The only person who should be allowed to write about Trump

There's only one writer I'll read on the subject of Our Big Wet Guy.

Yes hello hi I realize you probably signed up for this music-related newsletter to escape the never-ending deluge of political news and you don’t need any more of it from some jagoff music writer. I get that. But AS A WRITER, I enjoy analyzing other writers’ work and would like to occasionally use this newsletter to do that. And since our dumbshit president is so all-consuming that he has made political pundits of us all, he was bound to come up eventually.

Everything out of Trump’s mouth, in some form or another, is a lie. Perhaps the only thing he repeatedly says which might actually be true is that the news media needs him. There has, indeed, been an explosion of news consumption since he took office, all in America’s vain attempt to keep up with the former reality star’s unprecedented corruption. But with any rapid growth, this has led to good and bad results.

There is a handful of smart reporters doing the yeoman’s work of investigating Trump’s business dealings and fact-checking his speeches, which is like pulling single drops of water from a gushing firehose. Then there are hacks who get paid more money than all of us to go on TV and talk out of their asses about topics on which they are woefully ignorant but it’s ok because their dad was John McCain. And there are also #resistance huckster talking heads trying to “save America” who take advantage of liberal panic by, to quote Henry Rollins’ “Liar,” telling you things you already know, so you can say, “I really identify with you, so much.”

I’ve largely given up on reading any news on Trump. Not just because I quickly burn through my limit of free monthly New York Times pageviews on old recaps of 2 Broke Girls, but because the good majority of what you need to know about the man comes straight from his mouth. Back in the olden days, you’d see a politician dodging questions and using sleazy double-speak on TV, and then you’d watch the nightly news where a person in a suit would tell you all the lies you might have missed. But Trump lies so openly, with such brazen transparency, that I really don’t need any further analysis. It’s like watching a magician who spends the entire trick telling you how he’s able to cut the woman in half.

There’s only one person I will read on the subject of Donald Trump: A sports writer named David Roth.

I worked alongside David before he got picked up by Deadspin, and he was always something of an inspiration, and not just as a fellow Plaid Shirt Guy. I could tell he was a good writer by the fact that he could make me interested in sports, a topic on which I otherwise have no desire to learn about. He was also my #1 source of Mike Francesa news, for which I am forever grateful.

I didn’t realize what a big deal David is in the sports world until I was at a BBQ with some dudes who were talking about Deadspin and just to participate in the convo I mentioned that I knew him. I might as well have said I was friends with… uh, [thinking of a sports player]... Derek Jordan. One of the dudes actually let out a squeal.

But over the last few years, in addition to his sports coverage, David has thrown in the occasional piece about our Big Wet Guy and wouldn’t you know it, he’s got more insight about the President than people who get paid to cover him exclusively. If you ask him, though, David will tell you he is a reluctant politics writer. In fact, he likely wouldn’t cop to being a politics writer at all. He’s a sports writer by trade but politics seeps into everything so he’s got no choice.

I briefly dabbled in writing about Donald Trump shortly after his election when he spilled over into music, but I quickly abandoned it because 1. It feels impossible to even keep up with how fast the news cycle moves. Reading the above article back now, it seems quaint that Trump couldn’t get any musicians to play his inauguration. 2. As I mentioned, there are enough know-nothing dumbasses writing about the President that I don’t think my voice is needed. 3. It is fucking taxing. If you write critically about Trump for a big website, for the next 48 hours your inbox/mentions will be flooded with MAGA chuds sending you death threats and Pepe memes. Not that that’s a reason to avoid doing it, but you can see why people who write about politics for a living have visibly devolved into mushbrained morons over the last three years.

But the reason David’s articles about Trump are among the only ones worth reading, aside from the fact that he’s an incredibly sharp and economical wordsmith, is that he’s not reporting. He’s not opining, either. He’s doing something else entirely, which I would describe as Alzheimer’s Whispering. 

