Sunday, December 6, 2020

Trump's end of the play 'where catastrophe always comes'

Quote of the Day: “If there are these analogies between classic literature and society as it’s operating right now, then that should give us some big cause for concern this December, … We’re approaching the end of the play here and that’s where catastrophe always comes.” - Jeffrey R. Wilson, a Shakespearean scholar at Harvard (via Peter Baker at the NY Times).

Baker at the NY Times describes Trump’s Final Days of Rage and Denial. The last act of the Trump presidency has taken on the stormy elements of a drama more common to history or literature than a modern White House.

Excerpts follow.

Over the past week, President Trump posted or reposted about 145 messages on Twitter lashing out at the results of an election he lost. He mentioned the coronavirus pandemic now reaching its darkest hours four times — and even then just to assert that he was right about the outbreak and the experts were wrong.

Moody and by accounts of his advisers sometimes depressed, the president barely shows up to work, ignoring the health and economic crises afflicting the nation and largely clearing his public schedule of meetings unrelated to his desperate bid to rewrite the election results. He has fixated on rewarding friends, purging the disloyal and punishing a growing list of perceived enemies that now includes Republican governors, his own attorney general and even Fox News.

The final days of the Trump presidency have taken on the stormy elements of a drama more common to history or literature than a modern White House. His rage and detached-from-reality refusal to concede defeat evoke images of a besieged overlord in some distant land defiantly clinging to power rather than going into exile or an erratic English monarch imposing his version of reality on his cowed court.

On Saturday night, Mr. Trump took his unreality show to Georgia for his first major public appearance since the Nov. 3 election. …

At times, Mr. Trump’s railing-against-his-fate outbursts seem like a story straight out of William Shakespeare, part tragedy, part farce, full of sound and fury. Is Mr. Trump a modern-day Julius Caesar, forsaken by even some of his closest courtiers? (Et tu, Bill Barr?) Or a King Richard III who wars with the nobility until being toppled by Henry VII? Or King Lear, railing against those who do not love and appreciate him sufficiently? How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless electorate.

“This is classic Act V behavior,” said Jeffrey R. Wilson, a Shakespearean scholar at Harvard who published the book “Shakespeare and Trump” this year. “The forces are being picked off and the tyrant is holed up in his castle and he’s growing increasingly anxious and he feels insecure and he starts blustering about his legitimate sovereignty and he starts accusing the opposition of treason.”

But even as the president desperately demands that somebody, anybody, tell him that he is right, no one in a position of authority has done so other than blood relatives, paid lawyers and partisan soul mates. The election has been certified and accepted not just by Democrats but also by key Republican governors, secretaries of state, election officials, city clerks, judges and even Trump administration officials.

After his own cybersecurity czar endorsed the integrity of the election, Mr. Trump fired him. Now that Attorney General William P. Barr has said he saw no fraud that would overturn the results, he may be next.

As the circle around Mr. Trump shrinks and even allies like Mr. Barr distance themselves, the president resists any suggestion that he stand down. “I’m never, ever going to concede,” he told one ally who urged him to prepare to do so. And if he is not listening to advisers, many are no longer listening to him.

At one point, Mr. Trump appeared to telephone Mr. Ducey even as he was certifying Arizona’s results on live television and the governor refused to take the president’s call, which was announced by a “Hail to the Chief” ring tone.

Top Republican lawyers have dropped off his election lawsuits, which have been dismissed by the dozens and even in one case declared “bizarre” by a judge appointed by Mr. Trump. Five courts in five battleground states rejected his latest legal challenges to the election in a little more than three hours on Friday, with a Wisconsin judge warning that “this is a dangerous path we are being asked to tread.”

With six weeks until he leaves office, Mr. Trump remains as unpredictable and erratic as ever. He may fire Mr. Barr or others, issue a raft of pardons to protect himself and his allies or incite a confrontation overseas. Like King Lear, he may fly into further rages and find new targets for his wrath.

“If there are these analogies between classic literature and society as it’s operating right now, then that should give us some big cause for concern this December,” said Mr. Wilson, the Shakespearean scholar. “We’re approaching the end of the play here and that’s where catastrophe always comes.”

Scriber’s Editor at Large Sherry contributed this tip.

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