Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Literary Corner: That Hat

Photoshop by the Brazilian artist PSHoudini via Tom Banwell, 2011.

This enchanting piece from the president's remarks at the the US Mission to the United Nations, last Thursday, on the release of the whistleblower report:

That Hat Wouldn't Work For Me
by Donald J. Trump

I say, “Steve, what happens when
you come off a vice presidential
plane, it’s called Air Force Two,
your father’s with you, you walk
into a room in China and they
give you a fund of $1.5 billion,
billion, you make hundreds of
thousands of dollars and millions
of dollars off that. And that’s probably
not all they gave him. They gave
him plenty more, I’m sure.
We might never find out."
And then they talk about me,
and I didn’t do anything. I
don’t know if I’m the most
innocent person in the world.
But you know you look at that —
most presidential, I just said
I’m the most presidential except
for possibly Abe Lincoln
when he wore the hat —
that was tough to beat. Honest Abe,
when he wore that hat, that was
tough to beat. But I can’t do that,
that hat wouldn’t work for me.
Yeah, I have better hair than him.
But Honest Abe was tough to beat.
Remember we used to do that
during the campaign. They used to
say, when I speak, the crowd would be
crazy, I’d go crazy — we would all
go crazy. We had a lot of fun
together. We had 25,000 — We’ve never
had an empty seat. From the day I came
down the escalator, with a potential —
unbelievable woman who became a first lady.

Question to Radio Yerevan: Did Hunter Biden fly to China on Air Force Two and walk into a room where he received a fund of $1.5 billion off which he made either hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars?

Answer: In principle, yes. But (according to Glenn Kessler/WaPo)

  • first of all, little evidence indicates what rooms he entered, other than a hotel lobby where he introduced his father to one of his occasional business partners, Jonathan Li, and a shop where he watched his father purchase an ice cream bar;
  • second of all, he wasn't involved in setting up the investment fund (i.e. not a pile of money but a commitment to raise a pile of money for investment purposes), though Li and another frequent business partner, Devon Archer, were, and he's never been in a position to make any money off it at all, until maybe after he bought a 10% share in it three or four years later, when his father was no longer vice president (and the Chinese government wasn't in any way involved in it either, as Trump sometimes suggests); and
  • third of all, the deal had been signed ten days before Biden arrived in China and the fund never did raise anywhere near $1.5 billion.

I hate defending Hunter Biden, who earns his living in a way I don't respect (really the kind of person Trump imagines himself to be, flying around making "deals" only for real), and as previously noted I started complaining about him more than five years ago, but this whole thing, pulled from Peter Schweizer's fabrication factory, is beyond ridiculous and has to be called out.

The poem itself, in contrast, is just dazzling in its surrealist swoop from the Biden episode through the poet's self-pity (he's possibly "the most innocent person in the world" though he can't be sure) to placing himself in competition with Abraham Lincoln, known as "Honest Abe", for presidentiality as  a four-year-old might imagine it, in terms of how you adorn your head, with Trump's hair possibly winning out over Lincoln's stovepipe (I wonder if Trump realizes this was not a unique signature look, like The Joker's clown makeup, but a thing lots of men used to put on their heads in the mid-19th century, though apparently Lincoln really did wear his, often an old and somewhat crumpled one, in a lot more situations than was normal, enjoying the way it exaggerated his height, already very remarkable at 6' 4", per Stephen L. Carter).

And then sweeping backwards in time in a way you can't even parse—"remember we used to do that," he says, and you wonder what did they use to do, beat Lincoln? but it's the usual lies about the size of the rally crowds—from how crazy and fun campaigning was back in the day (in his wonderful hair or his baseball cap) to his original descent from serene billionairehood into earthly anxieties in his own lobby, with Melania holding his hand. What do you want to bet he's actually afraid of escalators, by the way, that his shoelace might get caught between the steps, and wants his hand held for protection? Ending, not, in any case, in what you'd want to call a state of innocence, but before he got in so deep over his head in a pool of culpability and treading water.

That's all I got. Trump's headgear as the real content of his campaign was the subject of one of my best song parodies, in 2015.

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