Wednesday, April 10, 2019


This is in some ways the Trumpiest thing that ever was:
During a guided tour of Mount Vernon last April with French president Emmanuel Macron, Trump learned that Washington was one of the major real-estate speculators of his era. So, he couldn’t understand why America’s first president didn’t name his historic Virginia compound or any of the other property he acquired after himself. 
“If he was smart, he would’ve put his name on it,” Trump said, according to three sources briefed on the exchange. "You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you"... 
If Trump was impressed with Washington’s real estate instincts, he was less taken by Mount Vernon itself, which the first president personally expanded from a modest one-and-a-half story home into an 11,000 square foot mansion. The rooms, Trump said, were too small, the staircases too narrow, and he even spotted some unevenness in the floorboards, according to four sources briefed on his comments. He could have built the place better, he said, and for less money.
This put me immediately in mind of an anecdote about Booth Tarkington's and Harry Leon Wilson's play, The Man From Home, in Louis Scheaffer's first Eugene O'Neill biography Son and Playwright:
In [young O'Neill's] view the good things were not the home-grown products that played to packed houses but the serious importations that pleased only the few. What audience tastes of the day were like can be gathered from something Booth Tarkington once said about The Man from Home, a smash hit of the 1908-1909 season he had coauthored. A story of American tourists abroad, it was intended to satirize those who ran down Europe’s historic splendors in favor of the sights back home. “So when we built up the Hoosier in our play,” Tarkington recalled, “we gave him a lot of this kind of jingo patter. We thought our audiences would be amused with us and at him, and yet like him as we did. Instead, they cheered all his boastings…. They burst with loud patriotic applause when he said, ‘I wouldn’t trade our State Insane Asylum for the worst ruined ruin in Europe.’ The popular success of the play might be called accidental.”
It's hard to know whether Trump is genuinely this stupid, or whether he's merely playing the monied rube here for the benefit of his idiot fans. In either case his act as seen at Mount Vernon is more or less the same as he's been doing for years: As a self-help huckster, snake-oil salesman, game show host, presidential candidate, and president, Trump's success is based on putting over the notion that the smart people are putting one over on you, but he will put you wise -- he'll teach you the secrets the smart people won't share, sell you the "quality" items the smart people hoard for themselves, elevate with an apprenticeship some humble young Horatio Alger who'd never get a break from the smart people; and finally, when given the ultimate prize, he will lock up the Queen of the Smart People, drain the swamp and fix America.

With the Mount Vernon tour Trump is letting everyone around him know that the things smart people like, or rather are pretending to like in order to bamboozle the common people -- historical artifacts, indeed history itself, and the homey values of the Founding Fathers -- are actually stupid; this supposed "attraction" is just a dump (as Trump called the White House when he got there) and this Washington schmuck didn't have the savvy and pizzazz that Trump brings to the Big Show. Why waste your time at some rickety old house when you could go to Trump Tower? And if some loser bitches that Trump's leadership betrays the values of people like George Washington, well, who was Washington anyway except some soldier who, though admirable because he didn't get captured, didn't know half of what Trump knows about building a fortune and making a name for oneself? Because the only real values are Trump's values, and anything else is a trap to steal your money.

Mencken called it, but he didn't know the half of how it would end up.

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