“May you live in interesting times.”
Non-Ancient Chinese quote, attributed to a host of writers and scholars in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries
This morning I finally had a chance to read the New York Times interview with President Donald J. Trump.
I object to Donald J. Trump.
That interview reminds me why. Had it not been done by the Times (not a fake news organization) I would have thought that they had dragged in some five-year-old from the streets, filled him with candy and promised him a trip to Coney Island after they were finished. For as long as I can remember (back to at least the end of the Johnson/beginning of the Nixon administration, if you must know), there was a pattern of presentation that was followed by all Presidents. I won’t say that it was tradition, but it served our Nation well. And it was successful.
Here’s how it worked. A President would be asked a question and he would respond, either directly, or by deflection to a more comfortable topic, using a structure of adjectives, verbs, nouns, pronouns, and prepositions, to form complete sentences and a train of thought. If the President wished to answer directly, he would pose his opinion to the interviewer, followed by corroborating evidence or example. If the President wished to deflect the question, he would most often make a quick comment to the question, then spin the question to his point of view so that he could pose his opinion to the interviewer, followed by corroborating evidence or example.
Mr. Trump would have none of this. Instead, questions (some of which I thought were fairly softball, considering the animosity between the NYT and the DJT) would start to be answered, and then, a sudden veer to totally unexpected topics, such as how Emmanuel Macron likes to hold Trump’s hand (side note- yes this was a thing that took up far too much interview time) (second side note, when checking spelling, Googling “French Macron” gives a totally different response than “French Macaron”, though I’m pretty sure that, based on Trump’s discussions, both are delicious).
I treat this lightly, but this entire interview is actually a fairly serious matter. Set aside for a moment the fact that, like him or hate him, he is our President and, up until the G20 meeting, was the de facto leader of the free world. Bear in mind that, for six months after the election, and for a year and a half before that, Mr. Trump complained how his concerns, his views, his platform, had been ignored by the mainstream press. Now, he had a chance to discuss, to confront, to clarify. A chance for an airing of grievances and correction of record, and yet, he chose to talk about how nobody is asking about 33,000 Hilary Clinton emails that were deleted and bleached. He chose to talk about how he has passed more legislation by this point in his term than any President except Harry Truman (he hasn’t). Not executive orders, real laws (not true). He chose to talk about how wonderful the French military parades were, and how we ought to have one right down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Granted he did talk briefly about the Attorney General, about Robert Mueller, the hearings on Russian influence, and the Russian attacks on the past election (spoiler: Trump is against it; that is, against the attacks against the Russian attacks). Those topics aside, there was no content, no information that was worth sharing with the constituents of our country.
OK, there may have been substance there, but most of Mr. Trump’s responses were so incoherent that it was hard to read. We’re not talking political gibberish, we’re talking true Trump gibberish, filled with lots of ‘sad’s, ‘bad’s and other single word descriptors. Sentences half finished. Thoughts that weren’t even trying to connect to reality. In a word, the interview was frightening.
I’m sure that some will take issue with all of this. Fine, that is your prerogative. But, please, take the time to read the interview. And, please, read it seriously. Forget all the nonsense swirling around the White House these days. The lies. The retractions. The musical chairs that seem to be White House offices. Read it like you wanted to get some real information from the President. Read it like a person who, in most years, would be saddened, but not scared to death that the opposition’s candidate was in the Oval Office.
And, please, let me say in advance, I’m sorry.