Trump is at once both the most comically simple dunce and the most tragically complex figure in contemporary history. He reacts to having his blatant lies challenged with the impromptu verbal diarrhea of a teenage boy in the principal’s office, responding “I don’t know, I don’t know” when asked why a map he’s holding has clearly been adjusted with a Sharpie and he’s got black ink all over his hands. He is incapable of masking what he’s thinking in even the slightest way. I’ve never had a minute of psychological training but when I hear the man speak I feel like I’m Sigmund Fucking Freud. David analyzes the innerworkings of Trump’s rapidly deteriorating brain, breaking down the very basis of his id, with such remarkable insight that it’s like he was Trump in a previous life, which must be a terrifying thought for him, I’m sure.

It takes me twice as long to read David’s articles than most things. I read every clever turn of phrase twice—once to picture it and a second time to laugh at it. I often read his Trump musings and find myself thinking, “Wow, I never thought of it like that, but yes.” That’s a truly impressive feat. So much of our collective mindspace over the last few years has been dominated by this bumbling oaf (I personally have had stress dreams about him and I’m sure I’m not alone) that to pinpoint something a reader has vaguely conjured but not yet said aloud or mentally named is nearly impossible. And while most critics of Trump grew stale very quickly with their repetition of lame insults like President Cheeto or Agent Orange or whatever the fuck, almost every one of David’s barbs sounds fresh.

Sometimes, for fun, I like to imagine that Donald Trump can read. I mean actually read. Not just knowing the words and the sounds they make when paired together but possessing the power of critical analysis as he goes along from sentence to sentence. Then I like to picture him sitting down and reading one of David’s articles. If Trump was a normal human, one who understood concepts like shame and dignity and empathy, I’ve got to imagine these would be devastating things to read about himself. It’s a silly fantasy, I know, but it’s what keeps me going, anyway.

Every time David writes a Trump piece, my entire timeline turns into everyone I follow posting it, so I’m sure I’m just preaching to the choir here. But on the off chance you haven’t read David’s writings, I wanted to call attention to some passages that have really struck me…

And here at last we are beginning to circle around Trump’s true superpower, and are closer to identifying the small and stubborn thing that defines him. It’s what binds his deliriously incoherent politics, and helps him thread together his wildly far-flung grievances—Trump never forgets a slight, and pursues ancient grudges against bygone New York showbiz figures with the same tireless vigor that he brings to his campaigns against his various Deep State persecutors—into a single rancid system of being. There is nothing artful or concealed about Donald Trump, which is one of the secrets of his strange success as a politician. His lies are preposterous and glaring and never anything but the obvious opposite of what is actually true; his unquestioned desires and deeply held, deeply unreasoning bigotries and petty fixations are all absolutely untouched from the 1988 Rich Guy factory settings; the sheer mass of his annihilating selfishness leaves no room for anything like subtext. Trump is nothing but what he appears to be, and his superpower comes from this. His superpower is getting upset.

—This is from David’s magnum opus in The New Republic, in which he spends much of the article trying to pinpoint Trump’s superpower. I love the way this equates all offenses against Trump, where everything in his memory—from something mean Regis Philbin once said about him in 1989 to a foreign leader questioning his legitimacy—just gets squashed into a singular a pissed-off Pâté of grudge gruel.

If he appears to be confronting an emerging truth that makes him look bad with a flailing childish insistence that Actually The Opposite Is True, it’s because he is. If it looks like he’s numbly ventriloquizing the rancid words of one of the aspiring genocidaires tasked with writing his more high-flown addresses, it’s because he is. If it appears that he is taking some cruel promise made idly at some point in the past and then spinning stupid stories to justify seeing that promise through, it’s because that is just what he’s doing. Trump repeats the same five or six phrases like a defective Teddy Ruxpin not because he’s trying to brainwash or brand but because he can only hold like 175 words in his head at one time and is just kind of mushing the button that seems most appropriate for the situation over and over again.

—Here’s David on Trump as a pullstring doll, reciting whatever he heard last or mangling something he was told to say by the Stephen Millers and the Steve Bannons who have infested his inner circles.

