We are living in a Greek tragedy, rich in ironic twists.
Donald Trump, who ran for office on the promise of “draining the swamp,” has created an administration populated by swamp critters dedicated to self-interest and self-aggrandizement. The alleged corruption and incompetence are epic. Another irony: The president is feeble where he should be fierce (fighting Covid-19), and aggressive where he should be restrained (interfering with the Justice Department, the FBI and the CDC).
It is ironic, too, that Trump decries the agonies of widespread social protest, raging fires and other tragic facts of life today in America, seemingly ignorant of the fact that this is his America, his shot, his chance to make America great again.
When I listened to journalist Bob Woodward’s tapes of Trump, I realized that we are pinned to a sharply ironic moment in American history. We have a president who agreed to taped interviews — 18 times — admitted to hiding the devastating truth of the oncoming pandemic from the public and doesn’t seem to understand at all why that is not OK. He didn’t have to do the interview; he didn’t have to reveal himself as a dunce. The implications of Trump’s words are clear to us but unknown to him. There is a deep, sucking void where his self-awareness should be.
In Woodward’s book, Trump talks about his kinship with notorious autocrats like Kim Jong-un, the irony being that the president might have saved tens of thousands of American lives if he had channeled just a few strong enforcement tactics like mandating mask wearing and contact tracing. But Trump’s authoritarianism leans more toward sending in troops to break up protests so he can pose with a Bible in front of a church. He prefers bullying the undocumented, the unarmed and those who disagree with his edicts. He prefers the part of autocracy that serves and elevates the egotistic needs of a Great Leader.
As I write, Trump is attacking his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, saying he is confused, misspeaks and bungles facts. Biden often misses a beat in his rhetoric, but what he says is reliable. Trump lies and contradicts himself every day, offering up proof of how unfit he is for public office.
The irony, again, is that he projects onto others the failings that dog him personally. You can’t make it up, and you don’t have to. Today he said that if Biden became president, his handlers would put him in a home where he would watch TV all day.
Last week Trump gave a news conference in which he gratuitously mentioned that he had watched TV for a good part of the day before, ticking off all his Fox News friends, hour by hour. While the West is burning, while Hurricane Sally was flooding the Gulf Coast, while Covid-19 is infecting tens of thousands of people every week in the U.S., he was watching TV, or tweeting out his uniquely uninformed and ignorant view of the world, such as his unhelpful idea that masks can be harmful to people.
Who expected to be caught on stage in a Greek tragedy? Look at all the dead bodies strewn about as the curtain falls. Trump’s reign has been monstrous and deadly for America.
He can call Joe Biden names, but the taunts are empty. He points to Biden’s age and says he’s weak. Ironically, Biden’s life is a definition of moral strength and emotional courage. His life is a rebuke of Trump, the man. Biden suffered an unthinkable loss when his wife and infant daughter died in a car accident just after he was elected to the Senate 48 years ago. He raised his boys and served his country. One of those boys died while Biden was vice president in the Obama administration.
Joe Biden has been tested and tempered by grief. He has the gathered wisdom of a man in his eighth decade. He is tough and resilient and knows his way around the power brokers of the world.
Trump is a hollow man, a fake tough guy. When we needed leadership, he punted. When we needed an iron man to fight Covid-19, we got irony and an inept poser.
Copyright 2020 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.