WASHINGTON – Richard Nixon will forever be remembered for his November 1973 protest: “I am not a crook.”
Donald Trump, likewise, may be recorded in history for the assertion he made over the weekend to a skeptical nation: I am not an idiot.
The commander in chief volunteered an unexpected defense of his intellect and sanity in response to a book in which many of his aides are portrayed as believing the boss to be, in the medical parlance, a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
“My two greatest assets have been my mental stability and being, like, really smart,” Trump tweeted – because, like, nothing says “intelligence” like using the word “like” like that. Trump went on to tweet that his achievements qualify him as “genius. … and a very stable genius at that!”
At a mini news conference that same day, Trump explained why he felt compelled to defend his mental health and acuity: “I went to the best colleges or college. I went to a – I had a situation where I was a very excellent student.”
This was, like, almost as ill-advised as what Sen. William Scott, R-Va., did in 1974 upon being named the dumbest member of Congress by an obscure publication. He held a news conference to deny that he was dumbest – thereby proving the charge.
But maybe this is, like, a misunderstanding. Maybe Trump didn’t mean to type that he is a “stable genius” but a “stable genus” – that is, of a genus and species typically found in a stable. In this case, an argument can be made that Trump is indeed a stable genus – specifically a descendant of Sus scrofa known as Sus domesticus. The common pig.
Before you accuse me of being rude (which would compel me to host a news conference to deny it), I am not suggesting that the president is a pig in the pejorative sense Trump meant when calling Rosie O’Donnell a pig. (Although, if the hoof fits .) I mean pig in the best sense – that of the most intelligent animals on the farm, and the ones George Orwell selected to lead all other animals in “Animal Farm.”
It has been many years since I read the 1945 classic, but I have perused the Cliffs Notes, and my horse sense tells me there are some echoes in current affairs.
There is Snowball, a pig who is the ideological leader of the animal movement. But the leader forces him into exile and thereafter blames him for all hardship. Snowball was originally seen as a Trotsky figure, but after the past week, it is pretty clear that Snowball’s demise foreshadowed Steve Bannon.
There is also the sycophantic Squealer, top pig propagandist, glorifying his boss and vilifying Snowball with misdirection so effective he “could turn black into white.” After watching CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, it is clear that Squealer is reincarnated as Stephen Miller – the White House official who defended Trump’s “stable genius” claim by mounting an unrelated and extended attack on CNN and anchor Jake Tapper, who accurately called Miller a “factotum.”
The horses in the story are loyal but naive. One mighty horse, Boxer, believes the leader “is always right.” When Boxer collapses in service to the cause, the pigs promise to send him to a veterinarian but instead sell him to make glue. In modern times, Paul Ryan, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn all play the role of loyal steed destined for the knacker.
The sheep, who chant the pig-devised slogan “Four legs good, two legs bad,” immediately revise their tune when the pigs start walking on two legs: “Four legs good, two legs better.” Clearly, the sheep are the Fox News of the story.
Then there is Orwell’s lead pig, Napoleon, a power-hungry swine who rose with a populist promise of wealth to all animals. But then he took milk and apples from cows to feed fellow pigs. He broke his promises, and, when things went wrong, he made scapegoats of animals who did not praise him.
From “Animal Farm”: “It had become usual to give Napoleon the credit for every successful achievement and every stroke of good fortune. You would often hear one hen remark to another, ‘Under the guidance of our leader, Comrade Napoleon, I have laid five eggs in six days’; or two cows, enjoying a drink at the pool, would exclaim, ‘Thanks to the leadership of Comrade Napoleon, how excellent this water tastes!’”
I cannot think of any current figure who resembles the pig Napoleon. Maybe I could if I were, like, really smart.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.