He dictated it. That’s what the New York Times says today, anyway, about the president’s statement on Saudi Arabia yesterday. The question had been hovering above the singular and barely believable text, or lurking below it: did White House staff members work to craft this statement of policy on behalf of the chief executive of the United States of America, or did the president compose it all on his own? And which answer would be worse?
It was pure Donald Trump, that was clear: a blustery, anti-literate string of messages, cringing and false from all angles—a stream of consciousness with no coherent consciousness behind it. It had the effect of genuine literary art, in that there was no way to capture or explain the feeling of the text other than reading it and absorbing its complete mental and moral and aesthetic bankruptcy. No excerpt can do justice to the experience of reading the whole thing end to end, from “The world is a very dangerous place!” to “Very simply it is called America First!”
There was a—gag?—or critique?—that started last year, where someone built a bot that would format Trump’s idiotic tweets into the official White House press release format, as a commentary on the fact that this rambling buffoon was the President of the United States, and therefore his every idle flicker of confusion or petty rage carried the authority of the world’s mightiest nation. Like every other criticism or parody of Trump, it worked from the premise that his unfitness, in context, was both self-evident and conclusive. This person can’t be president.
But Trump, living that juxtaposition every day, has come to the opposite self-evident conclusion. He is the president. The presidency is him. He can’t do the job, as a job, in any meaningful way. Everything out of his mouth is just words to him. But a meaningless president is still the president. Sometimes people ignore the words till he forgets about them, even if it means military officials disregarding orders from their elected civilian commander. Sometimes people listen to him and kill somebody, or try to. Sometimes they make up some new law or policy, where their own greed or malice roughly matches up with the gist of whatever he said, and they give him some papers to sign that will make thousands of people’s lives worse.
Now the words were this: a journalist, an American resident, was murdered and dismembered by the Saudi regime, and the president was taking it as an opportunity to praise the Saudis for being such good business partners and to help them with the cover-up:
Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event—maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!
That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In any case, the president has spent his life doing business with gangsters, and he is not going to stop now.
What is the public, in whose name he is doing this, supposed to do? Some people tried, as they always try, to blow him offstage with a fanfare of ponderous trumpeting. Day after day, week after week, writers and politicians try to conjure the ghost of Joseph Welch from clouds of purple smoke, as if the right exquisitely turned plea to the Integrity of the Republic and the American Character and the Rule of Law would somehow drive the administration from the White House in a cloud of shame. But no one will ever have-you-no-decency a person who has, in fact, no decency, and has never understood why anyone should.
Other people tried to fact-check him, and pointed out—pointed out that it had long since been pointed out—that the dollar amounts on those business deals, the reason America had to let the Saudis push it around, were utter fabrications, the same sort of bizarrely inflated dollar figures that Trump has wallowed in for his whole life. That was good to have on the record, but it didn’t matter any more than the eloquent denunciations did. Trump has crashed and burned through the whole concept of discourse. He can’t tell the difference between fantasy and bullshit, and he flatly doesn’t know what reality is. And the aides take down whatever comes out of his mouth, and they put it out as the only reality that matters.