When I was much younger and didn’t follow politics closely enough to understand what really was going on, I believed that, regardless of who held the office, the president of the United States was mostly a figurehead — more of a symbol than an actual policymaker with the power to steer the country in one direction or another. Having lived through and followed rather closely the Clinton, Bush, Obama, and, unfortunately, Trump presidencies, and having compared the policy positions of those men with those of the opponents against whom they ran, I know now that I, of course, was wrong — mostly.
Time for a thought exercise. (Don’t worry; it’s an easy one.) Imagine, if you will, that there is a criminal in the White House. Investigators know it. Prosecutors know it. The people closest to him know it. And, of course, the criminal himself knows it.
It is human nature to try to make sense of the crazy thing happening before your very eyes by looking at it through the lens of the most similar thing to which it compares, so holding Trump’s aberrant presidency up against that of Richard Nixon is a natural response. The ways in which those two men, their presidencies, and their respective scandals differ, however, are at least as effective at predicting Trump’s fate as are the ways in which they are similar — the most notable difference, of course, being that Nixon was a smart and savvy politician who committed a crime, while Trump is an arrogant fool and dimwitted criminal who accidentally stumbled into the presidency while executing what he thought would be his greatest con.
Well, nice try everybody. I thought we had a pretty good night, but I guess that whole “Blue Wave” thing was just wishful thinking. Turns out there are fine voters on both sides, and the American electorate is evenly split. Half of us are angry, aggrieved, gullible lunatics who believe Hillary Clinton is using George Soros’ ATM card to fund an invading force of leprosy-ridden brown babies from South America, and the other half of us — you know, the ones who know how to breathe with our mouths closed — apparently did little more than sort-of cancel out a potential Red Wave. At least, that’s what it seemed like based on much of the Election Night coverage I saw.
For a brief moment last Thursday, as Brett Kavanaugh began his opening remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I mistakenly thought he sounded contrite, and the sound that I mistook for contrition led me to believe for just a split second that he might actually take responsibility for his actions, apologize to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and withdraw his own nomination.
I think we can all agree it is truly adorable that, nearly two years into Donald Trump’s presidency and long after having had the concomitant realization that everyone with whom Trump surrounds himself is profoundly broken and unfailingly awful, I still somehow was capable of such unrealistic optimism.
I originally published this piece three years ago today. I am re-upping it now both because of that anniversary, and because my dear friend Sam was from, and loved, the area currently getting hammered by Hurricane Florence. He was an environmentalist and a self-appointed steward of Wrightsville Beach who, among other things, organized trash cleanups there, and who even launched a green apparel line (Organic Lifestyle Apparel) that, in part, benefits his local chapter of the Surfrider organization, which “is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.” If you are able and so inclined, please consider contributing to that non-profit, and/or to the Red Cross, which will be doing critical work to help people affected by the hurricane.
I called him “Shep,” like, at least two or three times before finally realizing that I’d misremembered (yes, that’s a word now) his last name; it was “Sam Shelby,” not “Sam Shepard.” It was our first day working together, and there I am, calling him “Shep” … repeatedly … because I’m a douche. Of course, when I finally realized (with no small amount of embarrassment) the mistake I’d been making, Sam merely laughed it off and took it upon himself to make the moment far less uncomfortable and awkward than I deserved for it to be … because that’s just who he was.
I work for the president and I can tell you that no one in the White House wants to meddle with his agenda because he is a smart person who hires the best people. And I am not the only one who thinks so. Many people are saying it.
Jon Zal is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. He has done so at the request of the author, a very, very, very senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to Jon Zal and the stature of whose formerly dignified and revered office would only be further sullied by the disclosure of that person’s identity. Jon Zal believes publishing this essay anonymously is the best way to make this bit funny. He does not care what you think about his vetting process. Keep it to yourself.
President Trump — who, in a recent poll, was found to be even more popular than Abraham Lincoln, and who probably is the best president in the history of presidenting — is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by the 44 much less popular presidents who came before him.
Well well well … we’ve sure had a full and busy day, now, haven’t we? Yes we have … so much so, in fact, that, were we to write about it, it might end up being an overwrought trilogy that would take us four months to complete. Can you even imagine?
“Previously, on ‘Endurance in the Age of Trump: An Overwrought Trilogy That Took Us Four Months To Complete’: Jon went on The Most Patriotic Jog of All Time, and then visited Awe-Inspiring Memorials Dedicated to People Far Greater Than Those Currently In Charge, during which he clocked a combined total of almost 25,000 footsteps and covered nearly 14 miles.”
Wow. That was a long shower, eh?
Sorry about the delay; I was busy watching, you know, the country burn down.
Listen, I’m not gonna lie to you: I knew things were going to be very bad under a President Donald Trump, but even I didn’t think they’d get this bad. I mean, yes, I knew he was an unfit, unqualified, ignorant, racist, sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, narcissistic, pathological liar and conman with a total disregard for the rule of law … but I never imagined he’d be given such free reign to dismantle the presidency, trash America’s standing in the world, and foment distrust of our most critical democratic institutions. Turns out the nearly microscopic sliver of hope onto which I had held that congressional Republicans might actually care more about America than their own selfish interests was wasted on the pack of unAmerican invertebrates who currently control Congress.
Last October, I visited Washington, D.C., for the first time in over a decade. By the time I left, I felt humbled, inspired, and confident that, when held up against the great Americans, historic accomplishments and tremendous sacrifices memorialized throughout that city, Trump’s shambolic presidency will go down in history as little more than a disgraceful con job that tested and, ultimately, strengthened our democracy.
My faith was further restored during my return this month for what proved to be an unforgettable trip—one that included a chance meeting with a civil-rights legend, no less, but we’ll get to that part a bit later. First, I want you all to know that, minutes after arriving in the city, I tried to save us all: