Thursday, June 7, 2018

Literary Corner: The Emperor of I Scream

Old Harbor. By voitv/DeviantArt.

The poet-president did a private reading of some new pieces yesterday, at his meeting with officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency gearing up for the start of the hurricane season, of which Washington Post got hold of an audio recording. There's a simple structure, drily comic tone, and unexpected granularity in the works, which greatly heightens the fantastical oddity of the things he says.

Alternative Facts
by Donald J. Trump

I. Hurricane Harvey
Sixteen thousand people,
many of them in Texas,
for whatever reason that is,
people went out in their boats
to watch the hurricane.
That didn’t work out too well.
That didn’t work out too well.
"I thought you were bringing the beer!" Hurricane viewing party, Houston, 28 August 2017, photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images. In fact it's a volunteer rescue party, saving people's lives, but television images of calm and colorful scenes like these have inspired Trump to imagine an entirely new narrative, like that of the Washington tourists who came out in carriages with blankets and picnic baskets to watch the First Battle of Bull Run.

II. Singapore
It’s an interesting journey.
It’s called the land
of the unknown — who knows?
We’ll maybe make a deal.
Maybe not. As I say to everybody,
are you going to make a deal?
Maybe and maybe not. Who knows?

From Alex Toth, The Land Unknown (1957), adapted from Virgil W. Vogel's Universal film. I can find online references to the "land of the unknown" meaning MyanmarNorway, or moving one's parents into assisted living, but not Singapore, which Trump may be visiting next week, to make, or not make, a deal, who knows, or North Korea, which he won't.

A haunting question arises: Is he expecting us to make a deal with Kim Jong-un? Or the FEMA officials? Or "everybody" in general? In abandoning the project to Trump alone, are we somehow fluffing our own parts in the process? If nothing happens, will it be my fault?

III. Goddamned Steam Catapults
Part of it is, they want to have all new.
Instead of having the system
that throws the aircraft off the ship,
which was always steam.
They now have magnets.
They’re using magnets instead of steam. . . .
They spent hundreds of millions of dollars,
I’m hearing not great things about it.
It’s frankly ridiculous.
Electromagnetic launcher on the USS Gerald R. Ford blasts an old trailer into the sea in one of the first tests of the new system, in 2015, via Gizmodo (where you can see a 34-second expanded version with voiceover narration). It's fun to think Trump might have acquired his prejudice against the things from watching the clip, imagining from the way the trailer doesn't fly, not being a plane, and the ship's name, reminding him of the president who used to fall down all the time on Saturday Night Live, that the test was a failure. But he really hates it, perhaps because of its ecological soundness (the steam catapults that have mostly done the job since the 1950s take immense amounts of water that has to be desalinated on board and the fuel use is appalling, and the EMALS system is projected to save a total of $4 billion in maintenance costs over the ship's 50-year lifetime): “They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated; you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out. And I said — and now they want to buy more aircraft carriers. I said, ‘What system are you going to be —' ‘Sir, we’re staying with digital.’ I said, ‘No you’re not. You're going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.’" Then again maybe he just thinks the steam catapults are steampunk and they appeal to his aesthetic.

IV. Generic Poll
I don’t know if that means anything.
I’ve never heard of a generic poll.
I’m not sure I believe in a generic poll
when you have so many races
between the Senate and the House.
We’ve never been up in a generic poll,
and now we’re up in two of them. . . .
The Republican Party has never been up
in generic polls. And now it’s up in two of them.

In the most recent poll average for the generic congressional vote from Real Clear Politics, dated June 7, the Democrats are 7.4 points ahead of the Republicans, up from a scary 3.2 points at their scariest moment, June 1. Republicans are not up in two polls or any polls since I don't know how long before April 2017, which is as far back as RCP is showing.

V. What a Swell Cabinet This Is

I understand a big story is being done
in a major newspaper talking about
what a great Cabinet this is.
What a great Cabinet this has turned out
to be. Our level of popularity is great.

Actually over a month (36 days) since he's fired anybody from a post that requires Senate confirmation, so maybe he's finally starting to like it, though he's said to be so angry with Sessions for his insistence on obeying the recusal law that he won't say his name aloud. Graphic by Washington Post. He didn't reveal to the FEMA officials what newspaper was doing the story.

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