I don’t recall the year, 1997 or 1998 perhaps, but one sweltering summer day in New Jersey, I sat roughly a car length away from the Dalai Lama. My impression of him at the time was, on balance, favorable. He had a marvellous sense of humor. His command of English was excellent. But there was nothing magical about him. When he came into our presence he did not bring an aura with him. I was not overcome by his fabled numinous charisma nor the allure of his presence. He was just a man.
I think that is always the case. I do not believe in the oft told notion that some men (and notice, it’s almost always men) have a characteristic magic when they walk into a room. I think it’s nothing more than the fame of the individual coupled with the common, popular infatuation with fame that leads to such gushing, worshipful encomia. We have become a society far too easily enthralled by the raptures of fame, wealth and power, and we have become positively stupid because of it.
Donald Trump is a mediocre mind wrapped inside a loudmouth, inarticulate fool who just happens to be president of the United States. He has no special powers to enslave men and women in his sphere. In fact, he is able to enslave men and women in his sphere only because he is president, despite his having so many paralyzing inadequacies, not the least of which is his complete absence of any ability to communicate effectively. Put him on the street in grubby clothes and a pencil-filled tin cup in his tiny hand, and everybody would ignore him. He is, by himself and without his wealth and power, a nothing.
He is only, and I do mean only, differentiated by his wealth and power and fame. Lots of people fall for it. Lots of people don’t. We are the ones who don’t fall for it, but at the same time we need to stop acting as if others fall for it because Trump holds some special magic in his mortal little hands. He doesn’t. He’s an idiot. But he’s a dangerous idiot, a useful idiot to the powers of evil, an idiot that could very easily destroy the world. He’s an idiot with power, and that is the worst kind.
I think James Comey would agree with me. If you read James Comey’s recent op-ed piece to the New York Times (and I encourage you to do so), Comey says that Trump eats people’s souls in little bites. But he doesn’t do anything special, anything magical, when he does it. He just talks over people nonstop – he talks the way gluttons eat – without pausing for questions or comments. Then he mistakes their silence for assent. That is how “everybody” tells Donald Trump what he wants to hear.
Donald Trump is a wholly talent-free mediocrity. He doesn’t even understand how the stock market, the Federal Reserve, trade deficits and the prime interest rate work. These are things in his own field of supposed expertise, and he’s breathtakingly inept at them. The only thing he has going for him is the presidency. And he’s dreadful at being president. Make no mistake, Donald Trump is not larger than life, Donald Trump is smaller than death.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.