In these dark days of Trumpian travail, I seek bitter humor wherever I can find it. I hit a vein in an Associated Press story picked up by my StarTribune. Coupled with a widely publicized picture of Trump looking “tough” at his desk, making a “deal” under a portrait of Andrew Jackson, it explains the comparisons being drawn between our post-factual, post-modern president and the seventh leader of the United States. Comparisons drawn by whom? Well, naturally, Trump himself. Just as naturally, the idea does not even originate with the notoriously poorly read chief exec.
If you read the article, you will see the portrait, and find the source of the comparison. It’s Trump’s own “brain,” that unkempt, untruthful cross between Karl Rove and Rasputin, Steve Bannon. The hate-filled white supremacist lie merchant of Breitbart infame made the connection after Trump’s inaugural address. You remember – the one that was so negative it has acquired the informal title “American Carnage.”
OK, so Trump may resemble Jackson in that both were unconventional outsiders pursuing the presidency. It also looks from portraits that Number Seven had a pretty impressive shock of hair. But it was gray, and probably natural. And that’s about as good as the comparison gets.
Jackson was a commoner, and a true populist. Unlike Trump, who can best be described as a faux populist, more a huckster, a snake oil salesman and self-promoter in the P.T. Barnum tradition. And whereas Trump has become notorious for impulsiveness – how did you like those recent Saturday morning Tweets about wire tapps (sic)? – Jackson, before he became president, actually showed remarkable patience when a prior presidential election was stolen from him through unethical horse trading. Can you imagine the Donald standing by while something like this happened? Depriving him of the spotlight? Not gonna happen.
But where the comparison really breaks down is here. Every time Trump wraps an XXXL (estimated size) faux-military jacket around his ample gut and appears before genuine officers and enlisted personnel, talking tough and flashing his best Dirty-Harry squint, those in the know are reminded of just what a charlatan this guy really is.
And of course there is that privilege thing, though Trump would have us believe he is the ultimate self-made mogul. The AP piece tells that story succinctly.
“There are fundamental differences in the paths they took. Trump is a real estate mogul who came from wealth. Jackson was born into poverty and rose to become a wealthy lawyer and national hero after the War of 1812.”
Enough said. Why is this important? That’s easy. Chief strategist Bannon may be evil and devious, but he is no dummy. And after all, he is the thoughtful brain behind Trump’s bumbling id. And we know what Bannon has in store for America. And part of Bannon’s master plan is to continue to pass off Trump as some kind of champion of the little guy. This is easier if enough people are foolish enough to see him as the reincarnation of the tough-guy populist seventh president. This would be a real hoot if it weren’t so real, and so fraught with real danger.
As Bannon’s agent – because that’s what he is – President Trump threatens, and has already begun, to take the country down a very dangerous path. He is dismantling most of the federal government, and trying his damnedest to roll back countless regulations that make life safer, protect the public from rapacious behavior by greed-mongers (like the guy in the mirror at Trump Tower), and maintain a clean environment. He and his regime are hell-bent on replacing reality with “alternative facts.”
Unlike Trump, I read books – lots of books. And unlike some of my friends and allies, I think it is important to learn as much as we can about this dangerous self-dealing sociopath. The better to stop him before he achieves his destructive goals.
I recommend two reads.
The first is a book I merely have on order right now. That is David Cay Johnston’s The Making of Donald Trump. This book has new prominence with the revelation that Johnston is the source of the two pages of Trump’s 2005 tax return. Note – Johnston says it was delivered to him. Speculation is that this little snapshot – which from some perspectives is quite positive for Trump – was leaked by someone very close to Trump. Perhaps even DT himself. Unable apparently to avoid every opportunity to display his clueless disingenuousness, Trump called Johnston “some reporter no one knows about.” Right. A consummate narcissist pretends no one knows about the author of the most critical biography of said narcissist. Right.
The second book is one I’ve read and can strongly recommend. Timothy O’Brien’s TrumpNation was actually completed in 2005, after the author had spent years closely observing Trump’s wild behavior, shady self-dealings and self-promotion. Trump actually sued O’Brien for libel – 5 billion dollars’ worth of libel – and lost. It has ample doses of wit, and the 2016 paperback edition includes a new introduction by the author.
If you read either of these critical biographies, you will not be able to escape the conclusion that we have been had. Bigly. Yoogely. And he who had us needs to be stopped before he causes more damage than he has already wrought.
But back to the dark humor, and the ludicrous effort to compare this self-aggrandizing, bullying son of privilege, this disingenuous destroyer of all breaks for the little guy, to Andrew Jackson, a genuine populist and champion of commoners. A prominent biography of “Old Hickory” is Jon Meacham’s “American Lion.”
A new biography, of the latter days of Donald, including his unlikely climb to the Oval Office, is waiting to be written. Here is the title, free of charge to anyone taking up the challenge:
“American Lyin’: The New Trail of Tears”
Gonna be terrific. Tremendously terrific. Believe me.