"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, March 17, 2024

The Sybaritic Pleasures Of The East - Donald Trump, The Pasha Of Foggy Bottom

Donald Trump's accession to the White House was not exactly a second term when presidents coast through to the Constitutional end of their tenure.  The former President, now the current President once more, was planning for eight years on Pennsylvania Avenue not four.  Time to settle in and enjoy the full sybaritic pleasures of victory.  He would be the ruler of all he surveyed, a shah of the new Persepolis, a Chinese emperor in fine silk; Suleiman, father of Turkey and lord of a thousand harems. He would be Cleopatra, queen of Alexandria, unmatched for her beauty, intelligence, and canny political rule.


Enobarbus in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra speaks of the Ptolemaic queen

I will tell you.
The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burn'd on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar'd all description: she did lie
In her pavilion--cloth-of-gold of tissue--
O'er-picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour'd fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.

'Ah, to be a queen', thought the President. 

Now, in the runup to the election, in the infamous campaign of 2024, Donald Trump had been called Imperator, a Caligula, and a Nero - the worst of Roman imperial rule, one who would defy man and the gods to expunge every last trace of the Republic and to rise to divinity himself.  A murderous, pitiless, Richard III.  A Stalin, a Hitler. 


Of course Donald Trump had no such ambitions.  To be a vicious, intemperate, bloody ruler takes a Nietzschean will, a Miltonian Satanic defiance, a pure, unadulterated amorality; and The Donald was nothing of the kind.  He was a buffoon, a pretender, a second-rate vaudevillian, a clown and a Borscht Belt tummler.  From him nothing was to be feared.  Only the febrile Left took his bombast and braggadocio to heart, his words for meaning; and his outrageous personality for character. 

The Left was not unlike Brutus, Cassius, and the Roman plotters who felt the urgency to kill Caesar before he arrogated imperial power to himself. He had done nothing, and as an epileptic believer in the supernatural, a weakling equally swayed by his wife, the mob, and soothsayers was no threat to Rome; but just in case his fanciful notions of kingship should mature into action, he should be assassinated. 

The only imperial streak in Donald Trump was his temptation by the pleasures of the East.  He was more a Mark Antony than a Caesar, an older man besotted by the indescribable comforts of Egypt and the warm embraces of its queen.  Antony had had enough of battle, the internecine fights of the Triumvirate, the suspicions, doubts, and plots.  He wanted nothing more than to retire in the arms of the  incomparable Cleopatra. 


Trump never felt entitled. Against that fallacious notion he had railed for four a decade.  No one is entitled to anything but in his case the spoils of war were deserved and merited.  He was like Agamemnon who, victorious over the Trojans, took Cassandra back to Mycenae as his concubine and watched over the palace of the dead Priam as his officers and confidants divided and apportioned the wealth of the kingdom. 

The republican regime of Joe Biden was a sagging, sorry, dismal affair - a deadbeat, musty, airless administration of cant and assumption.  An old fool surrounded by a cackling Rasputin and his claque of political comers? How far America had fallen from the manorial greatness of Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton - aristocrats, lords, rulers in spirit and enterprise. Biden would not retire to Mount Vernon, Hyde Park, or Monticello, but walking distance to the Ocean City boardwalk. 

Installed in Washington for a second time, the White House would become an Ottoman palace, a Topkapi, Yildiz, or Dolmabahce; and he would be a Sultan as admired as Suleiman or Mehmed II. Melania could never make the residence palatial, but the appointments could add the measure of luxury and elegance that the old place had always lacked. Lots of gold filagree and embroidery, sconces and Persian carpets.  Servants as elegantly attired as those of the emirs of Arabia or the maharajas of Jaipur, Bikaner, and Udaipur would would serve at the new formal White House dining room with a hundred-foot long table, gold and silver settings, crystal and fine linen, all arrayed before him, the Pasha of Foggy Bottom. 


The Second Trump Inauguration was a magnificent affair - a Pennsylvania Avenue cavalcade reminiscent of Cleopatra's barges on the Nile, a procession of regal, imperial floats festooned with gold standards, rowed by Nubian slaves, adorned with urns of forest flowers, marshalled by the handsomest young men surrounding beautiful Grecian virgins. 

Fitting of the investiture of a monarch, there were representatives of the governed- not the scattered, helter-skelter smattering of people of color, but separate arcades of cheering black, Indian, Latino, Asian peoples.  The music was eclectic and grand, as resonant and heroic as that of John Phillip Sousa. There were horses, and carriages, and military phalanxes marching to the sharp tattoo of snare drums, timpani, and cymbals. 

Of course it all didn't happen exactly this way - even the President's wildest dreams could never replace the dowdy reality of Washington - but enough of it survived, and the Nation's Capital once again became Camelot or rather Constantinople, a place of harems, maidens, and concubines; a palace of wealth, glamour, and glory.  


The fear of a politically imperial Trump presidency were of course unfounded.  He has had no interest in channeling Vladimir Putin and is content to serve out his term amidst the sybaritic pleasures of his Sultanate. 

The Left, of course, after so many years of hatred of the man, are scurrying for cover; but Trump has no interested in slaying the defeated.  They lost yet again in a devastating rout, and will cavil and hector from the wings, but are incidental irritations, nothing more. 

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