On February 7th of this year, President Donald Trump, having been fully briefed on the danger posed by COVID-19, stepped to the podium in the White House briefing room and warned the American public that the virus was both airborne and lethal.
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For a while there, before things got as unimaginably bad as they’ve gotten, I somewhat enjoyed writing about the unprecedented incompetence, corruption, scandal, and cartoon-like madness of Donald Trump’s chaos presidency. There was mystery and intrigue and reasons galore for me to vent my righteous outrage about the petty, self-obsessed, lizard-brained conman who had ridden a wave of racism, misogyny, ignorance and greed into the most powerful office on earth … and, most compellingly, there was what, on multiple occasions, appeared to be the very real possibility that damning and richly deserved consequences were about to befall him.
It is adorable that Old Me had the capacity for that sort of optimism. I miss him.
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.
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:
In much the same way that Donald Trump’s limited intellect and malignant narcissism rob him of the ability to demonstrate compassion, empathy or humility, so, too, do they make it impossible for him to process regret. When you’ve convinced yourself that you are the center of the known universe, and that everything you do is the crowning achievement in the history of whatever it is you’ve done, the cognitive dissonance required to accept that you’ve actually done the most moronic thing possible is simply a bridge too far. And, so, instead of admitting — at least to yourself, if to no one else — that you regret the quantifiably stupid thing you’ve done, you double down, like so: