This week, the New York Times devoted two full pages of its print paper to the 280 or so "people, places and things Donald Trump has insulted on Twitter since declaring his candidacy for president." I took the liberty of putting the text of those tweets into a database and crunching some of the associated numbers, assuming it would lead to an insightful analysis of Mr. Trump's psyche. I assumed wrong. What it does show, however, is not without value, albeit mostly entertainment. Here are the
And he sensed, better than anyone, the wellsprings of hate and resentment lurking beneath the surface of American life. Probably because he too raged with hate and resentment.
Thirty years ago, Mr. Trump was funny. In 1991, the great Mike Royko wrote a column entitled, “Trump, Marla Maples Good for the Nation.”
Today, the title sounds jarring, especially from a tough-guy newspaper columnist, but Royko had a point:
“Browsing through the news wires the other day,” Royko wrote, “I was becoming depressed. The economy is sagging, with leading indicators down, up or wherever they shouldn't be; AIDS on the rise; public confidence down; Japan on the rise; the United States in decline; illegitimate births on the rise; new jobs in decline.
“Then I brightened. There was the latest story about The Donald and the lovely Marla.”
Four years ago with Jon Stewart signing off the nightly airwaves and Stephen Colbert leaving the relative freedom of Comedy Central for the more tightly regulated network world, I worried about the future of political satire on TV. But as of last weekend, I am officially worried no more.
Mr. Trump, of course, is still something of a National Goofball. What are we to make of a man who insists, despite photographic evidence, that his inaugural crowd was the largest in history? Who insists, despite recorded public testimony to the contrary, that he and his national security team are “on the same page.”
Who brags of having a larger “nuclear button?”
All achieve the surreal. But the first was the last echo of Mr. Trump as a figure of fun. The last two — two of many, many troubling actions and statements by Mr. Trump as president — are beyond parody. They are not funny.
Shakespeare understood this. He created many comic characters. His most famous, Falstaff, is something of a spiritual twin to Mr. Trump.
Except for Falstaff’s penchant for pubs and Mr. Trump’s affinity for golf courses, they’re nearly interchangeable. Why couldn’t one be as funny as the other?
But unlike Mr. Trump, Falstaff never held power. Shakespeare didn’t even allow him near positions of power.
When his pal the merry Prince Hal becomes king, Falstaff assumes he’ll have a place at the royal court. Instead, King Henry V rejects him; publicly, coldly. Shakespeare knew there was nothing funny about such a character having the king’s ear.
Now we have a Falstaff-like character not with mere access to the president; he is the president.