You would think forcing Mitt Romney to eat frog legs, while swallowing his dignity, would have been enough humiliation during the dinner segment of his failed tryout for secretary of state. You would think.
But the president-elect wanted more. Romney was a “choker,” in Donald Trump’s earlier put-down; that, and he walked “like a penguin.” If Romney could take his flightless bird-in-a-tuxedo-act outside and apologize for calling Trump a fraud, then maybe the job was his. Romney would waddle no further. Apologize? Cripes, the title of his book is “No Apology.”
Still, high-five! For Trump, the debasement of Romney was just another hit of dopamine – the neurotransmitter once called the Kim Kardashian of molecules. He needs a jolt several times a day. But in turn, he gives it back to you, the millions in his personality cult, and certainly the click-bait web and cable press, who need it just as much.
Earlier this month, Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., took to the floor of the House to plead for one thing from the incoming leader of the free world: “Stop tweeting, Mr. President-elect.” Not a chance. His tiny fingers can launch 140 predawn characters from the fortress of his gilded tower and mighty Boeing will lose more than a billion dollars in stock value a few hours later.
At the other end, his 17.3 million followers wake up every day eager for a shot of unfiltered Trump. It’s a dangerous codependency. “Saturday Night Live”? “Unwatchable!” Vanity Fair, after a scathing review of a Trump restaurant? “Dead!” The slaughter of civilians in the ancient city of Aleppo? Nothing. The real-world consequences of weaponized hatred are no concern for a man with a shameful incuriosity and a profound lack of empathy.
But look again at the Trump Tower stage – it’s Kanye! Who cares about Aleppo, or a foreign adversary deliberately trying to undermine a U.S. election, when you’ve got a troubled rapper stopping by for his hit of Trump. The Orange One recognizes him – on CNN, now cutting away from Syria.
And so we see the clear design that Trump will use to rule: He will give us showmanship and cheap drama, put-downs and promises – the stagecraft of the world’s most powerful narcissist. And meanwhile, the nation will be governed by oil oligarchs, climate change deniers and Goldman Sachs tycoons brought in to do the real work.
The Koch brothers didn’t support Trump. But they got their dream team of hold-back-the-clock fossil fools and corporate sycophants. The bullet-headed nominee for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, is against expanding the minimum wage for all the poor souls who voted for Trump. The Energy Department nominee, Rick Perry, vowed to eliminate that very agency. And he sits on the board of the pipeline company that wants to carry oil directly under a tribal water supply in North Dakota.
Pay no attention – it’s back on the road with the thank you tour. This traveling gloat-fest is an excuse for more of the Trump narcotic. He is having trouble getting A-list musicians to perform at his inauguration. The sound of an angry mob is music enough. The rallies are a contact high for both sides and – as in Wisconsin the other day – a chance for one more chant of “Lock her up!”
But locking Hillary Clinton up for careless management of her email could be problematic when it seems that Trump’s future national security adviser, the fake news enthusiast Michael Flynn, was himself investigated for wrongly sharing classified information with foreign leaders.
Time for another tweet, a put-down of a union man who dared to question how Trump played Indiana workers for suckers in his big factory stroll. Trump helped to save, at most, a thousand jobs. If President Barack Obama had held a big press tour for all the 15 million new jobs created on his watch, he could boast of 36,000 jobs, once a week, throughout his eight years in office.
It’s boring stuff, anyway. Just like that daily intelligence briefing, which Trump says he doesn’t need because “I’m, like, a smart person.” But more to the point: for Trump, there’s no thrill in basic information. He’ll certainly feel something if there’s a catastrophic terrorist attack and, as with George W. Bush, there was an intelligence community warning of a looming threat.
Back to Trump Tower – oh look, all the tech titans! They didn’t back him, these captains of Apple and Facebook, Tesla and Amazon. And, given his record of boasting on tape of being a sexual predator, Trump couldn’t get hired as deputy office boy at any one of those companies. But as with the Romney grovel, he gets another hit by bringing them to heel. For another day, at least, it’s all a president-elect needs.