Sunday, May 27, 2018

Literary Corner: Elegy or Dance of Triumph?

Diablada puneña, Puno, Peru.

The president-poet seems to be giving vent to a plangent melancholy in the new gem showing up on the Twitter this morning:

by Donald J. Trump

Who’s going to give back
the young and beautiful lives
(and others) that have been
devastated and destroyed
by the phony Russia Collusion
Witch Hunt?
They journeyed down
to Washington, D.C.,
with stars in their eyes
and wanting to help our nation...
They went back home
in tatters!

But I think there's something else going on, that you see in the first place as you notice the slightly chilly symmetry of the two stanzas and the odd vocabulary, reminiscent of a 1950s movie trailer—"young and beautiful lives", "back home in tatters", think a Susan Hayward tearjerker. And the strange ambiguity of who does he mean to be talking about?

Can't be the fact that young and beautiful Donald Junior is being called to account for lying to a Congressional committee—

That's not the Phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt, silly, that's the Phony Saudi Collusion Witch Hunt! And he hasn't been sent home in tatters yet.

Some have suggested he means poor Hope Hicks, who told (some of) the truth to a Congressional committee about the lies she was required to tell on the job, though I can't imagine her wearing tatters. But did she leave her White House job because of the Phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt? Nobody lasts very long in that job--she was the fifth person to leave it in a year, after Mike Dubke, Sean Spicer, Anthony Scaramucci, and Sean Spicer again. And she said she was leaving because she wanted to "pursue other opportunities". And she told Maggie Haberman very specifically it wasn't her eight-hour questioning session with the House Intelligence Committee. It was just a coincidence that she quit the very next day.

Though, come to think of it, some have suggested that the House Intelligence Committee was indirectly involved:
Trump was reportedly not happy with Hicks after the House Intelligence Committee meeting. The New York Post reports a source said Trump was quite angry and wanted to know “how she could be that stupid” to admit she tells lies for the president.
But then Dubke, Spicer, and Scaramucci, Omarosa and ambassador-designate to South Korea Victor Cha, crooked Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price and brilliant surgeon general Vivek Murthy, Katie Walsh and K.T. McFarland, Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, all those young and beautiful lives, vanished without regard to Phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt, as did John Feeley:
Feeley, the Ambassador to Panama and a former Marine helicopter pilot, is not averse to strong language, but he was nevertheless startled by his first encounter with President Donald Trump. Summoned to deliver a briefing in June, 2017, he was outside the Oval Office when he overheard Trump concluding a heated conversation, “Fuck him! Tell him to sue the government.” Feeley was escorted in, and saw that Mike Pence, John Kelly, and several other officials were in the room. As he took a seat, Trump asked, “So tell me—what do we get from Panama? What’s in it for us?” Feeley presented a litany of benefits: help with counter-narcotics work and migration control, commercial efforts linked to the Panama Canal, a close relationship with the current President, Juan Carlos Varela. When he finished, Trump chuckled and said, “Who knew?” He then turned the conversation to the Trump International Hotel and Tower, in Panama City. “How about the hotel?” he said. “We still have the tallest building on the skyline down there?” (Jon Lee Anderson, New Yorker)
Who left because he just couldn't stand it. Or Melania Trump, who disappeared into surgery two weeks ago and hasn't been seen since, though she is visible to Trump, like a familiar ghost:
According to a pool report, President Trump responded by pointing to a window in the White House residence, and said: “She’s doing great. She’s looking at us right there.”
Reporters turned to look at the spot he indicated, but there was no sign of the first lady. (Emily Heil, Washington Post)

While Flynn, Papadopoulos, and Gates, who are deeply involved with the Russia thing,  aren't headed home in tatters but to jail in jumpsuits, and I trust Manafort (home in ankle bracelets) and Cohen are going in the same direction.

On the other hand, there are some equally young and beautiful lives that were caught up in Phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt and really dismissed and exiled: I'm thinking of deputy attorney general Sally Yates, FBI director James Comey, FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, agent Peter Strzok, and attorney Lisa Page, all witnesses to Trump's attempts to obstruct justice. With perhaps deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, Professor Stefan Halper, Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson, Christopher Wylie, witnesses all. And it's not the investigation that has "devastated and destroyed" them either: it's Trump, the same Trump who drove out everybody else from Flynn to Hicks.

Do you suppose that's what he's really talking about, the combatants, friends and enemies alike, but especially enemies, that he's driven to ground already? Is this elegy really an elegy, or a dance of bloody triumph?

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