“Fire and Fury”

By James Howard Kunstler

It’s told that Richard Nixon, during the endgame weeks of Watergate, wandered the west wing hallways in the wee hours, fueled on scotch whiskey, conversing with portraits of notable Americans, including many of his predecessors. “Whaddaya say, Millard? Should I stay or should I go?” He was a trapped animal, after a long, grueling, hunt, and he knew the hounds were closing in. Perhaps he took some consolation in hearing that old Abe Lincoln was even more depressed in the final, victorious days of the civil war than he, Nixon, was at the sheer cruelty of history. In the end, he marshaled the remaining shreds of his dignity, and mounted the helicopter to — his pursuers hoped — an oblivion more fathomless than the mystery of the grave.

And now here is Mr. Nixon’s latest successor, the Golden Golem of Greatness, Donald J. Trump, haunting those hallways with the political equivalent of a sucking chest wound, Big Mac in one hand, Big Gulp in the other, wondering who all the people in those oil paintings are… and what are they looking at, anyway, as he storms back to his lonely private quarters for a few last tweets of anguish.

It’s beginning to look like the last round-up at the OK corral for this somewhat accidental president, product of a decrepitating polity that otherwise grudges up a leadership of fretful, craven, corporate catamites and call-girls. Michael Wolff’s juicy book, “Fire and Fury,” would be a career-ender for any self-respecting politician, but the narcissism of Trump is altogether a different mental state. Speaking of which, it sounds like some of the amateur psychologists in congress are taking a deep Talmudic dive into the 25th amendment, to see if they can pound the square peg of Trump’s head through that particular round hole in the constitution.

Is he fit for office? This question hangs in the air of the DC swamp like a necrotic odor that can’t be seen while it can’t be ignored. In a way, the very legitimacy of the republic comes into question — if Trump is the best we can do, maybe the system itself isn’t what it was cracked up to be. And then why would we think that removing him from office would make things better? How’s that for an existential quandary?

We’re informed in The New York Times today that “Everyone in Trumpworld Knows He’s an Idiot,” though “moron” (Rex Tillerson) and “dope” (General H.R. McMaster) figure in there as well. Imagine all the energy it must take for everyone in, say, the cabinet room to pretend that the chief executive belongs in his chair at the center. It reminds me of that old poker game, “Indian,” where each player holds a hole card pressed outward from his forehead for all to see but him.

Ill winds are blowing and dire forces are converging. Do you think that it’s a wonderful thing that the Dow Jones Industrial Average just bashed through the 25,000 gate? The President obviously thinks so. And, of course, he’s egged on by all the fawning economic viziers selling stories about a booming economy of waiters, bartenders, and espresso jockeys. But, I tell you as sure as there is a yesterday, today, and tomorrow, those stock indexes, grand as they seem, are teetering on the brink of something awesomely sickening. And when they go over that no-bid Niagara cascade into the maelstrom, Mr. Trump’s boat will be going over the falls with them.

It’s an unappetizing spectacle to watch such a tragic arc play out. After all, these are the lives of fragile, lonely, human creatures trying hard to fathom their fate. You have to feel a little sorry for them as you would feel sorry even for a sad little peccary going down one of those quicksand holes in the Okeefenokee Swamp. Surely, many feel that these are simply evil times in which goodness and mercy are AWOL. I’m not sure exactly how this story ends, but it is beginning to look like a choice between a bang and a whimper.

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