It’s too bad author Herman Wouk, who died an astounding nine days shy of his 104th birthday last week, wasn’t around to see it. The creator of the character Captain Queeg for his novel “The Caine Mutiny” would’ve recognized in Donald Trump something of a reincarnation of that mentally unbalanced, pugilistic commander. In a no doubt Queeg-like intended towering rage, an indignant Trump stormed out of an infrastructure meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and let his displeasure be known to the waiting press in the Rose Garden. Oh, he was magnificent in his fury!
The only trouble was it was a pathetic piece of disingenuous theatre, and shame on anyone in the press for falling for it. “It’s clear this was not a spontaneous move on the president’s part,” Senator Schumer said afterward, “it was planned. When we got in the room, the curtains were closed … and then [Trump] went to the Rose Garden with prepared signs that had been printed up long before our meeting.”
Naturally everyone vested in this surreal, Salvador Dali-variety presidency, from Kellyanne Conway to his drooling base, are going to accept Trump’s indignation at face value, or claim they do, anyway, because that’s what they always do. For those of us who live in the real world we have to wonder, what was Trump up to?
A big part of it, no doubt, is because Trump simply does not want to meet about infrastructure. It bores him, besides which he’s tired of being predictably out of his depth in a room full of people who actually know what they’re talking about. But even more than this, he wants the investigations into him and his family to end, and the only way he can think of achieving that is to hold America, and its infrastructure, hostage to his own fortunes.
There is, of course, a precedent for this. Trump instituted the lengthiest partial government shutdown in American history in the hope of getting his idiotic wall built. When that failed, he performed history’s longest, silliest walk-back, and took a much smaller payday from Congress for his precious wall than the cost of the shutdown was worth.
This time Trump communicated his fury to the waiting press in the Rose Garden with a line so clumsy in construction and contrived in content, it’s amazing members of the press didn’t burst out in laughter. He said, “Instead of walking in happily to a meeting, I walk in to look at people who said I was doing a coverup.” In other words, he was skipping merrily on his way to a meeting with people he knew would be there, and then “suddenly” remembered they had said he was engaged in a coverup, and it made him very, very angry. I remind my readers, this is not a child I am quoting, but a man who is about to turn 73 next month. The level of immaturity of this cretin beggars belief.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.