The Use and Abuse of President Donald Trump

or "a little institutional joke in the showroom"? *

In all of the bizarre and ridiculous iconography of our first cartoon President, Donald J. Trump, the photo-op of Trump holding an upside-down Bible in front of St John’s (of Patmos?) Episcopal Church, near the White House, really takes the cake — and, perhaps, eats it, too.  Of course, the whole scene was a fiasco right out of Hollywood, as militarized police and actual military units violently suppressed a considerable throng of protesters, so that the embattled “leader” could awkwardly lurch to the Church for a weird evangelical pose (In the event, the President should have taken a golf cart; Trump’s handlers really dropped the ball on the optics here…).

There are many layers of irony threading through Trump’s churchy photo-op.  For example, the President was wielding a version of the Bible not considered “authoritative” by evangelicals, one of his presumed audiences; and, moreover, in front of a notoriously “liberal” house of worship — not to mention the tyrannical police state tactics used to clear Lafayette Square in D.C. on June 1, 2020.  However, the image that struck me most amidst all of this Hellish hoopla was that of Trump holding a Bible aloft with what appeared to be a cloven hoof-hand, as if the President were posing as the Antichrist poster boy of the Moment.  Yes:  not only is Trump the “worst literal Hitler” figure ever, as C.J. Hopkins has quite correctly noted; now, Mein Trumpf  has achieved — albeit fleetingly — Antichrist status…

Yet, the Antichrist Trump is entirely pathetic; Hannah Arendt’s concept-phrase the “banality of evil” is far too strong in this case.  Antichrist Trump’s expression during the photo-op could be most generously described as dour, although bland, or even blank, would be more accurate.  The President responds to a reporter’s question (one of the reporters not punched in the face by security forces that day) — “Is that your Bible?” by inflectionlessly stating that “It’s a Bible,” in a quiet, hollow, distant, vacant voice.  If Trump in this moment is Satan’s chosen tool, then he appears to have zero enthusiasm — or extremely “low energy” — for the role. (Again, Trump should have taken the golf cart, as that 5-minute walk to the Church from the White House, the sheer physical exertion of it, has clearly de-animated him, our first cartoon President.)

Nevertheless, despite this deflated performance, Trump is far from imperfectly cast as the “Antichrist.”  As all voting evangelicals will remember come November (if there is an election…), Trump has used the Presidency to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel which, according to a certain prophetic tradition, is a necessary pre-condition for the Apocalypse, which will herald the Second Coming of Christ.  Certainly, the tone and tenor of our Times have become more “apocalyptic” since Señor “Carnage” wallowed in to the Oval Office through an almost unnatural election in 2016.

Given the hallucinatory goofiness of the Bible’s last chapter, the Book of Revelation, the banality of Donald Trump as Antichrist makes a certain sort of occult sense, this 6-times bankrupt Whore of Babbling on…

However, there is another fictional figure that I believe Trump more uncannily resembles than the anti-hero of Biblically deranged myth-making.  I owe this insight to John Hawkins’ recent DV article “Doublethink!  Doublethink!  It’s Two Thinks in One!” (published on Bastille Day, 2020), which links the Trump phenomenon to Emmanuel Goldstein, the “Two-Minute’s Hate” character of George Orwell’s 1948 dystopian novel, 1984.  Indeed, during the seemingly pre-determined 2016 election run-up, the fanatical, viscerally venomous bashing of Trump had just begun…

Ever since Trump’s curious Electoral College victory, the “2-Minutes Hate” on Trump has been in full-blown, blast furnace Inferno-mode.  One would think that every True-blue Liberal in the Land were Christian as Hell, and that Trump was the Devil incarnate:  the original sinning Root of all Evil.

Who knew that “Liberals” could be so rabid?  Isn’t such zealotry supposed to be the exclusive, gun-guarded paranoid domain of the self-righteous Right? Take an obviously “liberal” Late Night TV comic show host like Stephen Colbert, who once portrayed an unconsciously self-parodying Right-winger. Ironically, it appears that Colbert’s previous comic incarnation got his wish, since the current Colbert is now going on a “4-Years Hate” rant — in 10-minute monologue installments — on Trump.  Such an obsession!

