On January 20, 2017, the world watched another peaceful transfer of power in the United States as Donald J. Trump became the country’s 45th president. In his inaugural address, newly elected President Trump described an America plagued by crime, drugs, and carnage, which he claimed robbed the once great country of its potential. His speech was allegedly described by one ex-president as ‘some weird shit.’ And boy, would that shit get weirder as President Trump stumbled from Twitter to the Oval Office, leaving national crises, international incidents, and a seditious mob in his wake.
Trump’s administration showed clear signs of what was to come before he ever assumed office. His presidential transition was rocky, described as clumsy and chaotic, and was an overture to the shitshow that was to follow. At one point, Trump had his Chief Strategist Steve Bannon fire the entire transition team and toss all the work they’d done into the garbage. “Trump was going to handle the transition more or less by himself.” This was viewed by most Trump allies as a really bad idea, with Bannon saying,
I was fucking nervous as shit,” Bannon later told friends. “I go, ‘Holy fuck, this guy [Trump] doesn’t know anything. And he doesn’t give a shit.’
Not giving a shit would become a trademark of Trump’s presidency. In fact, while Trump has been criticized for his lack of a clear agenda and constantly changing views, one thing that has been consistent throughout his tenure is shit in all its proverbial forms, most of which he didn’t give.
Trump’s brand of leadership might be termed ‘shit without borders,’ since he often found himself up shit’s creek at home and abroad. In his first international diplomacy moment as president-elect, Trump received a call from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. Unsure of what to say to the Egyptian president, Trump winged it, telling Sissi he loved the Bangles and then asking,
You know that song, Walk Like an Egyptian?
In terms of international shitstorms this was a light breeze, but a few weeks later, Trump broke four decades of presidential protocol when he took a call from Tsai Ing-wen, the President of Taiwan. Donald Trump wasn’t even officially president yet and he already had China losing its shit.
The day he gave his weird shit speech was also the day President Trump demonstrated his love of complete and utter bullshit. Despite most viewers being able to eyeball the size of Trump’s inaugural crowd, Trump sent out his minions to inform the public they’d just seen “the largest audience to ever witness the inauguration — period.” These kinds of lies stacked up quickly and Trump ordered many of his trusty minions to die professional deaths on his mountain of bullshit. RIP minions.
One week into his presidency, Trump went Category 3 shitstorm with his Muslim travel ban, which he claimed wasn’t a Muslim ban even though it mostly banned Muslims, proving Trump was capable of some tricky shit. Six days later, he followed up with the withdrawal from Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, which he described as a bad deal based solely on his claim that knew his shit. Trump continued his pactum interruptus, when he pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement on November 4th, certifying once and for all when it comes to climate, Trump DOES NOT GIVE A SHIT. He capped off 2016 by telling the world the US considers Jerusalem the capital of Israel, “imperiling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies alike.” He then wandered off into the new year muttering, “How do you like that shit?”
In his second year, Trump proved he didn’t know shit from Shinola when it came to international trade relations, as he was mocked for needing Angela Merkel to explain how the EU works and why unilateral negotiations with EU countries do not. His success with the US’s closest allies continued when he elicited are-you-shitting-me laughs at the UN by claiming “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.” His penchant for making outrageous claims that flew in the face of facts became a defining trait of his presidency. The scared shitless sycophants around Trump wouldn’t dare question him, as evidenced by his economic adviser Peter Navarro saying “My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his intuition. And his intuition is always right in these matters.”
If his shitty-shitty-bang-bang tenure taught the world anything, it was Trump was always correct and the people around him would sing his praises as such. Trump was like a scatalogical Santa, keeping a shitlist of naughty children, mostly the press and experts who dared contradict him. The lumps of shit he left in their stockings involved stripping security clearances and punishing reporters for asking reportery questions. And if somehow his people couldn’t offer enough cover to prevent Trump from looking like a fool, shit always rolled downhill. Trump’s top team members had a 91% turnover rate with multiple loyalists forced to fall on their swords: William Barr, Mick Mulvaney, Brad Pascale, John Bolton, Kirstjen Nielsen, General John Kelly, General Jim Mathis, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Anthony Scaramucci, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer.
