Even Steve Bannon recognizes that female voters will punish Donald Trump for his cavalier dismissal of assault and abuse allegations.
Photograph by Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty
Donald Trump is the least mysterious figure in the history of the American Presidency. His infantile character, duplicity, cold-heartedness, and self-dealing greed are evident not merely to the majority of the poll-answering electorate but, sooner or later, to those who make the decision to work at his side. This is manifest even in Trump’s favored medium, reality television. Recently, fans of “Celebrity Big Brother” witnessed Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the unforgettably forgettable former White House aide in charge of nothing at all, tearfully confessing her global despair. “It’s not going to be O.K.,” she said.
No kidding. Sooner or later, Trump’s satraps and lieutenants, present and former, come to betray a vivid sense of just how imperilled and imperilling this Presidency is. In their sotto-voce remarks to the White House press, these aides seem to compete in their synonyms for the President’s modesty of intelligence (“moron,” “idiot,” “fool”); his colossal narcissism; his lack of human empathy. They admit to reporters how little he studies the basics of domestic policy and national security; how partial he is to autocrats like himself; how indifferent he is to allies. They are shocked, they proclaim, absolutely shocked. In the past few days, it has been Trump’s misogyny, his heedless attitude toward women and issues of harassment and abuse, that has shocked them most. And those who know him best recognize the political consequences ahead.
Fifty years ago today, the national police chief of South Vietnam calmly approached a prisoner in the middle of a Saigon street and fired a bullet into his head.
A few feet away stood Eddie Adams, an Associated Press photographer, eye to his viewfinder. On a little piece of black-and-white film, he captured the exact moment of the gunshot.
The police chief, Brig. Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, stands with his back to the camera, right arm fully extended, left arm loosely by his side. The prisoner, Nguyen Van Lem, is a Vietcong fighter but wears no uniform, only a plaid shirt and black shorts. His hands are cuffed behind his back. Though in his 30s, he looks little older than a boy. His face is contorted from the bullet’s impact.
By morning, this last instant of his life would be immortalized on the front pages of newspapers nationwide, including The New York Times. Along with NBC video footage, the image gave Americans a stark glimpse of the brutality of the Vietnam War and helped fuel a decisive shift in public opinion.
“It hit people in the gut in a way that only a visual text can do,” said Michelle Nickerson, an associate professor of history at Loyola University Chicago who has studied the antiwar movement during the Vietnam era. “The photo translated the news of Tet in a way that you can’t quantify in terms of how many people were, at that moment, turned against the war.”
DAVOS—Maintaining that the notion didn’t even cross his mind, President Trump reportedly insisted Friday that he never once thought about firing Robert Mueller, feeding him to a pack of rabid dogs, and mounting his head in the Oval Office as a trophy. “At no point did I ever consider firing Mr. Mueller, tossing his body to snarling, mangy hounds, and having his head stuffed and mounted front and center above the Oval Office fireplace,” said Trump, dismissing several reports that he had ordered the special counsel to be terminated from his post and torn limb from limb by starving Rottweilers before nailing his skull to a wooden plaque, but backed off when a top White House lawyer threatened to quit. “It’s also totally ridiculous to think that I would ever want Mueller gone for good, boiled alive, and chopped up into bloody chunks. The stories you’re hearing about me trying to get rid of Mueller and then gutting him with a rusty ice pick are absolutely not true.” At press time, Trump asserted that if he ever did one day decide to forcibly castrate Mueller and set him on fire, it would be fully within his authority as president. That’s some Fake News!
To be sure, Trump has at times used the term “FAKE NEWS” to talk about articles he actually claims are inaccurate. But his promiscuous use of the phrase leaves it with no real meaning. As Steve Coll wrote last month in The New Yorker, Trump’s “definition of ‘fake news’ is credible reporting that he doesn’t like.”