To be fair, Trump’s opponent in 2016 (besides Jill Stein…) was also a relentlessly demonized figure:  her eminence, Hillary “Benghazi” Clinton. Perhaps, in 2016, the choice of “lesser evils” had never been more evil — or, at the very least, more banal…

At that time, just 4 years of “Hate” ago, the diabolical rivals of the two uncontested national political parties squared off in 3 televised debates, the second of which — held at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, October 19, 2016 — produced a most pivotal exchange.  Hillary fired off the opening salvo, a salvo that has echoed throughout Trump’s besieged Presidency:  that the Donald was a “Putin puppet.”  Clinton was the presumed next-President at this point, so close to the Vote, the debate itself a mere formality.  And yet Trump, the apparent political upstart, fired automatically back that Clinton herself, in fact, was the “puppet.”  A brief — if almost tense and meaningful — puppet food fight ensued, on presumably the most elevated American political stage (if the stage had been any lower, then America would have been that much more democratic at that moment — but it wasn’t…).  There was no clear resolution as to whom the “real puppet” was that debate night; that determination would have to wait until election night, a few weeks later, and, lo and behold! — the Fallen Angels sang:  most winning, and puppetest puppet of all, was — Donald J Trump!

In retrospect, after the mashed potatoes had been squeegeed off the camera lenses, it is quite clear that Clinton won this less-than-great Russian puppet debate. Contrariwise, if Clinton’s popular victory — by almost 3 million more votes — had carried her into the Oval Office (as normally it would have), then Trump would have won the “puppet debate.”  As it happened, Trump lost the debate by winning the election…So:  Was it all a bit of typical Clinton manipulation?  Did Hillary Clinton never campaign in key (-Stone) states just to insure that Trump would win them?  If so, then it was a nice strategy: “Nice, nice, very nice,” indeed:  almost ideally designed to deliver a snake-oiling lump like Trump — our highly unlikely Emmanuel Goldstein figure — as “President of the United States of America,” seemingly against all odds…Well, then:  let the “Hisses” begin!

And so they did.  From the perspective of History, which is never what it seems to have been whenever one looks into that vast cauldron of human happenings from time to time, we are now all pandemically thrust into the vagaries of the 2020 American election, whether we wish to be or not.  The 2020 political menu has been firmly established:  it is squarely a choice between Red Meat and the Vegetable — and both items are well beyond their expiration dates.  It’s a difficult choice and, frankly, quite indigestible either way.  “Would you prefer your Racism more or less watered down?” Black Lives Matter — except when it comes to U.S. elections.

Will Credit Card “country Joe” Biden or Golf Resort slick Donald Trump prevail:  this is certainly a question — for FoxNews, MSNBC, NPR, the Guardian, NYT, the Washington Post, and other Major Media “influencers” around the increasingly decreasing airwaves.  It’s all such a tight fit…

Whatever the outcome, which has certainly been fore-ordained, given the two greasy gray “candidates” pre-selected for our gastro-political displeasure, there is no doubt that the World’s mightiest Military in History is waiting in the wings, just in case we all need some regimentally oriented types to figure this thing out, just in case an Electoral food fight breaks out.  I will leave this essay into the capable quotes of a renowned fictional religionist, Bokonon (aka Lionel Boyd Johnson IV — or “LBJ” said another way…), who had this to say about “Caesar,” just in case anyone is confused about the new-fake Caesar, Donald Trump, that Weapon of Mass Distraction: “Pay no attention to Caesar.  Caesar doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s really going on.” ((Cat’s Cradle Chapter 46, “The Bokononist Method for Handling Caesar”.))

* (Quote from Chapter 31 “Another Breed” of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle)

Todd Smith lives, writes, and observes the Brave New World Order in St. Louis. He can be reached at Read other articles by Todd.