This is true when he’s in the United States, too; he is happy, if he’s ever happy, when there are other rich people around to give him compliments and tell him how rich he looks and how well he’s doing. This is his class, but they are not really his people. Even with the servile dermatologists and thrice-divorced yacht ghouls and buttery finance lordlings that crowd his social orbit and pay to belong to Trump’s clubs, there are still some latent traces of dirt under their fingernails—these people have to work to make the money to pay those dues, even if that work amounts to a few moments of strained patter during a Botox injection or taking long lunch meetings while underlings hide other rich people’s money from taxation. They’re rich, in many cases entirely richer than any ethical society would permit, but they’re not where Trump imagines himself to be. They’re not where he sees the Next Generation of his legacy.

—Here’s an amazing paragraph from David’s article about Trump’s trip to meet the British Royal family. This is a great insight into how Trump views other people, even those meant to be in his “class.” I love the image it paints of a silver-spoon rich boy who has achieved nothing yet believes that there is no one above him, especially, as David wonderfully describes them, the “servile dermatologists and thrice-divorced yacht ghouls and buttery finance lordlings.” Excellent use of rule of threes there.

Trump’s ignorance isn’t a defense, but it is again a decent explanation. Because he is constitutionally incapable of being less ignorant—because his mind is gone and because he won’t read or listen and can’t effectively digest even the smoothest juche gruel that his television gives him—he winds up thinking things that literally no one else thinks. And because Trump is constitutionally incapable of changing his mind, on any topic, he gets stuck on stuff like this and then repeats it and repeats it and repeats it; the job of the cable channel he likes is to tell him he’s right, so quite literally hears this stuff more and more. He doesn’t express himself well enough to convince anyone else of whatever it is that he believes—it’s seldom clear what he’s even trying to argue beyond that everyone is being mean to him for no reason and actually someone else did what he did—but he’s already convinced himself of it, which means that he will never be unconvinced.

—This is from his most recent column, This Guy Truly Has No Idea What He’s Talking About. The end of this section is a good examination of the fact that Donnie Deals never adequately explains himself or what he means. He merely wears people down until they are too befuddled by the sheer hollowness of it all that they sort of just give up, and he counts himself as the victor in a debate with an outmatched opponent.

To understand Trump is also to understand his appeal as an aspirational brand to the worst people in the United States. What his intransigent admirers like most about him—the thing they aspire to, in their online cosplay sessions and their desperately thirsty performances for a media they loathe and to which they are so helplessly addicted—is his freedom to be unconcerned with anything but himself. This is not because he is rich or brave or astute; it’s because he is an asshole, and so authentically unconcerned. The howling and unreflective void at his core will keep him lonely and stupid until the moment a sufficient number of his vital organs finally resign in disgrace, but it liberates him to devote every bit of his being to his pursuit of himself. Actual hate and actual love, as other people feel them, are too complicated to fit into this world. In their place, for Trump and for the people who see in him a way of being that they are too busy or burdened or humane to pursue, are the versions that exist in a lower orbit, around the self. Instead of hate, there is simple resentment—abject and valueless and recursively self-pitying; instead of love, there is the blank sucking nullity of vanity and appetite.

One thing I love about David’s writing on Trump is that he will often slip into the President’s distinct brand of psychobabble with such sharp accuracy because we love it, don’t we, folks? We love to see—they say, Sir, we love the accuracy and the big, big way that—the huge way, in fact, maybe the biggest in history that we’ve seen, that David can do this. And then David will shift seamlessly from mimicking him to something so soundly worded and beautifully structured like this. Truly impressive.

It can be difficult to remember given that he routinely appears on television with toilet paper on the soles of both his shoes and at least one of his hands stuck in a big jug of peanut butter, but Donald Trump’s opening position in all things is that he has never been wrong. 

—And lastly, this is just an an amazing lede.

Anyway, follow David and read his writing if the 19 hours a day you get force-fed Trump News is not enough for you.

The next REPLY ALT will be about music, I swear.