The Emperor Trump
By Todd Gitlin & Harold Meyerson | Dec 21, 2017
The Fool Who Plays The King
As the UN General Assembly readied to vote on a resolution condemning the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (it passed, 128 to 9), Trump’s Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, is reported by the Times to have written to the members of the General Assembly as follows:
“As you consider your vote, I want you to know that the president and U.S. take this vote personally.”
Nothing new, in one sense. Of course Donald Trump takes everything personally: a branded steak and a bottle of water, an Arnold Schwarzenegger rating, the height of a rival and the size of his rivals’ genitals, the weight of a beauty contestant, a football player’s posture, ad infinitum. But now, fancying that he has ascended to a truly royal realm, the Brander-in-Chief has gone yet one further: He is treating foreign policy as a personal plaything. It is back to the Shakespearean days when the king of France was known as “our cousin France.” Then it was understood that nations were the personal properties of their rulers. In and of themselves, they constituted the public domain. They were the sole active agents of history, and everyone else was a subject—subject, ultimately, to their will. To insult a nation was to insult the monarch, and vice versa.
In 2005, when Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not yet President of Turkey but only Prime Minister, the Turkish state made it a crime (Turkish Penal Code Article 301) to “insult Turkishness.” Under this law, the novelist Orhan Pamuk, among many others, was prosecuted. Trump’s desired world is one in which disagreeing with American foreign policy is insulting Americanness—which is insulting Trump—which is lèse-majesté. His majesty will not be trifled with. Who do the petty rulers of these little piss-ass countries think they are? Do they brand hotels? Are their names stamped onto the sides of beef?
Donald Trump ran to become CEO of America. He now holds himself to be, in his sole person, the American brand. He is the august Hirer and Firer. He is, as Garry Wills wonderfully put it, Big Rocket Man. He was elected to reign. Since January 20, 2017, there are no longer civil servants; they are his servants, to carry out his whims and tweet his praises. In command performances, Cabinet members assemble in the throne room to pay homage.
Welcome to the wide and wonderful world of His Excellency Donald Trump, Making America Royal Again.
About Those “No” Votes
Nikki Haley’s threat (about which Todd Gitlin writes above) that President Trump would “take personally” any “yes” votes on today’s General Assembly motion to condemn the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital apparently didn’t move many nations to vote “no.” While 128 nations, including Britain, France, Germany and Japan voted “yes,” only nine nations opposed the measure. In addition to the U.S. and Israel, those “no” votes came from Guatemala, Honduras, Togo, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau.
The last four, of course, are nations of mid-Pacific islands, all of which are existentially threatened by rising sea levels. Will Trump take their “no” votes as personally as he takes the “yesses?” Will they move him to embrace the climate change measures that might enable those nations to survive? Will he welcome refugees from those nations when their islands are washed away? As the answers to these questions are all resounding “no’s,” these imperiled isles will sadly find their “no’s” have gone for naught.