President Trump gave the world handfuls of what-the-shit moments, like when he threw paper towels at Puerto Rican hurricane victims or when rain prevented him from attending a WW1 commemoration, despite it not stopping other leaders such as Macron and Merkel. He provided a few holy shit moments as well, cavalierly referring to Neo-Nazis as some ‘very fine people’ or regaling Boy Scouts with tales of orgies past.
He waxed more than a little racist in talking about shithole countries, a turn of phrase he seemed to enjoy using. And despite being hounded by accusations of subversive Russian influence throughout his presidency, Trump couldn’t resist doing things like shooting the shit with Putin without an adult chaperone in the room and bragging to Russian officials about firing the FBI director who was investigating him for his ties to Russia.
Lots of people thought the shit finally hit the fan when Trump was impeached, but he scurried away from the proceedings relatively unscathed, though perhaps needing a change of trousers. Was he immune to scrutiny, the rule of law, and accusations of the abuse of power? Perhaps. He was not, however, immune to viruses in either the physical or political sense.
A global pandemic nearly brought world commerce and social interaction to a standstill. It was this crisis, the kind of political moment many other politicians welcome in an election year as an opportunity to display leadership, that put Trump’s ineptitude on full display. Was he merely shit out of ideas when he suggested people inject disinfectant? Is this why he downplayed the threat until the virus placed him and all his cronies in deep shit? No, I believe we have to circle back to Steve Bannon’s prophetic words ‘he doesn’t give a shit.’
The shitshow that is the Trump presidency begins and ends with this single truth — Donald Trump cares only about himself and for everything else, he doesn’t give one iota of shit. This is how we can account for his indifference to tens of thousands of Americans dying from the Coronavirus or for his lack of empathy for the livelihood of black Americans. He will stir up some shit and push aside the prime minister of Montenegro for a photo opp, but he won’t give a shit for his suffering and dying constituents. Even First Lady Melania Trump got in on the don’t-give-a-shit fun when she visited immigrant children in Texas wearing a coat with the words ‘I really don’t care’ on the back. Perhaps she was simply referring to Christmas? To be fair, we know little about her other than she’s opposed to bullying, but we’re pretty sure Trump really only cares about Trump winning.
If you told me four years ago Trump’s time in office would conclude with a shirtless guy dressed like a fucking buffalo running amok through the US Capitol alongside a confederate flag wielding mob, I would have shrugged and said ‘sounds about right.’
Since losing the election, Trump and his henchmen have ranted on Twitter, Fox, and at political rallies that he was robbed. Trump and his closest lackeys promised to correct this wrong via the judicial system, because according to them, that’s who decides elections. They went to court 62 times and 61 times justices told them they were shit outta luck, citing little things like lack of standing and lack of evidence. Despite their overwhelming losses, they continued spreading unfounded rumors of a rigged election even though departments of Justice and Homeland Security made it clear “no serious fraud occurred.” This is important because despite the lack of evidence, despite the fruitless investigations, and despite the assurances this election was “the most secure in American history,” Trump used baseless allegations of fraud to whip his acolytes into a frenzy. This frenzy played it’s final batshit refrain out in the halls of the US Capitol this week.
It was shocking to see a lawless mob in the Capitol, but it wasn’t surprising. What did we expect? If you told me four years ago Trump’s time in office would conclude with a shirtless guy dressed like a fucking buffalo running amok through the US Capitol alongside a confederate flag wielding mob, I would have shrugged and said ‘sounds about right.’ This was the shit-a-palooza Trumpworld was destined to have.
To describe the American carnage that wasn’t apparent in the beginning of Trump’s presidency but defined the end, I’ll borrow a phrase from Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, “This is some fucked-up repugnant shit.” This repugnant shit mostly silenced Trump’s protests, got him banned from Twitter, and forced him to begrudgingly concede the election. His legacy is in tatters and he hasn’t even walked out the door. Perhaps once we’ve moved on, we’ll be able to look back at his administration and see more than just the shitshow finale, but that depends on how much time the world will want to spend polishing a turd.