Tuesday, January 05, 2021

David Roth: "Trump Is Both The Most Important Character In This Busy Trashscape And One Of Its Most Avid Consumers"

David Roth writes incisively and accurately about Donald Trump, how and why he acts as he does, what it looks like and what it means, all seasoned with understated anger and gallows humor. It's a rare talent.

David Roth, Defector, January 4, 2021
[I]n the absence of any evidence . . . beyond his own very powerful sense that [losing an election] isn't something Trump would do, he reached for one of the most powerful tools available to any master dealsmith, which was to demand that someone he understood to be a subordinate just fucking fix it for him. In the recording of that hour-long phone call that the Washington Post released over the weekend, Trump does this sometimes in tones of peevish impatience and at other times in an oily simper, but mostly he just does it over and over again . . . The cumulative effect is basically that of watching a fat old housecat try to solve a Rubik's Cube.

This is more or less how Trump has handled every challenge he has ever faced, and there is amid the last thrashing, whinging, sopping-wet days of his presidency also some evidently earnest surprise at how badly that is all working this time. None of what's happening here is remotely good . . . but also there is a certain bleak amusement in watching this rancid adult Fauntleroy repeatedly and abjectly fail to comprehend the idea of consequences.

The parts of the call that are hard to understand, by contrast, are hard to understand by design. The various theories and gambits and hybrid rationalizations that Trump has deployed since losing the election are vague by necessity, because there's nothing more concrete there to find; the point has always been to keep softer-brained and less-discerning types around through the next commercial break, and in a sufficiently blind and grift-amenable frenzy. In another delightful comic twist that is easier to appreciate in the abstract than from one uneasy moment to the next, Trump is both the most important character in this busy, busy trashscape and one of its most avid consumers. This means that some things tend to get lost in translation, as Trump now communicates almost entirely in its clammy patois of slang and lore and mini-stroke illogic. Trump has never quite seemed clear on what he's complaining about beyond how unfair it was to him, but also he understands it perfectly. The soap opera plot he has memorized runs in perfect parallel to observable reality, and he has conflated and confused them utterly.

And so . . . Trump is both making a very clear demand and effectively unable even to make the allegations he wants to make, or tell the sprawling story he quite clearly believes to be true as anything more legible than a series of frantic and doddering pivots from one isolated and unsupported outrage to the next. This doesn't stop him. Trump says various large numbers in impatient ways, and asks odd heated questions about things that only people living in Trump's own fervid counter-reality could even understand, and then gets frustrated when confronted with facts that rebut his powerful feelings, or with people who can't or won't do whatever he wants whenever he tells them to, or with his ongoing inability to turn rumors he'd heard . . . into actionable legal remedies. . . .

Also and maybe more to the point, right around the 51:40 mark in that phone call, Trump farts. It sounds like someone blowing into a French horn full of chowder. Then there's another little one after that.

Or, in the interest of journalistic ethics, Trump probably farts. A persistent theme of body horror has been one of the subtle grace notes of Trump's fumbling coup attempt, and while Rudy Giuliani has done most of the heavy lifting—and grimacing, and melting, and also some umbrage-related farting of his own—there it stands to reason that Trump himself would take the baton at some point. As with Giuliani's outraged pwomp in front of the Michigan State Legislature, Trump appears in the clip above, which was first flagged by a keen-eared Twitter user on Sunday night, to have achieved a level of upset so severe that it can only be expressed simultaneously through equal and opposite orifices. . . .

Giuliani's incident in Michigan was captured from multiple angles and confirmed by a sworn member of Michigan's legislature; it is as close to an airtight example of public rage-farting as we've yet seen. While it is unlikely that we'll ever have such confirmation here . . . it is safe to say that precedent is no longer a guide. Anything is possible. . . .

It fits, then, that his presidency would end on this note—in a gust or two of noise and fury, in unknowable and unanswerable dispute, in a long stupid phone call that does nothing more than poison some otherwise empty hour into submission.

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