Last weekend, after the faithful minions clapped their hands and roared in approval to the rhetoric about killing cows and newborns, the president of the United States stepped up to the plate at CPAC and launched into one of the longest speeches in presidential history. For two hours the president put on a command performance—exploding with love for the people who agree with him and spewing vile invectives at those he deems worthy of his ire. “Nobody understood a word of what he said. But we had fun fillin’ out the forms and playin’ with the pencils on the bench there,” Arlo Guthrie reminded us.
It was Trump being Trump. A best-of stand-up act that included the same old statements cut up and placed in a different order, with a bit of new material to keep us dancing. The president had just suffered through two weeks of political beatings, so letting off a little steam made sense. Fresh off a disastrous partial government shutdown and a declared national emergency no one believes to be real, Trump placed a lot of stock in making a deal with North Korea in order to salvage his self-respect and chances for a second term. But Trump, like previous presidents in the last 65 years, failed to grasp the raw, primitive and extremely duplicitous nature of a North Korean leader. Thus, Trump may be the living embodiment of the old adage there is nothing easier than conning a con man.
The U.S.-North Korea "peace" talks collapsed into a pile of good intent, and they will be used as a sign post for the hell facing us. Trump, of course, tried to spin the loss, tweeting that other breaking news from inside the U.S. might have killed anything positive coming out of the summit. But the reality is Trump tried a different tactic and it failed. While it took courage—or carelessness—to risk one meeting with Kim Jong-un, a second meeting was far more problematic in the eyes of many Congress members. Trump did it anyway and has yet to convince most rational men and women on either side of the aisle he owns the magic key that will solve the North Korean problem—any more than he can convince people his 10-year-veteran attorney Michael Cohen didn’t lay a finger on the Big D in a WWF Smackdown match before Congress.
One can have some empathy for Trump’s position and still have little sympathy for it.
The scariest moment occurred as Cohen expressed his concern about a peaceful transition of power should Trump lose the 2020 election. Meanwhile, the ominous one-two punch of North Korea and Cohen floored the feisty president, or set him up for being renamed Vesuvius after he blew up. He laid low upon his return to the White House from the East but resurfaced publicly and proudly before CPAC. Whoever set up the timing of the CPAC speech deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
Staffers may have planned CPAC to be the perfect venue to gloat about a victory in North Korea. But odds are two-to-one in favor that someone said to themselves, if not to a room full of staffers, “And if he bombs he gets a good crowd to vent.”
Trump used the stage to playfully froth at the mouth in his inevitable mean-spirited style. He was cheered on for every obscene, arcane or merely obtuse thought the president could spit out on the fly. He played a comic as he riffed on stage at CPAC, the annual prom for those who don’t want to think too much but are fairly sure they’re the cool kids in Mean Girls. The Plastics bounced around playfully as Trump broke into a sweat as he sang out his greatest hits.
His speeches long ago left the realm of traditional political caustic or boring bombast. Trump is the innovator. He’s P.T. Barnum on the meth he fears to be sweeping across the countryside on the backs of human slaves, driven by members of the mad men known only as MS-13, a violent and dangerous subculture terrorist group that has only recently been overcome in several liberated cities by dedicated law enforcement officials sacrificing their lives. Trump showed us in graphic detail why we have a drug problem in this country the moment he appeared more like the Alec Baldwin parody of a president than a real president as he got funky with the American Flag. It was still a feckless comedy many took too seriously.
He is just so used to having his own way he believes he can create his own reality without repercussions.
Those closest to him fall into this vortex and get spun into oblivion until they come to their senses and flail their arms while fleeing the scene screaming loudly—or they get spit out the other end numb, wondering who they are, where are they and why did somebody throw them from the pickup truck while it quickly sped away from the scene. Pundits have already described Cohen’s testimony as a “Valachi Papers” moment, referring to Joseph Valachi who was the first to testify before Congress about the inner-workings of the Italian Mob.
“One of the things that surprised me was the Mob-like references to the Trump family,” Democratic Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin said. Last week’s double whammy, combined with his record-setting Broadway show at CPAC, has led to a seemingly quiet week at the White House. But those watching this pot know it’s still boiling and there is no telling if in the future a convenient two-hour speech will do the job and keep the president from more dire reactions to additional bad news.
One can have some empathy for Trump’s position and still have little sympathy for it. Trump is a victim of his own creation and his ultimate undoing is of his own making. He either doesn’t see it or doesn’t want to acknowledge he’s in a must-win situation for reelection or else he faces a scenario wherein the Secret Service takes him for his last trip from the White House to New York or Florida while another group of black SUVs simultaneously meets his plane at the airport as Trump disembarks AF-1 for the last time, carrying subpoenas for him and his family.
He doesn’t understand it. He wants to blame others for it and for a time, he will convince a great many people he is correct. Not everyone in Trump’s camp will suffer the extreme humiliation experienced by Cohen, but his words are stark and amount to the warning on ancient maps: “Here there be dragons.”