My reaction to Trump making himself central to our capitol’s annual Fourth of July celebration is what Trump supporters’ would have been, had President Barack Obama done the same.
Lest anyone thought the Fourth of Trump was a celebration by and for all Americans, he provided special-access, front-row, VIP tickets for his swamp-dwellers. For 70 years, presidents had chosen not to insert themselves into America’s day. Not Trump; but at least he stuck to the teleprompter, reading words wrongly attributing America’s greatness almost entirely to its military strength, starting when the Continental Army took over airports.
Nice words. No mention of Democrats wanting to “destroy you,” nor the press being our enemy.
Including presidential plane and other flyovers, and obtrusively parked tanks, citizens chipped in $2.5 million in Park Service funds intended for improving national parks, as Trump Commander-in-Chiefed a military presence, aping Moscow and Pyongyang. There, dear leaders beam as troops march by. He couldn’t conjure goose-stepping soldiers, but his intentions weren’t subtle.
Which brings us to that made-for-TV step across a painted line onto North Korean concrete, including camera-ready posturing and Kim Jong Un calling Trump “courageous” for doing it. The recidivist draft-dodger whose daddy bought him a pair of disappearing bone spurs fearlessly took some of the most heavily guarded steps in human history. At Fox “news” the swooning was unrestrained, even as they admitted that, had Obama done it, they’d have been outraged. Kim, they’d have railed, is one of history’s worst mass murderers. Who but a naïve narcissist would accept his compliments and believe his promises?
Trump’s self-celebration in D.C. and his one poke over the line at the DMZ are of a piece. The first shows his pathological need for adulation; the second underscores the danger to America in having such an emotionally destitute “leader.” All it took was Kim calling him brave, and denuclearization fell off the table as if pushed by a cat. As Trump flatters men more all-powerful than he to earn their praise, they exploit his neediness, giving him the kudos he craves, knowing he’ll mistake the disdainful manipulation for admiration. Doing so, they get away with murder. And nukes. And contracts to manufacture secret American military technology, and tariff-busting opportunities with China.
Accompanying Trump to Korea was white-supremacist hero Tucker Carlson, invited after he’d shared his unique insight that to be a great leader you have to murder the occasional citizen. Just the way it is. Not a deal-breaker. (Flaming out elsewhere, Tucker found a welcoming home on Fox “news.”) But it’s true: Kim, Putin, and MBS are nothing if not murderers. Trump has yet to order a hit himself, far as we know, but the subset of his supporters who are murdering Americans in documented, increasing numbers, claim motivation by his words. Not to mention renegades (we hope) in his unleashed and energized Border Patrol, discovered mocking immigrant deaths and spreading racist memes online. His people.
While Trump turns a deaf eye to homegrown terrorism, he jokes with his most-admired strongmen about their crimes. Laughs with Putin over “getting rid of journalists,” which Putin has, repeatedly. Reaffirms his “friendship” with MBS, chopper-up and disposer of same. Neither has logged the murderous numbers of Kim, though, which may be why Trump reserves particular love for him. Kim, however, as revealed by the highest-ranking North Korean official to defect in decades, has a less romantic attraction to Trump: He’s “not moral,” and “doesn’t judge.”
Democracy’s protector, though he doesn’t understand the term “Western liberalism,” Trump also traded laughs with Putin about meddling in our electoral process, which he’d previously announced he’d happily accept again. Obey American law? “That’s not how the world works,” he said. Aloud. On TV. The “president” of the United States says following our laws isn’t how things work. Not in his career of cheating his way out of his business failures, not now. Un-hyphen-believable. (Resisting the more colorful tmesis.)
Paraphrasing a diagnosis invented by the late Charles Krauthammer, Trump’s Fifth-Avenue-firing-range boosters dismiss his critics as suffering from “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” We who point out and warn of the obvious are blinded by hate, according to Trumpists. But the truly blinded are they who can’t see the ease with which Trump’s narcissism is being exploited by the despots he emulates. The authentic Trump Derangement Syndrome causes people to look at his record of capitulations to dictators and neither recognize nor understand the peril in which Trump’s personal pathology places our country, abroad and at home.
Email Sid Schwab at email@example.com.