.  They voted — and it was no mistake — a certified bad boy into the White House.  He called himself a “businessman,” but that was the least of what he was.  And as their bad boy, he’s having a blast, as at the Boy Scouts Jamboree where he offered a classic Trumpian tirade to 40,000 12 to 18 year olds and attending adults, lecturing them on the “hottest” people and cocktail parties in New York, getting them to boo Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and using the word “hell” (“Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?”) in a non-religious sense, surely a first not just for the president but for anybody addressing such a crowd.

In short, it was glorious.  What more could a bad boy ask for than to be reprimanded by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America in the same 24-hour period?

And the circus continues. Now, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase.


 

Copyright 2017 Tom Engelhardt. First published in TomDispatch. Republished with permission.

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