Most of America has hopefully recovered from Donald Trump’s joint address to Congress on Tuesday, which he successfully recited off a teleprompter despite widespread belief that he doesn’t really know how to read. What we should not have recovered from—not now, not ever—-was the immediate deluge of fawning from previously incredulous news outlets.
Donald Trump is not “presidential.” He’s the earwax clinging to the Q-tip after an especially vigorous rubbing. He’s the June bug carcass rotting in the wiper blade of an abandoned 1995 Dodge Neon. In the 40 days since he’s been in office, he’s committed a raft of offenses that range from morally repugnant (the Muslim travel ban) to breathtakingly ignorant (suggesting that Frederick Douglass is a promising young talent just launching his career) to the stupefyingly bizarre (handling a national security incident in the middle of a room full of his drunk country club members.)
And yet, in the hours following the conclusion of the speech, we were subjected to a jarring shit tornado of unearned praise for the Hemorrhoid in Chief’s efforts. Van Jones, a man who shed literal tears when it became clear that Trump was poised to win the election, did a full 180 in his assessment of Trump’s highly subpar speech, which struck its usual tones of hatred and divisiveness under a new, thin veneer of “civility.”
In Jones’ view, a standing ovation for the bereft widow of a slain Navy SEAL became “one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics.” His eyes were clear when he said it, which confirms my long-held theory that zombies don’t have tear ducts.
“He became president of the United States in that moment, period,” he said before plunging his teeth into his co-hosts.
Across the internet universe, similarly grotesqueries were on display. Here are the results of a Google search for “Trump, presidential.”
Trump, in a prime-time address to a country that remains divided over his leadership, set aside disputes with Democrats and the news media to deliver his most presidential performance to date, seeking to regain the confidence of Americans rattled by his leadership thus far.
Trump adopted a statesmanlike cadence, hitting notes of inspiration. For once, this most unorthodox of politicians struck a conventional presidential posture as he sought to stabilize his administration after a tumultuous five weeks in office.
For the first time in his presidency, Donald Trump acted the part.
Maybe you didn’t love his talking points, but our scowler-in-chief was definitely replaced by some strange man who almost resembled a president.
From the New York Times:
For the first time since his swearing-in in January, Mr. Trump seemed to accept the fetters of formality and tradition that define and dignify the presidency.
Bloomberg News wasted no time concluding that not ONLY did Trump not smear himself in blackface while goose-stepping around the stage in a Wehrmacht uniform, but he actually managed to wear a suit not stolen from the concierge at the Milwaukee Radisson. Look:
Trump, 70, selected a more on-trend navy striped tie, rather than his signature broad, red one that he wore at his inauguration and in several high-profile events since. Standing in front of Congress last night, the Republican kept his suit jacket buttoned (it’s often open), giving a cleaner, more tailored look. Even his hair seemed less brassy, one White House historian noted. Given all these subtle modifications, Trump, on this night, drew a rare bit of sartorial praise.
Humans are thought to be some of the most adaptive species in the world, but to have acclimated so quickly to Trump’s rhetoric merely because he spoke in full paragraphs does not deserve plaudits.
Beneath the niceties of his unshitty tie and pat metaphors lurks the same penchant for lying, the same proclivity for pitting “virtuous” citizens against everyone else. In one breath, he referred to “gang members, drug dealers, and criminals,” and in the next, called for “unity,” insisting that “we all bleed the same blood.”
Sure we do. Except for everyone who falls into his vast category of Other, an amorphous assignation that applies to anyone who doesn’t settle neatly into his narrow perception of what an American should be.
You can put a well-cut suit on a dog, or a vulture, or a star-nosed mole, with enough patience and the right type of muzzle. You can probably train at least one of those creatures to read a teleprompter, with a talented enough trainer. But at the end of the day, it will still be a dog, or a vulture, or a star-nosed mole. Or a dangerous, mercurial despot. Don’t be fooled. It’s just a tie.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 2, 2017