Donald Trump is now the new normal: Will America change him or will he change America?
The US President confirmed on Monday what TV journalist Matt Frei had already known: That he tweets from his bed!JaipurLitFest Updated: Jan 29, 2018 15:03 IST
On the last day of JLF2018, Matt Frei said a butler formerly employed with Trump had revealed the US President’s many bedroom and eating habits. The “fantastic boss”, the butler told Frei, used to have dinner alone and in front of the TV in his room. He almost never had vegetables or even salad leaves. His favourite food was hamburgers, chicken wings or Kentucky fried chicken, or very well done steak. The President, who does not consume alcohol – perhaps because his brother Fred Trump had a drinking problem and died at 43 – orders six cans of Diet Coke and drinks three that are closest to the expiry date.
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These were just some of the habits, including germaphobia (fear of germs), which Frei revealed at a session titled America Trumped: How did this Happen?
After a brief monologue that had the audience in splits, Frei wondered if Trump’s election victory was as “incomprehensible” and “extraordinary” as people think it is.
“Trump understood that America was still living in an insurgent era. (Barack) Obama was an insurgent candidate who came from the outside to conquer the American political landscape,” he said, adding that the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was not an insurgent candidate – not because of her gender, but because of her name.
“Her (Hillary’s) very experience -- that she was secretary of state, First Lady, senator for New York – made her a member of the ruling class. It made her part of the entitlement that America was fed up of.”
“In American politics, because of the vastness and exoticism of the political landscape you’re dealing with, the extraordinary ends up becoming the ordinary,” said Frei, who made the documentary ‘Meet the Trumps: From Immigrant to President’.
“Donald Trump is now the new normal.”
Calling Trump a “political genius”, Frei explained that the US president had realised that brand-making was a successful business, and his presidency is essentially a “brand preservation exercise on a global scale”.
A product of the American dream
To understand the “mad world of king Trump”, one has to study where he came from, said Frei, also the author of Only in America. Ironically, Trump is a product of the same American immigration dream that he has been denigrating since his election campaign in 2016. His grandfather Friedrich Trump arrived in America on a boat in 1885, eventually opening a restaurant on a mountain pass called the ‘Dead Horse Trail’ where he served burgers by “literally flogging dead horses”. Friedrich, who lost a legal battle of extradition with German authorities, also opened brothels for miners in the US.
Although Donald Trump was rich, he came from an “ordinary” house in Queens, New York, where he could always see the Manhattan skyline. “Trump was what the Manhattan crowd called rather scathingly a bridge-in-tunnel boy… Still a millionaire but the wrong side of the tracks.”
So when Trump was bold and rich enough, he “conquers Manhattan with a vengeance. He doesn’t just build the tallest tower. He plops his name in super-sized letters on it,” Frei said, referring to Trump Tower in New York.
While Frei is worried about Trump’s “narcissistic” temperament and his short attention span” he said the fundamental question to ask is: “Will America change Trump or will Trump change America?”
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First Published: Jan 29, 2018 15:02 IST