In professional wrestling, scriptwriters always include what they call a ‘Holy Sh*t!’ moment.
That’s when one of the stars takes a hit so brutal or so fantastic that the fans yell: ‘Holy sh*t!’
Donald J Trump, a wrasslin’ fan, took a ‘Holy Sh*t!’ blow on Tuesday.
Jerks and jackasses
We will set the stage as follows: The struggle now breaking out in the US is a battle of the gods.
On one side are the gods of the red states. Nationalism, protectionism, cronyism, and ‘conservativism’, with their shock troops and fringe yahoos — the Ku Kluxers, Wallace Democrats, and other almost comic throwbacks (called by Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, a ‘collection of clowns’) dressed in camouflage and sporting symbols of various Aryan splinter groups so sharp and sinister that even the Nazis couldn’t stand them.
On the other side are the gods of the blue states — globalism, zombiism, diversity, and ‘liberalism’. They, too, have their looney tunes.
Yes, Donald Trump was right: There are jerks and jackasses on ‘many sides’.
On the left are enforcers, too — militant whackos of the ‘Antifa’ (anti-fascist) brigades, dressed in black with masks like the 1930s fascists they say they oppose…radicalised LGBTQQ…Black Lives Matter…man-hating feminists…and tenured professors from the 1960s, who voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein and now cling desperately to Foucault and Botox, loudly chanting in favour of diversity and free speech as they push anyone who disagrees with them off the stage.
Yes, poor Donald is right about a lot of things. He is a skilled street fighter…a practiced brawler…a lusty scrapper. But he is woefully unprepared for the battle now upon him.
Big, brash, and bold
The president spent his entire career building his brand — big, brash, bold…and somewhat buffoonish.
Like a professional wrestler, he was able to charm the crowds with his brawling style and winner image.
Pick fights. Say outrageous things. Stay in the public eye. Slam his opponents with scurrilous or irrelevant epithets (‘Little Marco’ Rubio… ‘Bleeding From a Facelift’ Mika Brzezinski…etc.).
Substance didn’t really matter. Trump steaks? Trump University? Trump Airlines? How could any human being possibly be good at so many different things?
Of course, he couldn’t. He just had to be good at building the Trump brand. And that meant sticking to his swashbuckling, confident style.
He was even able to take his brand all the way to the White House, using the same techniques on the campaign trail that he used on his reality TV show.
And once he took office, the plan was simple. He would surround himself with the top guys from the Deep State — the moneymen and the gunmen…the Goldman guys and the generals — and he would go on being Trump.
But something went wrong.
Mr Trump seems genuinely perplexed by it. The economy is strong, he says. He claims to have ‘created 1 million new jobs,’ which is certainly a lie. But who cares?
Consumer and business confidence are at cyclical highs. The stock market remains near an all-time high, surely a sign that things are as good as they possibly could be…and that the future will be even better.
And he, the president, is doing exactly what he is supposed to do — distracting the crowds while zombies feed upon them and cronies pick their pockets.
People should be happy, he thinks. They should be enjoying the show. Instead, the battle of the gods grows more intense and mean.
And the mainstream media — which was supposed to play along by engaging in pointless, showy squabbles with the president — has turned vicious.
Battle of the gods
Then, on Tuesday, Mr Trump seemed to forget his own lines.
The president was giving a press conference on infrastructure. It was meant to highlight how his administration was ripping out the regulations that stymie the economy. (No explanation was offered as to how business could be so good even as it labours under such crushing restrictions.)
Instead, the press wanted to catch him up in the battle of the gods…and he couldn’t resist the trap.
For the first time, we felt sympathy with the president. He seemed genuinely interested and earnest…trying to explain the recent violence in Charlottesville as he saw it.
Yes, he had waited (he claimed) because he thought he should withhold judgment until he had more facts…
…yes, there were bad people in Charlottesville…but the Unite the Right protesters weren’t all bad…
…yes, once you start tearing down other people’s statues — along with their heroes, gods, and myths — you are asking for trouble…
…and yes, there are intolerant provocateurs on the other side, too.
All of those things seem sensible. Probably even true.
But the brand suffered. Where was the winner?
On the ropes
‘The Donald’ was no longer sparring with the press; he was being clobbered by it.
He was no longer the fleet-footed impresario, taunting reporters…and his growing list of enemies.
Now, he was on the ropes…a cut above the eye and slightly disoriented…trying to protect himself from the blows by digging into the substance of the charges against him.
It was as though he were taking the job seriously — uncharacteristically trying to understand what was going on and resisting facile prejudices rather than just rolling with the punches and letting the press misinform the people according to its professional principles.
It was as though he had forgotten the script. He had taken off his wrasslin’ outfit. He had on a suit and tie and was trying to not just act presidential, but be presidential…and to help people understand that there was more going on than the simple narrative coming from the Fourth Estate.
But it was too late for that. Reporters weren’t interested in the facts…or what they really meant.
Even New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg was backing away from her own eyewitness account. She had seen the far-left demonstrators who ‘seemed as hate-filled as the alt-right’ and reported that she ‘saw club-wielding Antifa beating white nationalists’.
Later, when she realised that she had offended her gods, she amended her story, saying the leftists were ‘standing up to hate’.
By this time, no one, with the apparent exception of the president of the United States, was interested in what really happened. The press was on to a different story — Trump himself.
They pummelled him with questions…they jabbed him with accusations…each one trying to deliver the haymaker punch that would land him a job at The Washington Post.
The president fought back, sometimes ably. He avoided a knockout…
…but ‘Holy sh*t!’
More to come…
For Markets & Money