I drove past the White House the other day. It’d been a while and the place seemed smaller, somewhat tawdry, almost haunted. I imagined bats winging in and out of it, spider webs in the corners and the President upstairs in the family quarters, talking back to the TV, railing against Pelosi, the Fed, Mueller, Macron, May, Mattis, Sessions, Stormy and … who am I forgetting? Oh, yes, Obama for, well, everything. The car slowed. I thought I heard a wail from the upper floor. Donald Trump going mad.
Or maybe I am. I would not be surprised. Trump has that effect on people. It’s hard to believe we’re into another year and he’s still the President of the United States. The shock of it has not worn off. He has never achieved normalcy. Often when I see him on TV, I react with a kind of nausea: Him! How? I know, the Electoral College. I know, a slice of three states. Yes, yes, but how did we elect such a dummy, such a liar, such a baby, such a fool, such a dirty man?
He walks the same halls Lincoln did. He sleeps where the Roosevelts did. He bathes where the visiting Churchill did. Would Churchill have ever visited this President?
Trump has soiled America. He has not made it greater but, in a word whose need is now apparent, worser. The America that previous Presidents boasted about — Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” — is now a slum among nations. The goodness of the American people — another refrain of Presidents past — is now a mere memory. But American goodness was always like the banner that tour guides held up — follow me. Follow the U.S. because we saved Europe from the Nazis and Asia from Imperial Japan — and then Europe again, this time from the Stalinist thugs of Soviet Communism.
We saved Berlin with an airlift and eradicated polio with a vaccine. We thought we were good people. We thought we were great people.
Trump wants to make America great again. It is an old presidential refrain. John F. Kennedy used it over and over again in his 1960 campaign against Richard Nixon. “This is a great country,” he’d say. “But I think it could be a greater country…I think it’s time America started moving again.”
The amazing thing is that the previous administration had been Dwight Eisenhower’s. Looking back now, that era is known for a kind of kitschy middle-class affluence — the huge cars, the creep of suburbia, the martinis of “Mad Men,” and, in general, a sense that things were pretty good … for white men in particular. But overall, with no war and a thriving economy, things may never have been better.