The late industrialist Howard Hughes signaled to the world that he had lost it when he disappeared into hotel rooms with blackout curtains and wouldn’t touch anything, not even a newspaper, unless it was handed to him by people wearing gloves, or “insulation” as he called it. Now the titular leader of the free world has become invisible — which is a nifty feat with all the eyes of a worldwide press turned on you. This is what Donald Trump’s post election activity looks like. This is from the Boston Globe.
Trump’s last appearance was Friday afternoon, when he read in a boring monotone from prepared notes about modifying drug prices. The one time he showed life was when he went off script to announce how he had won the election — again — and again without any evidence. The Guardian:
“I don’t think we’ve had a president since Richard Nixon who is as far in the bunker and detached from the country as Donald Trump is right now,” said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.
“Donald Trump has not only suffered a catastrophic political defeat, he’s clearly also suffering from a deep emotional break. This behavior is even more erratic than usual and he has retreated. He has put himself in a form of psychological isolation. His emotional state is clearly abysmal. In the popular lexicon, he’s lost it.”
Trump’s hermit-like status has proved irresistible to comedians, historians and overseas commentators. He has been compared to a tyrant in a fragile democracy holed up in a presidential palace and plotting either an internal coup or a sudden escape across the border. Late-night TV host Stephen Colbert observed: “Well, history famously holds happy endings for autocrats who lose and then retreat to their bunker.”
Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, has used Twitter to post images of Howard Hughes, a billionaire who spent his last years sequestered in darkened hotel rooms, and Norma Desmond, an aging Hollywood star in the film Sunset Boulevard, noting that she “spent hour after hour in the dark, watching movies of herself in the glory days, before her decline and fall”.
And here’s an example of life imitating art. With no small amount of irony, it’s been observed that Citizen Kane is Trump’s favorite movie.
Beschloss also put out an entire series of tweets citing Citizen Kane, Orson Welles’s classic movie about a media tycoon whose political ambitions collapse in scandal. In one picture, Kane’s newspaper carries the front page headline: “Fraud At Polls!” In another, Kane is trashing a room at Xanadu, his luxury estate in south Florida. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate also happens to be in south Florida.
Trump is the un-Citizen Kane. He’s finished in politics, having thoroughly polluted the field and now intends to become a media tycoon. Meanwhile, scaffolding is being built outside the White House for the Biden inauguration. History is moving on, whether Trump wants to move on with it or not.