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The Black Knight in the Oval Office

One of my favorite metaphors for the Trump Administration and its supporters is the Black Knight from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

The knight, after refusing to allow King Arthur passage through the crossroads he guards, is forced to fight him- and is thoroughly thrashed. First one arm and then the other are severed from his torso by Excalibur, but the knight refuses to give up, insisting that "it's only a scratch." He persists in kicking the king, and when his kicking leg is severed he hops on one foot and bumps into Arthur.   At the end of the incident, he's nothing but a torso and a head, reduced to berating the king and his knights for "running away" when having overcome his opposition they continue past him on their way.

There were a number of things which could be predicted by anyone who had been paying attention to Trump's career, much less his campaign, on the night when Donald Trump was inexplicably elected president last Fall. The first is that he was going to be very much in over his head. He simply doesn't have the intellect to be a successful president. He is almost inarticulate, and it was only to be expected that things would frequently be lost in transmission between his brain and his mouth.

Never in the modern era have we had a Chief Executive so lacking in the ability to manage talented subordinates, whom he treats as nothing but hired help. His fortune is based on real estate speculation, and he has never successfully run an actual company. Less than six months into his presidency, the reasons are obvious. He's impulsive and inconsistent, apparently unable to handle nuance and quick to humiliate and undercut his subordinates. This is not behavior people of the intellect and talent required to help him achieve a successful administration are apt to tolerate indefinitely, and the less talented subordinates with whom he has largely surrounded himself are apt to screw up. Sycophants do not make helpful subordinates to a president, however loyal, especially if they, too, are in over their heads.

 His ignorance of the most basic aspects of the Constitution and of the world was made plain throughout the campaign, and his simplistic answers to the problems facing America, while having an appeal for the less informed among the electorate, did nothing to inspire confidence that he would actually be able to deal with the nation's problems. Protectionism has always had a certain appeal to working-class Americans, but never in history has it worked. Trade wars are more likely to cost jobs than to save them. Mr. Trump hasn't been president long enough for his trade policies to have much impact, and one wonders what his supporters will have to say when they don't work the way he's promised.

Finally, Donald Trump has never been renowned for his ethics or regard for the letter of the law. It's predictable that corruption would be a problem in a Trump administration. While no major scandals of the financial kind have yet arisen, the pattern of ignoring the Logan Act which seems to have characterized his inner circle in the weeks between the election and the inauguration- and perhaps before- is simply what anyone who has followed his career would have expected.

As was so obvious all along would be the case, the Trump presidency is failing and failing badly. Yet his supporters, whom he once bragged would continue to back him even if he shot someone at high noon on New York's Fifth Avenue, continue to sing his praises and give no evidence of being in possession of a clue.

The pattern will continue to hold for a long time. Mr. Trump's supporters have invested a great deal in him, both emotionally and in their willingness to go out on a limb and stay there for a man they kept being told by people who had been keeping tabs on the guy was going to be a disaster. Some of his hard-core supporters will never admit that he's failed no matter what happens. One wonders what the more realistic among them will do once it becomes too obvious for them to deny how thoroughly they've been conned and how out of his class Mr. Trump really is. I suspect the anger which led them to vote for the man will be as nothing compared to what they will feel when they realize that he has failed them, as he was inevitably doomed to fail them.

As I noted on Election Night, the world is laughing at us. The laughter continues. Sadly, it will continue long after Donald Trump has left office. America's image, prestige, and reputation took a hit the night someone as unfit as Donald John Trump was elected president, and I do not expect them to recover completely in my lifetime.

But the nation itself will recover. Our alliances will survive and be renewed. Our standing in the world will in many ways be salvaged, and our image redeemed to the point where the Trump years can be looked back upon as an aberration, a folly uncharacteristic of this Republic. A successor better suited to the office will doubtless follow Mr. Trump, and much of the damage to our national interest undone.

The healing of a nation sick enough to have produced the Trump Administration will be harder, especially given the bitterness of his supporters' disappointment. It won't be enough for those of us who have predicted it all along to refrain, as I hope we will try very hard to refrain, from gloating. This administration's failures, in the short run, are America's failures and are shared by all of us. They are nothing to gloat about. But even more damaging, in the long run, may be the further disillusionment of those who were desperate enough to buy his brand of snake oil in the first place.

This thing is coming unraveled. It's not a question of whether, but of when, and how, and what it will take to pick up the pieces. That it was so very predictable- and so very predicted- only adds to the tragedy.


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