Barack Obama will be the last President for whom is office is not a mostly-tainted joke.
I’ve had a weird feeling the last few weeks. Donald Trump becoming the President doesn’t really bother me anymore.
Don’t get me wrong: everything about his Presidency is already a disaster and a terrifying cataclysm; it’s literally government by the very worst people, ruled by fear and ego, factless and formless, and dedicated to rooting out the very heart of self-government and the common good. It’s Paul Ryan’s nightmare vision matched with a lumbering ignorant tyrant who owes his Presidency in part to the enemy of liberal democracy. Every day I am more and more scared over what is going to happen.
But his being President? I’ve become sanguine about that. The first few days, fear of what was happening (and a deep loathing for anyone who enabled it) was balanced out only by a sickening sadness that this man was rewarded for his terrible life with the ultimate prize. That this disgusting horrorshow of a human was going to sit at the same desk Barack Obama sat at–that he was replacing him, after a long campaign to erase a good and decent man from history.
I’ve realized though, or knew even before I realized it, that this doesn’t matter anymore. Trump becoming President isn’t so bothersome because the office of the Presidency doesn’t really mean much anymore. Trump has already diminished it by sheer force of his malignant buffoonery.
I mean, look at how he’s going around on his “thank you/praise me” rallies, his little Traveling Nuremberg Road Show. It isn’t just that he’s doing it. It’s that one of the themes to which he keeps returning is how Time named him “Person of the Year”, and not Man of the Year, which he returns to over and over, goading the crowd into cheering or booing (which Ashley Feinberg called a bad Seinfeld reboot). Look at this act.
This idiot spends a full minute on this “joke”, which doesn’t even rise to the level of a terrible hacky Larry-the-Cable-Guy-imitator’s worst “I ain’t PC” nonsense. NOBODY thinks it shouldn’t be person. No one is actually put off by this. And even if they were, he’s the goddamn President-Elect. It’s embarrassing.
Or it would be, if the Presidency meant anything anymore, other than power.
It’s worse. Were it not for the Russia thing, everyone today would be talking about Trump refusing to get his Daily Intelligence Briefings, because he finds them boring. He’s a horrible spoiled child, unwilling to do even the most important parts of the job if they don’t gratify his ego. Even George W. Bush, a man who wouldn’t ever be motivated enough to look up “incurious” in a dictionary, never tried to pull that.
And now, of course, he backed out of his MAJOR PRESS CONFERENCE in which he’d show us how he was severing himself completely from his businesses, except in any meaningful ways. He can’t even be bothered to do that. He’s such a flagrant crook, and knows he can get away with it. They don’t even want to pretend to pretend otherwise. It is embarrassing.
Or, it would be, if the Presidency meant anything.
Don’t get me wrong. Andrew Jackson and James Buchanan have been President. William Henry Harrison was. So was Warren G. Harding and Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, not to mention a whole string of otherwise undistinguished mediocrities. I don’t see the President as the nation’s father, and the fetishization of the office has contributed to the absurdly expanded powers soon to be enjoyed by President Trump.
But at least all of those guys wanted to be President. They might have been terrible at it, but they did what it took to be basically prepared. They wanted to do the work. They weren’t doing it entirely for self-aggrandizement and brand enhancement. They all had a degree of public spirit, even if the spirit was to empower the worst parts of the public.
There were good Presidents and bad ones. There were crooks and monks. But they’ve all brought some dignity to the office, because they felt it was worthy of dignity. Trump doesn’t. It’s beneath him. It’s just another con he pulled.
That’s why Barack Obama is the last President for whom this means anything. Everyone else, even if it is Mike Pence in June, is coming after Trump. A nation and a system that put this man in charge doesn’t deserve to have their highest office taken seriously.